Tin Block Times - Summer 2010

Page 1

Tracking the 1953 Nardi Crosleys

tin block



Bob Carson

The Tin Block Times

The Man, The Myth, The Wreck s

Editor’s Exhaust Tim Foster

I just got back from The Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival where I got to see club members Marty Stein and Don Baldocchi race their cars. I’ve been seeing Don’s beautiful 1953 Nardi for years at the annual meets and at the races, so I was really excited to read Marty’s fascinating article on this car and the other Crosley-powered Nardis. The story has more twists than a mystery novel! Also on tap this issue is Mike Bainter’s profile of longtime West Coast club member Bob Carson. Carson is legendary for his cross country Crosley driving exploits, many of which he filmed on 8mm movie film, as he was driving! Carson’s arrival at a meet was always cause for celebration, not only because he invariably drove one of his Crosleys, but also because his arrival meant that he hadn’t crashed en route! Of course our annual meet is just around the corner, but I also wanted to mention a few other events coming up: The Little Car Show will take place Wednesday, August 11 in Pacific Grove, California. The show is limited to approximately 40 vehicles of 1300cc and under and Crosley will be featured this year. There will be trophies, but it is

not a competition. Check http://marinamotorsports.org/events for info, or call Mike Bainter at (831) 809-4105. The Hmod Reunion is on tap for October 1-3, 2010 at the 7th Annual CSRG Charity Challenge at Infineon Raceway (Sears Point), California. Looks like there will be a dozen or so H-modified cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s on hand, at least half of which will probably be Crosley-powered. This event will also feature the inaugural award of the “Joe Puckett Cup.” Joe Puckett embodied the spirit of the H-modified movement and the “cup” will be presented to the driver who best represents the spirit of H-modified at the event in October. For more details contact Henry Morrison at 505-259-1537. And last, Club members Dale and Rob Liebherr will once again be attempting to set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, beginning on August 14. Liv and I went out for a day last year, and it was the highlight of our YEAR. If you have any interest in racing (and 100+ degree lunar landscapes) head out and cheer them on this year! Call Dale for more info (775) 267-2533. See you in September! Tim Foster

timtmaker@yahoo.com | (916) 612-2613 | 2017 1st Avenue | Sacramento CA, 95818 Summer 2010

From the Archives

By Rick Alexander Powel Crosley himself pilots a Pre-war “jeep” prototype in this 1940 factory photo.A Covered Wagon model joins the off-road foray, probably at Crosley’s southern Indiana farm north of Cincinatti. The photo is from the archive of a small newspaper called The Enterprise in western Massachusetts. Ray Cosrove, GM of Crosley Corp is in the covered wagon and Guy Flaig is perched in the “caisson seat” in the rear of the little jeep. Part of the label on the rear of the photo is missing, but the other guy in the front seat sure looks like Director of Engineering Paul Klotsch. It doesn’t show so much here, but the lawn in front of the Covered Wagon has been “touched up,” and the top of the car has been outlined with paint to make the car stand out better when reprinted—a standard practice for newspapers of the day. The Tin Block Times

Crosley People By Michael Bainter

Twenty-five years ago, when the West Coast Regional Group of the Crosley Automobile Club was just getting started, I was already a Crosley owner and enthusiast, and had attended at least one National meet in Wauseon, Ohio. It was there that I met the Bob Carson of legend, and where I had my first ride in a Crosley— my Crosley was not running—and getting a ride in Bob’s green station wagon whetted my appetite for having a runner.


Above: Bob collecting one of many Hard Luck awards. Opposite page: Bob in his Skorpion, wearing his trademark hat.

