Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beginning of a Mystery Part III

As soon as I got home from inspecting the Cupertino Hmod, I posted the pictures I'd taken and the details I'd observed to the Hmod bulletin board where I'd found out about the car. I was promptly contacted by a vintage racer named Mike in Arizona who was also interested in the car. He had a long racing history, and knew a lot more about homebuilts than I did - he'd restored many cars and had even made copies of James Broadwell's Jabro blueprints for other enthusiasts who were trying to build or restore Jabros without the original plans. He had already contacted the car's owner and made an offer.

I was pretty bummed. Now that I'd seen the car firsthand I really wanted it.
A Crosley-powered fiberglass sports car was at the top of my list when I first started looking for a Crosley back in 1997. It had been articles about Crosley racing 'specials' in old car magazines that gotten me thinking about Crosleys in the first place. There had been plenty of manufacturers who made fiberglass sports car bodies for the Crosley, so I figured that they had to be out there somewhere. Devin, Almquist, Skorpion, Fibersport, Jabro and probably a half dozen other companies offered bolt-on bodies in varying degrees of style. The first Crosley meet I went to featured two beautifully finished Jabros, so there was proof that they couldn't be that hard to find. I was pretty sad when I tried to sit in one of the Jabros and couldn't get my 6'2" frame behind the wheel!While I wanted a sports car, I wasn't looking for a race car. I enjoy watching the races, but I can't imagine rebuilding an engine after one season of racing, or spending the $ it takes to run a car that you only drive a few times a year. Or dealing with the internecine organization rules and fugly safety modifications required to run on the track these days. I wanted a sports car that looked straight out of 1950-something that I could drive anywhere - the type of car that an amateur might have competed with in the fifties - a sports car that was driven to the track, raced, then driven to work the next week. I also figured that today's road speeds are about as punishing as most tracks were in the mid-fifties!
The conundrum I faced was finding a car that wasn't already set up for racing, and one that didn't have any significant history so that I didn't have to worry about modifications for contemporary street use. After 10 years of looking, here was that car.
I called Mrs Lowy and made an offer. Mine was about 50% over what Mike had offered, but she wanted to see if he was willing to go any higher. She asked me to call Mike and Carl Kapp (who was helping her sell the car), figure out who wanted to pay what, and to call her back and let her know who was buying it and for how much! I made the calls and Mike was really nice about it. He said that it was clear that I really wanted the car, and, A) I'd already been to look at it, and B) he didn't want to pay more AND pay for gas to/from Arizona to come get it. I called Mrs Lowy to let her know that I had the high offer and that I could pay and pick it up whenever she was ready. It was the strangest way I've ever bought a car.

A week later I borrowed a trailer and the indefatigable Dave Smith and headed out to Cupertino. Mrs Lowy had been looking for any history about the car, but had found nothing. She remembered seeing an old double exposure picture of the car that made the body appear transparent so you could see the running gear through the body, but she couldn't find it. Carl Kapp had mentioned the same photo.

Aside from the car and body, there was also the packed floor-to-ceiling garage which held many of the parts. When we started going through the garage looking for everything, Mrs Lowy's mood would go back and forth. I think she was relieved to get the car out of her driveway, but at the same time was losing another part of her late husband. It felt really awkward, and I imagined Liv in the same situation. Since we really didn't know exactly what went with the car she told us to take anything that seemed like it fit. Dave was convinced that she saw this as a chance to get somebody to clean out her garage!
We found a ton of stuff. There was the Dauphine engine, gauges and mystery transmission I'd seen last time, plus lights (still taped from the last race), parts for the quick change, a couple of extra wheels/tires, the missing driveshaft (which turned out to be less than two feet long which is why I couldn't find it last time), several carburetors, the original fiberglass gas tank, racing mirrors, several aviation-style racing seat belts, a rolling metal cabinet filled with spares to be taken to the track, one NOS Lucas fog light, still in the box, extra parts for the Dauphine engine and assorted belts, bolts, bulbs, etc... The major things we didn't find were the seats and windshield.
But the most exciting thing we found was a moldy briefcase. There wasn't much in there - the receipt for the quickchange, Lowy's racing license, a few notations on the cost of rebuilding the Dauphine engine and some notes on a 1966 race at Lyndale Farms, Wisconsin, along with the club program.

The program listed one of the entrants as Leo Lowy. He was driving the Robacek I.

to be continued......


smitty said...

Ha, I read this and thought I was reading an old post. I had to go up and check the date.

d a v i d e said...

the blue one is quite a stunner.

Brian Baugh said...

We have two Crosley engines with Jabro chrome valve covers. Looking to sell them. We can send pictures. We know little about these. Email me.

Allen James "Ajay" said...

Hello. I had a Mk I Jabro and have a few pictures of it in partial progress if you are interested in it. Is the car you bought the Emmiyy Pyatt car? It sure does look to be.
Please contact me offline at if you would like to talk. I sold mine in about 1990 unfinished, to Bud Bossart in Racine Wisconsin, who later sold it tot someone else, unknown. That person finished it and has raced it in the 2000s at Elkhart Lake and a couple of other places.
Kind Regards,
Allen James