May 20, 2004 by

Arnold Gridley

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Categories: Business

Arnold Stirewalt Gridley, the inventor of the “motorized cable car,” died on May 8 of kidney failure. He was 92.
The San Francisco native worked in his family’s businesses — a rice farm and a bar — before expanding into real estate in the 1930s.
A part-time inventor and entrepreneur, Gridley purchased several old California Street cable cars at an auction in 1958 and transformed them into motorized vehicles that could be driven on any street. By replacing the regular metal wheels with a truck chassis and engine, he was able to remove the need for cable tetherings.
Gridley was the owner of the largest collection of motorized cable cars in the world and the founder of Cable Car charters, the first San Francisco motorized cable car company. His 60-car fleet, which retained its traditional cable car appearance, was used in parades, movies and in all the Rice-A-Roni commercials.
For his funeral last week, Gridley’s casket was driven to the cemetery in a procession of motorized cable cars.
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One Response to Arnold Gridley

  1. lower power

    Arnold did popularize the motorized cable car, but he got his design from across the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin county resident Harold Geister whose motorized cable car was used during the Eisenhower campaign in 1952 and then in tours in San Francisco. When Arnold found the cars in auction in 1958 he knew they could be converted and used as drive on the street vehicles.

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