Arnold Stirewalt Gridley, 92, who converted his native city's fabled cable cars for use in movies, parades and commercials, died May 8 in San Francisco of kidney failure.
After working in two family-owned businesses, a bar and a rice farm, the San Franciscan made his career in real estate. But in 1958 he bought some of the city's old California Street cable cars at an auction.
His family looked askance, but Gridley quickly put them to good use. He refurbished the cars, exchanging their standard metal wheels for truck chassis and rubber tires, and dubbed the result his "motorized cable car." It still looked like the real thing but was more versatile because tracks were no longer needed.
Gridley's 60 or so "motorized cable cars" have appeared in at least 10 motion pictures, all the Rice-A-Roni commercials and the Super Bowl championship parades of the San Francisco 49ers.