This year, the West Coast Crosley Club decided to do something different for our annual Spring Meet: we opted to combine our event with the Southwest Unique Little Car Show, meaning that in addition to goofing with Crosleys and visiting with my club compatriots, I was able to spend a couple days with hordes of even weirder, even smaller microcars.
Cochrane's swell CD woodie convertible
It didn't take much arm-twisting to convince my pals Dave Smith and Nick Shelley to join me for the trip - Dave has a small fleet of NSUs, and Nick has what is likely the world's only electric Farm-O-Road. Nick and I headed out Friday morning and met up with Dave in Patterson. We made great time until we hit the afternoon traffic outside Castaic - and then it took us two hours to go the last 50 miles to Upland. We got to the meet hotel just in time to catch the cars queuing up for the cruise to dinner.
Crofton Bug in the cruise lineup
There were about 20 cars lined up for the trip, including almost a half dozen Crosleys. I was happy to see a bunch of folks I knew, and even spotted a Crofton I'd never seen before. They jockeyed into position and slowly poured out of the lot, following a Messerschmitt which led the way.
Dave, Nick and I needed to hit the head so we stopped into the hotel when the cruise took off. As luck would have it, the hotel had put out buckets of free beer for some other event - it would have been unAmerican of us to ignore this bit of luck, so our quick pit stop turned into a short break. Once we'd refreshed ourselves, we headed over to the dinner, which was held at SWULCS meet organizer Greg Hahs' house.
Renault 4CV drove from San Diego
I wasn't sure how this many cars and this many people were supposed to fit into someone's house and neighborhood, but clearly, Greg had done this before. His neighborhood was totally taken over by a swarm of underhorsed, multi-hued auto oddities. I'd been to SWULCS a few years ago, so I knew what to expect, but it was still amazing to see such a variety of deep weirdness on one street: multiple Crosleys, Isettas, Amphicars, Minis and Metropolitans, plus tons of solo representatives: Goggomobil, Citroen, Renault 4CV, Morris Minor, Riley, etc.
More colors than a basket of Easter Eggs
Custom touch on a Met
The Citroen never showed up at the show on Saturday
Once we'd carefully ogled every car on the street we headed in for dinner. Greg and wife Kiki's house was decked out for the party, and they managed to fit probably 50 people into their backyard, and still had room for the pool AND the large garage. Unsurprisingly, the garage was jammed full of treasures, including a 1917 Model T, a Bond three wheeler, a couple of Isettas, a Goggomobile Dart, a Berkeley and a Zundapp Janus - all stuffed into what was probably a "three car" garage.
About half the cars in Greg's garage
Greg popped the hood on the Bond, turning the steering wheel to show us how the entire engine assembly moves on the front wheel. The whole crowd froze when a precariously perched model triplane tumbled off the Bond's roof onto an onlooker - but all ended well.
Greg opening up the Bond's bonnet
We killed off the remaining pasta and cookies, and chatted with nice folks who had come for the show. One guy had come all the way from Texas. Outside, we bumped into Steve Mandell, a friend of Dave's who is perhaps the preeminent French micro-micro car nut in America.... certainly on the West Coast. As we chatted, I realized he had brought the trio of bizarre French "VSP" cars - voitures sans permit, tiny vehicles designed to be driven by people who don't (or can't) have a driver's license* - that had fascinated me at the last SWULCS I went to.
Dave had gotten to know Steve when he worked a deal to buy three new electric microcars in China and ship them back to the US. Dave spends most of his time teaching English in countries as far from the US as possible, and then goes off trawling the countryside for oddball native cars and motorcycles. Once in a while, he buys something that catches his fancy - he crisscrossed India on an Enfield he bought over there.
The microcar Dave eventually didn't buy
One morning last May I was standing on the edge of the track at El Mirage around 7AM, waiting for the races to start, when I got a message from Dave. He sent me a photo of the completely ridiculous round microcar he'd just found in China. He was negotiating to buy it for $250. I sent him a photo of the cars lined up at the track, and marveled at the fact that I was in the middle of the desert, exchanging instant messages with a buddy in China. It's easy to complain about the modern world, but there are times when I realize that we sort of live in a wonderland.
Anyway, Dave didn't buy that particular car, but did contact the factory and arranged to buy three brand new ones to ship to the US. He posted about his scheme on a microcar web board and Steve asked if he could buy one, and offered to help with customs and shipping arrangements. Eventually, all three cars landed at the Port of LA; Steve got his, Dave got two, one of which he immediately sold to a friend in the Northwest. I'm pretty sure Dave is bringing the last one to the Great Pacific Northwest Microcar MiniCar Extravaganza in June.
Three cars, one trailer
But back to SWULCS... Steve had brought three cars on a trailer that was parked just around the corner since there was no more room near Greg's house. Two were VSP cars, and one was a three wheeler work truck that reminded me of a Vespa Ape (pronounced "Ah pay"). Apes go for big money, and seeing this, it's easy to understand why - itty bitty industrial work trucks are just cool. It turned out that Steve lives just outside of Upland, and he invited us to stop by to see his collection after the show.
