Given that I've been the region's most active Crosley enthusiast for a decade or so now, I was pretty surprised to see an unfamiliar 1948 Crosley wagon pop up for sale on the Sacramento Craigslist a couple of weeks ago. It was less than three miles from my house in a neighborhood called East Sac. When I read the ad my hair stood on end.
I've written about Gordon before- he was an amazing mechanic and a complete Crosley nut. He still drove the Crosley sedan he'd owned since about 1954 and had a garage full of NOS Crosley gunk - he'd bought out the inventory of his local Crosley dealership when the guy closed the business.
After I'd been looking for a car for months with no luck, Gordon shared a secret- he had a tiny notebook in which he'd kept track of every Crosley he'd seen listed for sale going back a decade. He shared some of those listings with me, and we even went up Highway 50 to Cameron Park to see a very rough Hotshot that Gordon had looked at years before. It was mostly there, but a complete mess- I offered the guy $800 and in retrospect I'm probably lucky he said no.
One car that wasn't in Gordon's notebook was a Crosley station wagon that he'd looked at many years before in East Sacramento. He told me that it had been parked in a garage off Folsom Blvd (a main drag in Sac) for decades and that it was very straight. Gordon even drove to the area where he'd looked at the car and tried to remember for me which house had the Crosley. It had been so long he couldn't remember, but he did tell me where it was within a few block radius. I drove up and down Folsom and its side streets trying to find the house and garage that matched Gordon's description, but I never did find it. That was 13 years ago, and I've probably driven down Folsom Blvd 500 times since then - and I've thought about that Crosley pretty much every time.
Suddenly, here it was.
I called the number in the ad and of course it was the same car. The seller's father had bought it in 1964, driven around the block a few times and then put in the garage. In 1964. It hadn't seen daylight since. His father had died earlier this year and now it had to go. I arranged to go over the next day and take a look. After 13 years (Gordon has been gone for over 10) I would finally see the East Sac Crosley.
I walked them through the good (the body is about as rust free as I've seen), and the bad (all of the above.) I also marveled at the mileage. The odometer had over 60,000 miles on it- by far the most I've ever seen on a Crosley. Neat, but, that didn't bode well for the rear end and tranny- the steering box seemed like it was already shot. There was a brief moment when I thought of making an offer, and then I remembered my blank bank account and all of my projects at home. Instead I offered to help them sell it thru the West Coast Club if they didn't get much response to their ad. They liked that idea because they'd prefer to have the car restored rather than turned into a hot-rod.
So that was it. Thirteen years of mild obsession, over. After all those years of waiting, I can't believe I had more fun talking to the sellers about their dad than I did actually looking at the Crosley. I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
I always enjoy a trip to the vintage races, but this weekend I had a mission: after 6 years of seeing Lee Osborn's Crosley Special being loaded and unloaded off the trailer at the West Coast Crosley Meet, I was finally going to see it on the track. Osborn's car, the 1955 Shannon Special has developed quite a reputation- it just may be the fastest Crosley powered object currently on the planet. Lee himself has picked up a rep too- his aggressive driving combined with incredible engineering skills has meant that he's usually dicing with cars with twice or three times the engine displacement - Osborn's special has probably dusted more Porsches than any Crosley since Harry Eyerly was driving.I'd been following the preparations for this 'Hmod Reunion' on the Hmod bulletin board I read- with the limited number of Hmods still participating in vintage racing it's hard to get more than a few out at any given event. Their months of planning resulted in close to 10 Hmods on this entry list, so I knew I couldn't miss it. My pal Alex and I drove down to Infineon Raceway (which I still think of as Sears Point) on Saturday morning. We got there just in time to catch the practice run for the group most of the Hmods were in. Some of the cars were initially set in different groups, but after the practice the organizers got everybody put together in the same race, set for 4 o'clock.
Every part of the car was a thing of beauty, and I could see why the owners were willing to part with their Shirdlu racer (currently for sale) to get this car. They were stoked, and were super-nice to boot.
Finally the Hmods took their places on the tarmac along with about 20 other cars- all of which sported substantially larger displacements. Unsurprisingly, Osborn was the first Hmod up the hill, running about 8th out of the whole race group.
The rest of the Hmods diced a bit behind Lee. Here's Don in the Nardi (101) followed up by the '54 Panhard (114):