FRANF’S GARAGE


Ken Martin


As you have traveled along Lake Chabot Road near the boulevard, you have probably seen a brown cement block building with large white letters on a faded blue marquee that tells you this is “Frank’s Garage”. It’s right there between Quik-Stop #84 and the car wash.


I had seen this building many times before I ever had reason to go in. My first occasion to enter was precipitated by a starter problem with my pickup truck. I worked as an automotive mechanic for many years so I am accustomed to the normal accoutrements of an automobile repair shop, but what I found in Frank’s Garage was both a surprise and a delight to me.


Once my eye got past all the usual auto repair equipment, it landed on an array of beautiful model airplanes hanging from the ceiling in front of a back wall lined with shelves loaded with a collection of antique toy trucks and trains. As a long time hobbyist with an affinity for toys and models, all this really appealed to me. But, I wondered, what are all these doing in a totally unrelated setting in an auto shop?


I asked Dennis Vanderbilt, the manager, that question. He explained that Frank Lockwood, the owner of the garage, has an extensive collection of toys and models of which these were only a small part.  


I recently returned to Frank’s Garage and asked Dennis how I might contact Frank. Dennis told me that Frank would be there the next morning.


Shortly after my arrival the next morning, a black pickup with silver stripes on the hood parked in the lot. A tall man descended from the truck. Because he was carrying what appeared to be paperwork, I guessed that this was Frank. I introduced myself and found that I was correct.


Frank Lockwood is a pleasant, conversational person, especially when the conversation is about his toys and models. Actually, he advised me, his first love is old cars, which he used to restore, but he also enjoys his collection of toys with his special interest being model airplane gasoline engines. He explained that he isn’t a model builder anymore but just buys items that he sees and likes. Trains, he said, were one of his likes and when I told him I had a garden railroad (Forum, October 2), he immediately expressed a desire to see it. So we adjourned to my house.


During this meeting, we discovered that Frank and I went to the same high school at the same time but our paths never crossed despite our common interests.


A few days later I again met with Frank at the garage. When we left this time we went to Frank’s house to see the main part of his collection. What I discovered was that the items at the garage were probably something less than 3% of his total collection.


His family room is virtually floor to ceiling with showcases housing antique model trains and cars, lots of cars. Some gorgeous flying model airplanes, mostly of the WWII variety, hung from the rafters. All this is awesome in itself and I was really impressed until Frank took me out to his expanded garage. My eyes popped. Here were about ten times as many models as were in the family room!


Rows of more showcases rose from the floor to the ceiling, a ceiling that is totally covered with several dozen more flying model airplanes, again mostly circa WWII. The main reason for the airplanes, says Frank, is to give him a place to put some of his engines. There were also more trains here but cars, hundreds of them, were the main attraction.


Frank explained that he has always loved cars, hence his active operation of Frank’s Garage from 1956 until 1985 when he retired and left the managing to Dennis. And he loves engines, especially those made for gas powered model airplanes and cars. One large case here is filled with myriad small airplane engines of all sizes from all eras and all restored to better-than-new condition. At least a hundred engines reside here.


While some other cases house antique trains from various times past, what I saw most was cars, cars, cars! Several glass cases were filled with model racing cars – static scale models, powered scale models, super detailed scale models both static and powered, freelance powered models built to pursue actual speed records, and a variety of radio-controlled models. This collection represents virtually every kind of model car from the last six or seven decades.


The oddity of this to me, who has built all kinds of models for decades, is that Frank does not build these models. Neither does he fly the airplanes. And he doesn’t run the cars or the trains. He just likes to have them and put them on display. And a gorgeous and awesome display it is.


Unfortunately, this beautiful collection, being in a private home, is not accessible by the public (except for the few items at Frank’s Garage). I was lucky enough to be able to make contact with Frank Lockwood and now my curiosity has been laid to rest. But I am sure that it will be awakened soon for the next Castro Valley Side Trip. I hope you’ll join me then.


Perhaps your curiosity has been piqued by an unusual Castro Valley club, group, collection, activity, etc., that might be worth a Side Trip. If it has, please let me know. I can be contacted at (510) 727-9296 or cvbearhouse@gmail.com.