Bob was well known in Crosley circles even then due to his legendary crosscountry adventures driving Crosley cars. He lived in North Hollywood and would head east in one of his several Crosleys, outfitted and provisioned like a modern pioneer, loaded down with spare parts, a sleeping bag, perhaps a change of clothes or two, and an 8mm movie camera. The camera was used to document his travels, and he had rigged it to a monopod, just below his rearview mirror, so that he could take moving pictures while he was, um, moving. His departures from North Hollywood were usually well in advance of the July Summer 2010

Carson the Man,The legend weekend of the National meet so that he could deal with any breakdown while enroute to Ohio. Such delays were not unexpected, thus he had his supply of spare parts (mostly used), which included a complete engine, a generator, starter, fan belt, perhaps a 12� innertube, and so forth. Since he traveled alone, there was sufficient space for his stuff, and Crosleys are surprisingly roomy when carefully packed with essentials. If the breakdown were catastrophic, Bob might park the Crosley at a friendly gas station or repair shop, catch a Greyhound bus headed west, then retrieve his pickup The Tin Block Times

truck and reverse direction. The Crosley was always rescued, repaired, and driven again. From the time I first met him, I believe he was retired from Lockheed. He was not wealthy, but he was a hard worker and always seemed to get by, traveling wherever he felt like, and not punching a time clock. Bob seemed more like a sundial guy than a chronometer guy, and he always had time to chat with anyone. Whether one had time for the chatting is another matter, because Bob had endless stories, with Crosley lore as a large part of the conversation. He had a tendency to stand close and occasionally tap you

Bob’s crashed CD sedan at Felton

with his long arms and bony hands as he held forth. Those hands always had a trace of honest dirt and grease, since Bob was a mechanical guy. His clothes were similarly greasy-clean in an honest “I just reached under the hood to adjust the carburetor” way. If you had a need to be elsewhere, it was best to look for or create a diversion. The best chance was to invite someone else over to partake in the chat, allowing for a departure as Bob changed focus to the new arrival. His lifetime of experiences would no doubt make a lengthy book. In talking to him on our first meeting I learned lots of important things about Crosleys, such as his advice on the critical coupling between the belt-driven generator and the water pump, located

directly behind the generator. If these two units are coupled even slightly out of alignment, the water pump can fail due to stress. Also, the coupler, comprised of rubber and steel pieces which bolt together, must be in balance, so the small bolts and their nuts and washer need to face opposite directions and be as short as possible to avoid the forces of reciprocation being out of balance. It matters at highway speeds over long distances, and Bob drove loooonnngg distances in his Crosleys. What do you need when caravanning cross-country with two other guys in Crosleys? Got yer ears on good buddy? The 1985 trip made by Paul Cowden, Tom DeJohn and Bob Carson in three Crosleys has never been duplicated, to Summer 2010

Above: Photo of yet another crash! Below: Skorp sans Carson.

my knowledge. Most lengthy Crosley trips have been solo adventures; these guys drove their cars both ways, although the group split up after Wauseon. Enroute to Ohio, there was two-way communication by CB radio. One wonders what kind of chatter there was from the professional truckers when they saw three tiny Crosleys puttering along at perhaps 50 mph. Bob attended many of the West Coast Region’s fall meets and won the hard luck/best travel adventure award regularly. One year at Felton he made it almost the whole way before getting involved in a bad crash (but no injuries) that wiped out his super sedan’s passenger side. The next time the car was shown, it had been rebuilt as a custom, sectioned a couple inches and

The Tin Block Times

repainted. The same car got crashed again and repaired. In 1997, while he was enroute to the Florida meet in the Datsley (Datsunengined, auto tranny) when the engine failed. First he rented a car to get to the meet, which got rained out, then he bought a ‘76 Mercury, a length of chain and some spare bulbs for the tail lights, and chained the Crosley to the Merc’s

Carson drove his CB-equipped sedan to Monterey in ‘86

hitch and headed west. The Crosley began to lean to the right along about New Mexico—the right front tire was gone as was most of the wheel. The spare didn’t last long either, but a replacement got him home. The transmission was wrecked because he didn’t remove the driveshaft. Bob persevered, though, and made numerous banzai runs cross country through the years, and became Travelin’ Bob Carson to everyone who knew him. When Bob was called to get his hard luck awards at the Saturday banquets, he always took the time to explain how he had managed to win. President Brodsky eventually invoked Roberts’ Rules of Order and placed a time limit on Bob to move the awards ceremony along before the coffee ran out. Twice, Bob hauled items back to California from Wauseon, Ohio for me when I had flown back for the National meet. The last time I saw him, I was picking up a complete set of station wagon glass that he had transported. A

