Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stored 46 years: Garage Find!

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.
13 years ago, when I was first on a quest for a Crosley, my guide was Gordon Becher.  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.
It was anti climatic.  You picture a car that's been garaged for 46 years, and you imagine a time capsule- at least I did.  Yes, the car had been put away in 1964... but the owner had started to 'restore' it, meaning that he'd partially taken the car apart.  The engine was completely disassembled in the back, rusty and probably worthless.  The transmission was out,  as was the back glass.  The seats were roached- the back seat had nothing left but the frame.   The paint was mostly spots of different colored primer.  They had no idea where the title was or if there even was one.  The owners were very nice, and were tickled to hear that I'd been looking for the car since the nineties. 

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.

1 comment:

Ol' Man Foster said...

The rest of the story: the wagon was taken by the late man's daughter, and she and her husband have just completed a stunning resto/custom job. After all these years this Crosley is now 'better than new!' I'll post a follow up at some point...