Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 West Coast Crosley Meet: Wow!

Last year I pitched the idea of having the Crosley Club's annual West Coast Meet in the quaint Gold Country town of Sutter Creek.  Liv and I have had a lot of fun daytrips in that area and it didn't take much imagination to picture Crosleys buzzing through those Gold Rush towns and zipping along in the Sierra Nevada foothills.  We put it up to a vote at last year's meet and the club members said 'go for it!'

Frankly, the pressure was on. The 2011 meet in Buellton was fun, but it was the most sparsely-attended meet in a long time - maybe ever.  We only had a dozen Crosleys that year, way under the usual turnout.  I hoped that a fun, new location would bring in a bigger crowd this year, but there was only one way to find out.

Crosley-Siata owner Marty Stein lives in Jackson, just a few miles from Sutter Creek.  He and his wife Sheri helped out a lot by suggesting venues for meals, RV Parks, etc. and also helped plan the route for a 'Crosley Cruise.'  Marty was at the very first Crosley meet I'd ever been to but has missed the last few meets - if nothing else, I was excited that he would definitely be bringing the Siata!  That made one more car - and a super-cool one at that - that would be at the meet.
As the date for the meet approached I started to stress out about attendance.  The economy still isn't great, the Gold Country is a long haul for our SoCal members, and gas is nearly $4 a gallon.  It didn't help when I found out that Don Baldocchi - who has barely ever missed a meet - had opted to take his freshly-restored Chrysler Airflow to the Airflow meet in San Jose the same weekend!  On the plus side, I talked to Crosley land speed gurus Rob and Dale Liebherr and discovered that they were planning on DRIVING two of their Crosleys to the meet from Minden, Nevada!
Alas, I had to put it all out of my mind a week before the meet when our friends Davide and Karin De Giorgi arrived from London.  Liv and I had promised to show them around California if they came to visit, and we made good.  We picked them up at SFO and spent the next day sightseeing in San Francisco.  From there, back to Sacramento where they visited with some mutual friends, and then it was off to the Sierra.  We took them to the Bodie Ghost Town State Park and then to Yosemite where we camped for a couple of nights.  We got back home and I started to get ready to load up a Crosley to bring to the meet... but not one of MY Crosleys.
My pal Nick Shelley had recently inherited a modified Crosley Farm-O-Road.  The car needed some work, and although Nick is a mechanic of the first order, he was skeptical about digging into a barn-fresh F-O-R.  He made arrangements with the Liebherrs and dropped it off in Minden for them to get it sorted.  They got it running and stopping in short order, and I suggested Nick bring it to the meet, but it turned out that the meet was on the same day he was in a wedding in Los Angeles.   He was BUMMED.  I offered to bring the car to the meet for him, and he loved that idea. I arranged to pick it up from him when I got back from Yosemite.  I called Nick when I got home, but it turned out that the F-O-R was still in Minden... meaning it wasn't going to the meet.
What to bring?  My own herd of Crosleys is in sad shape right now - the race car and Super Sports are totally disassembled and the convertible is just sad because it needs so much work.  That left the 1947 station wagon I hauled out of a shed years ago - it last ran in 1961, and looks it.  I thought seriously about just getting in the Savoy and heading to Sutter Creek sans Crosley, but then I thought about last year's meet: 12 cars.   Davide helped me load the wagon on the trailer.
I got to the Holiday Inn Express about 4:30 on Friday, just in time to see a batch of Crosleys rolling out of the parking lot.  More cars were parked in front, and a couple were snugged on trailers.   I spotted Gary Cochrane's woodie convertible, Gary Loomer's PU, Glen Brynsvald's sweet black Skorpion, and Mike and Robin Stoner with two cars; their green Farm-O-Road and a newly restored CD sedan. So far, so good!  Me and my twelver of Miller High Life were roundly greeted at the afternoon Pot Luck, and it was great to see lots of old friends - and new ones.  Club Prez Rick Alexander and I noted that there were lots of new faces this year - another great sign.
Rick pointed me in the direction of Gary Cope, a member who hadn't been to a meet in quite a few years.  Gary is a well known car guy in the region - he owned several junkyards on the outskirts of Sacramento and has an amazing collection of rare Hot Rod parts.  Turns out that he also owns a car I'd been hearing about for years: the Bertolucci Crosley Pick Up! Dick Bertolucci is nothing short of a legend in kustom car circles - his Ohanesian Merc was named one of the 10 Most Influential Kustoms of All Time - but locally, he's better known for his award-winning body and paint shop.  In the fifties, his shop parts runner was a Crosley.  Gary had had it for years and decided to bring it to the party on Friday because he couldn't be at the meet on Saturday - I added plenty of drool to the patina.  Seeing the Bertolucci Pick Up was a great cap to the night, and I went to bed pretty excited about the next day.
I was up early the next morning so I could help set up the meet site.  We'd reserved a small parking lot just off the north end of Sutter Creek's Main Street - it was plenty big enough for the Crosleys but I was worried that we'd be overwhelmed with trailers.  Happily, most people made the five mile drive from the hotel to the meet site in their Crosleys - and lived to tell about it, even if some ... Dave Brodsky cough, cough... missed the last turn.  By 8:30 AM we already had more than a dozen Crosleys lined up.  I started to relax.
It didn't hurt that five of those Crosleys came from one spot: the Liebherr family garage in Minden. Dale and Rob had driven their Crosley station wagon and sedan all the way from Nevada (!), and also had friends and family bring their Salt Flats racer, their gasporter and their dad's pick up on a trailer.   Windows shook when Dale fired up their Land Speed car and drove it into the lot - it sparred with Marty's Siata for the title of 'Loudest Crosley.'