tour of his place in Sylmar was an eye opener—five Skorpions, including the prototype, plus regular Crosleys named Herbie, Pocahantas, and the Green Hornet, and probably others. There were a couple of shipping containers full of parts and scrap metal, conduit, electrical wiring, and lots of other stuff. The property also housed a Tennessee Walking Horse (or three). It was a fun visit, somewhat overwhelming trying to take it all in. Don “Jolly” MacLean visited Bob in Sylmar not long before Bob traveled on his way due to Parkinson’s disease. Jolly’s coverage of the fall Crosley meet was shown to Bob via a DVD, with Jolly describing the activities, the cars, and the people. Bob couldn’t talk, but he shed a few tears as he watched. No doubt they were tears of sadness at not having been there, and tears of joy for Jolly’s thoughtfulness in bringing back so many wonderful memories for Travelin’ Bob Carson. ✪ Summer 2010

The 1953 Nardi Crosleys How Three Became Four

By Marty Stein In 1953, Chicago industrialist and auto importer Stanley ‘Wacky’ Arnolt began importing tiny Crosley-powered racecars built in the Turin workshop of Enrico Nardi. Nardi, well known worldwide as a manufacturer of speed and racing equipment, also built a significant number of complete cars, many of which competed in the major European road races of the day. While Nardi’s factory turned out the mechanicals, the sleek aluminum bodies were usually designed by one of the many design shops in Turin. Despite rumors that have been floating around for decades about six cars, an Arnolt “team,” and “factory” fires, The Tin Block Times

Top: Don Baldocchi’s 134497C is almost always at the West Coast Crosley meet. 953-1 in racing trim circa 1962. Photos courtesy Rick Beckrich

it appears there were 953-1 as it looks today. only three cars built by Nardi with Crosley motors in 1953. Two of these were bodied by Frua, while the third had a body by Motto. In April, 1953, Arnolt imported the first of two similar much information from Mike Di Cola, Frua-bodied Crosley-powered Nardi who had in his possession Arnolt ledautomobiles: Number 953-1 (with Cro- gers from the period. These ledgers do sley engine N. 134480C). Arnolt re- not support the “team” theory, although portedly displayed the car in New York Arnolt did try for some time to sell two at the International Motor Sport Show of the cars and to race one of them where it won a prize before it went on with sporadic success. The ledgers also to be reported in the Arnolt ledger as contained some promotional material “Arrived in Chicago on 18 April 1953 for a Motto-bodied car but apparently on the SS Saturnia”, one week after the this car was neither imported nor sold NY show had concluded. This seems through Arnolt. a bit odd as the car’s attendance at the Arnolt raced 953-1 at Chanute AFB NY show is possible only if the car was in June where it DNF’ed ... but was proliterally “shipped” from New York to nounced the “cutest car in the race.” It Chicago. It may just be that the car was is mentioned in SCCA’s Sports Car of displayed, awarded its prize and photo- July-August 1953. There is a bit of congraphed at a different show? Or, maybe fusion because the entry #128 is menthe ledger recorded a mix of data? tioned in the account but a few photos Hmod historian John de Boer learned shows it was run under race #142. After 953-1, two more similar chassis were built by Nardi in 1953. One was tested in July, 1953 by Gino Munaron on the Susa Moncenisio hill-climb... without a body fitted. His run was allowed because the “unlimited racing category” rules apparently required only a firewall! He was eighth in the entry of ten cars in the category. His competition was notable in that there was Willy Daetwyler’s 953-1 at the track, 1980. Alfa Romeo 12-cylinder (1st o/a), 10

Summer 2010

Little is known of the fate of the Motto bodied 1953 Siata Crosley. Photos courtesy Cliff Reuter.

