Published on Fri, Jun 28, 1996
By: Len Frank
In His Own Words…
Above: The object of his one-time intimate love affair, the 1941 Lincoln Continental (Wallpaper Up/Public Domain)
Born Youngstown, Ohio, 1935. Youngstown was a steel production center, a great supplier of Detroit. It had a GM plant a few miles away, a Budd component plant, among others, in town. My father owned a garage/gas station (“Hi-Speed”–later absorbed by Texaco.) None of this had any bearing on the matter at hand.
I was inept at mechanics during my high-school days, but hung out with guys who weren’t. Initially I was passionate about airplanes but soon discovered that one can’t cruise nightly in an airplane. I spent hundreds of hours cruising. I still do.
I also drew cars. My high school art teacher used to look at them and advise me to become a writer. Dear Mr. Benniger.
After the Air Force (where I had intimate affairs with a ’41 Lincoln Continental and a ’51 MG-TD, and began an on-again, mostly off-again racing career), I left Ohio for Art Center School, then in Los Angeles. Mr. Benniger was right. I resumed a succession of automotive jobs that had me in parts departments, service departments, too many sales departments, front lines, back lots, floor time, etc. Eventually I owned my own dealership.
Sometime before, during, and after all of this, I managed a B.A. in English/Journalism from Cal State University at Long Beach and an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of Oregon.
After three years of university teaching, followed by more dreary years of working with automobiles, I tired of working altogether and in 1980 took to writing about cars for a living. Since 1977 I had been doing a Los Angeles radio show about cars (with John Retsek) called, cleverly, “The Car Show” that seemed to lend some authority to my writing.
Since then I have written for Motor Trend, Sports Car Graphic, Road Test, Popular Mechanics, etc., and the whole depressing panoply of general interest, airline, trade, and business magazines. Retsek and I have added a national radio show to the local one, and have done a TV pilot. I have done “The Great American Dreamobile” for The Disney Channel as well as hours of junk TV. My freelance sojourn with Motor Trend (as Editor-at-Large) is over. After eight years it was time.
I am honored to have contributed to Mercedes-Benz of NA’s “The First Century”; to have judged, or been asked to judge, dozens of concours d’elegance (I no longer judge, lest I be…etc.); to have been asked to speak to car clubs: Jaguar, M-Bz, Lotus, Falcon Owners, etc.; to The Society of Automotive Analysts, and to have moderated a panel at Art Center College, and an upcoming session for the Industrial Design Society of America. I’m still pecking out magazine stuff, and am working, not too aggressively, at some book projects.
I have run in four 24-hour races and some vintage stuff in the last year (about), and still like doing that above all. Thank you.
The late Len Frank was the legendary co-host of “The Car Show”—the first and longest-running automotive broadcast program on the airwaves. Len was also a highly regarded journalist, having served in editorial roles with Motor Trend, Sports Car Graphic, Popular Mechanics, and a number of other publications. LA Car is proud to once again host “Look Down the Road – The Writings of Len Frank” within its pages. Special thanks to another long-time automotive journalist, Matt Stone, who has been serving as the curator of Len Frank’s archives since his passing in 1996 at the age of 60. During the next few months, we will be re-posting the entire collection of “Look Down the Road”, and you’ll be able to view them all in one location under the simple search term “Len Frank”. – Roy Nakano