Cars kept coming - at one point I started worrying that we were going to run out of room!  Dave Potts came in all the way from Arizona, bringing a stunningly restored Pre-War Pick Up that was my pick for the show's 'Best Crosley.'  Kip Fjeld brought his Miller race car - and displayed it with the block he'd blown after 20 years of racing.  Curt Schoellerman brought his freshly-finished Super Sport, parked right next to Don Rauch's Hot Shot.  Don should have gotten an award for 'Best Crosley Ambassador'... he put more strangers in his car than a taxi driver!
The swap meet was on fire, too.  Ronnie Bauman brought a truckload of spares - I helped lighten his return trip by picking up a complete set of restored 9" brakes, a set of round gauges and a restored jack assembly.  I also scored a heater and some great literature (back issues of the Crosley Quarterly, a run of the Over the Hill Gang Hmod newsletters, and original Crosley sales materials) from Dave Potts, David Brodsky and Rick Alexander.  Chuck Latty slept in and missed the '47 front emblem he'd been looking for and someone else got a like-new 1949-52 Crosley crest for $80 - the deal of the meet!
Davide and Karin stopped by with our friends Stan and Ann.  Liv had to work all weekend, so Stan and Ann had offered to show them the Gold Country. Stan and I have been pals since Junior High, so he's pretty familiar with my Crosley obsession - he even used a Crosley station wagon as the main characters' car in the Huggabaloos, an animated Archies-type cartoon about a rock band that he used to do 15 years or so ago.  Davide was suitably impressed by the Siata - product of his home town of Torino, Italy.
A few stragglers came in late: Mario Hernandez brought his gold sedan from Vallejo and Tony Guidon brought a CD wagon from Stockton.  By the time everyone was lined up we had TWENTY FIVE Crosleys - the most we've had at a meet in years.  And, aside from my craptacular FOB wagon, every car was nice.
We all mingled and snacked on the lunch and purveyed the treasures waiting at the raffle table.  Bob and Carol Brown were there with their family and their freshly-finished station wagon (I need to write that one up in its own story one of these days) - their granddaughter was the hit of the meet.  She worked harder than Rick and I put together: she staffed the merchandise table, helped organize the lunches, made sure everyone had water and also sold something like $200 worth of tickets to the raffle!  I'm pretty sure she'll be Mayor of Visalia before she graduates High School.
After the raffle (in which I DIDN'T win the vintage 8X10 of a Crosley dealership - not that I'm bitter) Marty held a driver's meeting for the Crosley Cruise to go over the route to Munnerlyn's Ice Cream in nearby Pine Grove.  He'd figured out back roads so that the group wouldn't have to take 88 (a fairly well-traveled highway) and could stick to smaller, more Crosley-friendly roads.  Turns out there was a problem: Marty drives a race car, not a regular Crosley.
By the time I had loaded up the wagon and met the group at the ice cream shop, I found a harried bunch.  Marty had made the mistake of thinking that Crosley = slow, forgetting that Crosleys need to go downhill FAST just to make it uphill at all!  Mike Bainter said he could barely enjoy his cone just worrying about the return trip in his 6000-original-mile sedan.  Pat Askren's cc sedan had started to overheat and he backed it into a ditch while turning around to head back. Luckily it was a Crosley, meaning that four guys had picked it up and put it back on the road, none the worse for wear.  The Dunners, Browns and Liebherrs seemed unfazed, and Glen Brynsvald asked the magic question: "How  come we started out with nine cars, lost one and ended up with twelve at the ice cream shop?"  Everyone managed to make it back OK, even if Mike Bainter still looked a little peaked.
We met up for the banquet at 6, and Giannini's Italian Dinners was PACKED - even the dinner had a near-record attendance.  We took care of club business (hey, we have money in the bank - yee haw!) and Rick and Mike coordinated the trophies.  I didn't take very good notes here, but I do know that the Browns won Best Crosley for their wagon.  It was great to see them win because I knew exactly what they started with.  'Best Race Car' was a tie between Marty's Siata and the Liebherr's Salt Flats car.  There was talk of an exhaust volume contest to settle the deal but in the end they went with a coin toss, with Marty taking the gold.  We also remembered members who were unable to be with us this year, including Aileen Brodsky, who is still fighting the aftereffects of radiation treatment - she's doing well, but wasn't quite up to the trip.

After such a big day, the dinner was kinda anticlimactic.  I was stoked that everyone agreed that it had been an exceptionally great meet.  If you count the Bertolucci truck from Friday night we had a total of 26 Crosleys on hand - I think that may be a record turnout!  And, nearly every car was in good running condition, even if the Gasporter started better than it stopped.
We all scratched our heads a bit, trying to figure out what made this meet so much more successful than the last one.  Was it that the location was farther north? That it was a new location?  Dumb luck?   I suspect it was parts of all of the above... we'd been to Buellton several years in a row and I think people were ready for a change - and the Gold Country is just FUN.  I was really glad that people had found Sutter Creek/Jackson/Pine Grove as charming as I do.  As we ate and drank and told Crosley stories I was already starting to think about the big question: what do we do for an encore?...


JIm... said...

Great meet report sounds like you guys had a lot of fun.


Dave Smith said...

It would've been great to have been there! Plus your trip to Bonneville.

Ol' Man Foster said...

I know! Bad time for you to move to Ore- gone! I'll post about the Bonneville trip soon- 1100 miles in two days!