Umberto Maglioli’s Ferrari GP (2nd o/a) and three more Ferrari, a Maserati 4CLT, an A6GCS, AFM 2000 and Cisitalia D46 monoposto! This second Nardi-Crosley chassis was used to build either the second Frua-bodied car for Arnolt, or more likely, (as recalled by Munaron himself) was used to build the Motto-bodied car that came to the USA through another East Coast importer of etceterini, Tony Pompeo. Regardless, there was a second Fruabodied car built in time to be finished in September and it was apparently displayed by Arnolt at the “Salon Internationale de l’Automobile” in Paris during the first week of October. There is a chance, however, that Arnolt shipped 953-1 from the USA to Paris for the Salon, but it seems more likely that the second car was finished in time for the Salon, and showed there prior to delivThe Tin Block Times

ery to Arnolt in the US. The question of which it was might be solved by careful inspection of both bodies together and comparing against a photo of the car on display. The Motto-bodied car was finished in October and ran the Sassi-Superga hill climb (outskirts of Torino) on October 25, with Gino Munaron driving once again. He won the Sport 750 category. The car arrived in the USA in time to be demonstrated by Fangio (and others) at Thompson on December 12 in a session arranged by Pompeo prior to an SCCA meeting held that evening in the area. It was then displayed by Pompeo late in January 1954 at the World Motor Sports Show in New York and was 11

sold shortly thereafter to Don Vitale who first raced it in April. Arnolt had advertised as a Nardi dealer in the Lockbourne (AFB) race program for August of 1953. The ad read, “America’s Number One Source for Fine Imported Sports Cars ¬ MG, Aston Martin, Nardi.” Arnolt raced 953-1 in two races at Janesville, Wisconsin later in August and was 31st o/a (2nd/ Hm) in Race 1 and 21st o/a (3rd/ Hm) in Race 5. Arnolt advertised the car in various ways even as the second Frua-bodied car was being completed. Unlike 953-1, the second Frua-bodied car was not assigned a Nardi chassis number but was exported under its Crosley engine number, N. 134479C. After Paris, the car may have returned to Nardi briefly as It did not arrive in the USA until December 1953, on the S/S Conte Biancamano. The precise date was apparently not reported in the Arnolt ledger. After December 1953, when the second Frua-bodied car arrives in the US, there is some difficulty ascertaining exactly which of the two we are seeing in photos from the time. The two cars are primarily discernable because of a badge 12

Nardi ad circa 1953.

on the side of 953-1 where 134479C had a Frua script. It is often (but not always) possible to see this difference in photos. Don indicated to me that there were holes for the badge in this car but he does not recall any holes for script. He will get back to me on that. John’s research has revealed the following travels for 953-1… John assumes that Arnolt considered 953-1 to be his “used” race-car and further presumes that he continued to race it rather than turn the second car into a “used” car straight away. So, it was probably Summer 2010

Nardi article from fifties magazine.

953-1 that Arnolt raced subsequently as well. In May of 1954 at Atterbury AFB in Indiana he stopped on lap 3 when he “smelled something burning.” After this, the car was painted white with a dark central stripe and it was displayed January 1955 at the “Sports Cars Internationale” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. This was the precursor to the annual “Sports Cars in Review” display hosted annually by the Ford Museum. 953-1 was sold during 1955 to Charles Thomas Lean but after a short time he traded it “straight across” back to Arnolt to get an MG TD. At some point 953-1 was painted red once again. Arnolt loaned N. 134479C to Ford for the “Sports Cars in Review” display January 13 to February 5, 1956. Arnolt entered a car at Elkhart in June 1956 but there is no indication yet that the car actually appeared in the race. At the same time, an ad was sent to Road and The Tin Block Times

Track (appearing in August) offering both of the cars. One (presumably the still “new” car) was priced at $3250 and the other with a price that was indicated as “????”. John believes that 953-1 was sold (directly or indirectly) to Cliff Ridge, who ran it in a hill-climb in Michigan during 1959. It was 953-1 that went on to Ronald Weaver who advertised it May 1962 in Road and Track. The car then went to Norm Esau. Jack Wilkening shared a couple of photo prints a few years ago of this car at Wilmot Hills. The prints were dated July 1962 so the event had to be July or earlier. Jack was not certain but he thought his photos showed Tom Petries driving the car for Esau. The car then passed to Rick Beckrich who raced it a few times even as ads appeared in Competition Press September 1962 and then again in March 1963 when the car apparently was sold to Marvin Wolf of Prairie Village (Kansas) ... who then offered it in August and then again in January of 1964. It was sold to Joe Moore in California who entered it at a race at San Luis Obispo in August of 1964 before offering it in October and again in November and December. Evidently it did not sell straight away as Moore entered it in another race May 1965 at Santa Barbara. After that it seemingly disappeared. ✪ 13

