Bob Frink, a Sacramento auto dealership magnate who at one time had 18 stores in four Western states, died Nov. 29 of complications related to age, according to his management company. He was 83.
Mr. Frink owned a total of 30 dealerships during more than 60 years in the auto retail industry. He began selling cars to work his way through college and bought his first dealership in 1960 in Albany, Ore.
With a colorful personality and catchy slogans, he settled in Sacramento in 1968 and became one of the biggest dealers in Northern California. He appeared in TV ads that promoted Bob Frink Chevrolet at Madison and Date avenues as "right on the corner, right on the price." He worked his name into public consciousness with license-plate frames that urged "Think Frink."
He sold a variety of American and foreign makes at dealerships in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state. He opened the first Saturn stores in the Sacramento area and was chosen to be one of the first Lexus dealers in the United States. At his death, he owned Lexus dealerships in Sacramento and Roseville.
Mr. Frink was widely honored by the auto industry. He received the Toyota President's Award, General Motors Excellence Award and Elite of Lexus award. He served as president of the Greater Sacramento New Car Dealers Association in 1974 and influenced the careers of many Northern California dealers.
"A lot of people who own dealerships or retired from owning dealerships came up through the Frink organization," said Dean Hill, director of operations at RPM Management.
The son of a cannery worker and teacher, Robert Lemuel Frink was born in 1928 in Medford, Ore.
He excelled in basketball and football in high school and played quarterback on a football scholarship at the University of Idaho. He had three children during a 48-year marriage to his first wife, Doris Ann, who died in 2000.
Mr. Frink lived in Sacramento with his surviving wife, Ellen. He was a generous, down-to-earth man with a playful personality, said Hill, who worked for him for more than 40 years.
In 1984, Mr. Frink bought a minority stake in the Denver Gold franchise of the United States Football League. During the 1970s, he often wore flashy colors and appeared on lists of Sacramento's best-dressed men.
He painted Disney characters on the exterior of a motorhome that he drove on family vacations. He hosted Christmas parties for employees and gave gifts to their children.
"He'd always be there in an apron at employee barbecues, grilling the meat and corn," Hill said. "He was very oriented toward taking care of his employees."