We got up early Saturday AM and used Yelp to guide us to breakfast at Stevie Dee's (my review: "meh.") It had rained most of the night and the skies looked grey - but the weather forecast said sun, so we hoped it was right. The meet was in the center of old Upland, which turned out to be a surprisingly quaint little town. The show took over the whole center of downtown; four streets that connected at a small bandstand were blocked off, and all sorts of oddball cars were starting to fill in the spaces.
The Askrens' 1946 Crosley
I found club Pres. Rick Alexander setting up the West Coast Crosley Club table near our contingent of Crosley cars. We had six Crosleys on hand: the Askrens' '46 sedan, the Cochranes' woodie convertible, The Kings' resto-rod station wagon, the Dunners' stock yellow wagon, The Brynswolds' Skorpion, and a Crofton bug that was new to me - it turned out to be a newly-finished build owned by Pat Askren's brother in law. Nice car.
Crofton, with a slew of Metropolitans in the back
I was proud to note that Crosleys made up the biggest showing for any marque except Metropolitans; the Southwest Unique Little Car Show was started nearly 25 years ago by some guys in the Metropolitan Club, so they always have a big turnout - there were close to a dozen of them.
'53 IFA F9
As usual for SWULCS, there were a ton of oddball makes on hand... including ultra rarities like Steve's aforementioned VSP cars, a Wartburg convertible and an unrestored 1953 IFA F9, an East German car derived from a prewar DKW.
NSU coupe was like new
There were Amphicars, Isettas, and a couple twin Nissan Figaros - the only ones I've seen in the states. Many of the cars were stunning restorations - there was a Riley sedan that stopped me in my tracks, and an NSU that looked like a new car. Even more impressive - the owners had driven it from San Diego! Dave spent quite a bit of time chatting with the owner - an "NSU NUTT" who had bought it as a meticulously maintained original from an NSU dealer in Fresno who had had it since new.
I talked with the owner of a cool ratty Renault 4CV that had also driven from San Diego for the show. The car is the daily driver for the owner, a retired guy who now makes his living selling 4CV parts. While 4CVs were never common in the US, Renault sold hundreds of thousands of them around the world, and he had chased parts as far as Australia.
Wartburg - looks kinda like a tiny fifties American car
About 10AM an enthusiastic local cover band kicked off a set of oldies from the central bandstand, and anyone set up nearby got an earsplitting taste of Fender Twin Reverb. While I appreciated that the city, or the event organizers, had thought about entertainment, the band had the effect of driving attendance to the farther-flung reaches of the show. Ah, I've been that band.
Super clean Amphicar
All in all there were about 50 cars; a big drop from the last SWULCS I'd attended. Clearly the organizers expected more - there were spaces for over 100 cars. I suspect the early morning rain scared a lot of people off... Ronnie Bauman had both a Crosley and a Metropolitan loaded in his trailer for the show, but left everything at home in the driveway. He did come to visit, and loaded up on new Crosley swag from the table, including an extra Crosley hat.
Ronnie Bauman, flying the club colors
Steve and his buddy Muggsy were there with the three French cars, which were the smallest vehicles in the show. While I liked the two VSP cars, I loved the truck trike, which turned out to be a heavily modified Solyto Camping. Steve has a connection in France who is on the lookout for tiny French microcars - for a nanosecond I wondered if he could find a Solyto Camping for me. I went down a bit of a Solyto wormhole after I got home, and they are neat - especially the stock model with full bodywork.
It had been overcast in the early morning, but it got hot by the early afternoon. I spent quite a bit of time with the Crosley Club crew, including Martha Straube, who had come all the way down from Oregon. Also reconnected with James Dlapa - a member who had brought a very unique kustom to a meet about 15 years ago. These days he makes a living pounding out custom sheet metal for high end Mercedes restorations, but he still has a soft spot for his Crosleys. I also chatted with two members of the national Crosley Automobile Club who were visiting all the way from Pennsylvania - really nice folks.
Pennsylvania Crosley fans summit with West Coast Pres. Rick Alexander
It was a shame the rain scared people off - it was a really nice event. The show started to close up around 2:30, which was good for me since I had to be back in Sacramento to sell at a swap meet at 4AM the next morning. We helped Steve and Muggsy load the French cars on the trailer, and the day nearly took a very unhappy turn when a 1930s Austin American rolled back off its trailer and almost took out a couple of people and a nearby car. Luckily, no damage to any cars or people. Not sure about the Austin driver's shorts, though. We got in the car and headed for Steve's....
Zundapp Janus, Goggomobile Dart and a Berkeley
Glen Brynsvold and his Crosley Skorpion
Nick and Dave ogling the Riley
Skorpion in front of Bob King's Resto-rod wagon
Quite a scene
The Dunners' wagon
Riley 1.5 was NICE
Three cylinder power plant for the IFA
Nicely presented Subaru 360 van- one of a couple at the show
Steve's VSP cars - they look like something out of Woody Allen's Sleeper
Modified Solyto Camping - one of my fave cars at the show
Not sure who manufactured this lil jeep
Very nice Fiat Multipla - I remember this one from the last SWULCS