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Len Frank; Automotive Journalist, Radio Show Host

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Len Frank, respected automotive journalist, magazine editor and veteran co-host of “The Road Show” on KPFK-FM, the nation’s first call-in car program, has died at the age of 60.

Frank, who had suffered from colon cancer for 2 1/2 years, died Friday at his home in Long Beach.

“I doubt if there was anyone who had more information in their head about the history of cars, their design, automobile racing and the car industry,” said John Retsek, his broadcast partner since 1977. “As a person, there wasn’t a kinder, more generous person beneath his image of cynic and curmudgeon.

“In all the time we were together, we never had a disagreement. We had to invent arguments on the air to bring a little rivalry to the show.”

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Frank, born in Youngstown, Ohio, was a two-career achiever. In his early years, he sold imported cars in California and Ohio, raced cars, rebuilt cars, managed car dealerships, and for a year studied transportation design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

During an intermission in the early 1970s, Frank earned degrees in English and creative writing from the University of Oregon. Returning to California, he became editor at large of Motor Trend and Sports Car Graphic, and then West Coast editor of Popular Mechanics.

After joining Retsek on “The Car Show,” the pair quickly evolved into a Siskel and Ebert on wheels. Their 60-minute Saturday program on local radio eventually grew to a two-hour show and national syndication.

Although absent from the program and press motoring events in recent months, a weakened Frank did travel to Arizona in December for some final high-speed test driving--in a 415-horsepower Dodge Viper GTS sports car at the Chrysler Proving Ground.

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“The G [gravity] forces were pulling my legs off the pedals,” Frank told friends. “But I’m glad I did it.”

Frank is survived by a son, Stefan. A memorial service will be held Sunday at Willow Springs Internal Raceway, near Rosamond. Frank has asked that his ashes be scattered across Turn Nine leading to the start-finish line.


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