Monday, May 23, 2016

Spring Meet!

It's mid-May, and that means another Spring Meet for the West Coast Crosley Club. Liv decided that 16 or so hours of driving was too much for a weekend so I headed down solo - just me and a case of old time radio shows on cassette.  As luck would have it, the Spring Meet fell on the same weekend as the SCTA races at the El Mirage Dry Lakes which I'd never been to.  My friend John McKnight was bringing his lakester out from Arizona, so I figured to make it an auto event twofer. I opted to leave the Crosley at home since I'm still enjoying my my trailer holiday. I got to about Fresno before I realized I'd forgotten to pack my sleeping bag... but remembered that I had a heavy packing blanket in the back of the truck and figured that would be fine.

I stopped in Ventura for a quick visit with my sister and family, and then headed east on 126.  As usual, the mid-year meet was held in Fillmore, CA, which is a tiny burg about halfway between Ventura and I5. I got into town around midnight, pulled into the empty lot behind a big grocery store and hunkered down in the back of the pickup for the night.  The packing blanket kept me plenty warm, and the thought that I was saving $80 on a hotel kept me even warmer.
Fillmore is a neat little town. When I woke up the next morning, clouds were straddling the nearby hills and the dampness in the air made everything a little hazy. I drove around a bit, ogling the old neighborhoods and then got breakfast at a tiny diner inside a Chevy dealership.  Fortified with coffee and Texas toast, I headed for the meet.

By the time I rolled up there were already 10 cars on the grass- a better turnout than we've ever had for the Spring meet.  Best of all, nearly half the cars were new to me!  I offered to help with set-up, but pretty much everything was already done and club Pres Rick Alexander was already busy unloading his wares for the swap meet.  I quickly relieved him of two interior windshield brackets and a turn signal switch that I needed for the wagon.
Once I'd stashed my goodies I started checking out the cars I'd never seen before.  Right next to the registration table was a clean Farm-O-Road - nicely preserved, with a full canvas top (my favorite look for that particular model.) Owner Bob Baxter recently finished tidying it up after purchasing it from Arizona club member Dave Potts - nice car!
Across the show field was a new-to-me Super-Sports.  The owner turned out to be Jarl DeBoer, a name I knew well, but whom I'd never met in person.  Jarl is one of THE go-to people on Italian -made Crosley-powered sports cars.  He has a Giaur, a Nardi, and at least one Siata, along with a small fleet of other interesting stuff.  If you've read about a marque on, odds are that Jarl has owned one at some point or another.
He also has a semi-stock Super Sports - 'semi-stock' because it has a Siata bell housing and Fiat transmission behind the Crosley motor - a nice set up, and a treat for those who know what they are looking at.  Best of all, it runs great and he makes the most of it.  He'd planned to run the Crosley Cruise last fall but couldn't make it when the date changed.
Parked by Jarl's car was another Farm-O-Road, nice, and freshly-painted, with industrial fishplate on the rear.  Turned out that the car belonged to Robert and Carol Brown, who got into Crosleys after restoring her dad's Crosley wagon, which sat disassembled in a Sacto garage for 46 years.  Their wagon won Best of Show their first time out, and this F-O-R looks like it could be a contender, too.
Next to them was a two cylinder pre-war Crosley, one of the very few cars that makes a postwar Crosley look big.  Martha Straube brought the car all the way down from Oregon (in a horse trailer!)  Martha brought her other Crosley to Sutter Creek last fall... proving that she has been bitten bad by the Crosley bug.  Like the Browns, she's discovered that restoring a Crosley only makes you want more Crosleys.
Pick ups are fairly rare, but we had three on the lawn on Saturday, including a bright red '51 or '52, all the way from Arizona.  I had a nice chat with the owner - he's had some neat oddball cars over the years including (if I remember correctly) a custom Edsel pickup (Edchero?)  The other two pick ups were Gary Loomer's yellow '47 roundside and a two-tone orange and cream roundside that had an ever-so-subtle "for sale" penned in the window.
Jarl wasn't the only one with a VC, either - a new-to-me red Super Sports was sandwiched between Fred Dunner's, Ronnie Bauman's and Bob King's wagons on the west side of the park.  Nice car - with a stock Crosley radio in the dash and wide whites on all corners.
I was stoked to see a car I knew, but that has never been to a meet as long as I've been coming: Mike Cleary's homebuilt Devin hmod racecar.  Mike started building the car in high school and got it on the track around 1958.  He competed in many races in the midwest before retiring the car in the mid sixties.  Twenty-five or so years ago he restored it and began running in vintage racing events. The car is a thing of beauty, and roars on the track!
Once I'd ogled all the fresh iron I wandered back over to the swap meet area where Rick, Bob King and Jarl DeBoer had piles of parts on offer.  I picked up some gasket sets and a nice Tillotson carb, and then noticed a big box of Crosley Quarterlies near the check-in table.  Turns out that they had been left to the club by the late Mike Smith to be sold, with the proceeds going to the club's coffers.  It was a near complete set of issues from 1970-2010!  Of course I couldn't resist, so I lightened my wallet and loaded the box in the truck.
We had a total of 16 Crosley-based cars on hand - a record for the Spring Meet, and more than we've had at some of our annual meets!  And that doesn't count the guests - two Metropolitans, an MGA, a Morris Minor and a Morgan three-wheeler.
My sister, brother in law and grandnephews stopped by to check out the fun.  The kids were interested for a few minutes, but were more impressed by the trains that made their way past at regular intervals. It was nice of them to come all the way out from Ventura though.
Lunch was the same delicious BBQ that made such an impression last year - the only bad part was that the arrival of food starts the inevitable wrapping up.  I only see most of these folks once or twice a year, so there is a real bittersweet quality to every meet- especially at the end.
Cars started vacating the show field, after lunch, normally not much of a sight.  I was fascinated, however, by Jarl's transport: he had a Mercedes sprinter van rigged up to accommodate his Crosley (and six of his other small cars, he told me.) He drops ramps out the back, hooks an electric winch to the Crosley and reels it up inside the van!  The whole set-up impressed me immensely.

I helped Rick load up his swap meet junk, said a round of goodbyes and headed toward El Mirage around 3.  I'd gotten about 10 minutes out of town when John called to tell me that they'd finished the races for the day and that he and his crew were heading for their hotel in Victorville.  They were first in line for a 7AM run on Sunday.
That put me in a quandary - I'd planned to spend the afternoon at the dry lakes, but since the races had shut down I decided to poke around Santa Clarita a bit before heading out for El Mirage.  I hit some thrift stores and found a few good records, and while I was in one of the stores someone backed into one of my taillights.  Luckily it just broke the lens but didn't damage the body, not that there aren't enough dents already.  I grabbed a quick dinner and headed for the desert.
Having never been to the Dry Lakes area before I wasn't exactly sure where I could camp.  I drove through Victorville but didn't find anything that looked suitable, so I decided to just go all the way to El Mirage.  I got to the entrance around midnight and opted to crash out in the lot behind the ranger station.  The wind was blowing like crazy but once I got settled under my moving blanket I was pretty comfy.  I set my alarm for 6AM and dropped off to sleep immediately.

To be continued....


M. Park Hunter said...

Great article, Tim! As always, makes me want to move to California where all the fun happens.

Charles Baxter said...

Great Article!

Just so you know the Red Farm-O-Road with the tan top belongs to my father Robert Baxter who is a member of the club.

Ol' Man Foster said...

Charles- thanks! I've met your dad many times--Got that fixed!