CROSLEY AUTOMOBILE CLUB WEST COAST REGIONAL MEET SEPTEMBER 11TH & 12TH, 2010 Once again it is time to pay our dues and register for our annual meet. This will be our 26th meet. By popular demand, we will return to Buellton, California where the last two years we held very successful meets. Once again the meet hotel will be the Best Western Pea Soup Anderson’s Inn in Buellton. Their phone number from California is 800-732-7687 and outside California is 805-688-3216. We have reserved 30 rooms so be sure to tell them you are with the Crosley Club. The block of rooms will be held until 8/10/10. For those with RVs, the Flying Flags RV Park is located one block from the hotel and is very nice. Their phone number is 877-783-5247. On Friday night we will have our usual informal gathering at the gazebo area at the Best Western Hotel. It usually lasts from 3:00 until around 8:00. Bring some goodies to share and your own liquid refreshments. We usually have so much to eat that no one bothers with dinner! The Saturday meet will be at the beautiful River View Park which is located at 151 Sycamore Drive just off Highway 246. We have a large area reserved with lots of room for cars and many shaded tables and benches. We will have the car show, swap meet and Funkana at the park. We have plenty of room for swap meet so bring lots of Crosley items to sell or trade. The event starts at 9:00. Lunch will once again from JR’s Gourmet catering and will consist of sandwich with potato chips, fruit salad, pasta and cookies. Lunch will be delivered at 11:30. Be sure to specify which type of sandwich you want. We will have our Giant Raffle at the Park at 2:30 PM. The club relies on the raffle to help support the meet so please bring some interesting desirable items to donate to the raffle. The club store will have many items for sale. The Saturday night banquet will again be held at Firestone Walker Taproom. It is located at 620 McMurray Road very close to the hotel. The banquet will be pizza, caesar salad, veggie pasta and meat pasta. There will be a no host beer and wine bar. The Sunday brunch will be at Ellens Pancake House across the street from the hotel. The food is excellent. PLEASE FILL OUT THE ENCLOSED REGISTRATION FORM AND RETURN IT PROMPTLY TO HELP WITH PLANNING THE EVENT. IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND, PLEASE SEND IN YOUR DUES. DUES RUN FROM JULY 1 TO JUNE 30. If you have any questions, call or email me. 14 David Brodsky • 408-264-4941 •brodsky@jps.net

Summer 2010

A Note on the Back Cover Photo Crosley Memories of East LA By Mike Savin I guess I too am a Crosley fan after all these years. Dad was a Crosley dealer in East Los Angeles in the late ‘40s until Crosley ceased production. The whole family would travel in our Chartreuse (as mom called it) convertible—and Dad organized what he called “rallies”—tours which his customers were invited to participate in—leaving the shop in East LA to other parts (Big Bear and Irvine Park were two destinations that I recall.). The whole family was the WHOLE family: Mom and Dad in front, sister Adina riding on mom’s lap, brother Matt and I riding in the back seat with my beagle, Rusty. When I see a Crosley today, I am amazed that the whole family could fit in one. And Dad was 6’4” tall. One of dad’s customers, Bill Palmer, raced his Hot Shot at the Tustin Air Field—it was the earliest sports car race I attended. The attached photo shows dad working on a Crosley with us kids watching. Since Dad’s shop was originally a brake shop, I thought dad had been doing a

The Tin Block Times

brake job. I asked him about this photo shortly before he passed away - and he told me that he had been welding a steel reinforcement bar across the rear axle. He told me that the rear axle was weak in these cars and that he had done this to all new Crosleys before he sold them to prevent buyer unhappiness. Dad’s shop is still there at 4th and Soto Streets in LA. Grandpa Savin built the shop about 1932 (I may be mistaken—it could be as early as 1928). It looks different today than it did in the ‘50s when I was familiar with it. Today it’s an auto stereo shop with a Mexican flavor. Where they’re now selling cell phones had been an all-glass windowed showroom. It looks pretty crappy today—with all the mixed colors and changes to the architecture—but underneath all that is the same building that grandpa built, and dad added onto.


Is YOUR Crosley ready for Buellton? September 11 – 12, 2010


Summer 2010

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.