COAL: The ’69 Mustang — A “Super Sporty” Adventure in Towing

Gearhead nirvana lurks behind this unassuming facade. (Internet photo by John T.)


As was the case for most Transportation Design students at Art Center, I frequently visited Autobooks, a long-standing Burbank mecca for gearheads interested in perusing, or purchasing, the latest automotive (or aviation) themed books, magazines, and other related ephemera.

Founded in 1951 by Harry Morrow, a mechanical engineer and amateur racer, the store was already an institution when I first walked through its front door in 1971. Its unassuming Burbank street-corner location on West Magnolia Boulevard is where I fatefully learned of a publication called Hemmings Motor News and where I struck up a conversation with Mr. Morrow, the store’s proprietor for the preceding twenty years.

Only some of the auto and aero treasures are in store… (Internet photo by Angel B.)


One of my frequent conversations with Mr. Morrow began with his accounts of SoCal sportscar racing exploits in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, adding that at one point he had raced a Crosley Super Sports. For the uninitiated, the Super Sports was an offshoot of the Cincinnati automaker’s Hotshot roadster, except for the addition of rudimentary doors. Like Powel Crosley’s other post-war autos, it featured a 749-cc overhead cam four-cylinder engine whose block was a brazed sheet-metal affair (hence its “Cobra”- for COpper BRAzed – marketing tagline).

If you wanted doors, you had to pay extra for a Super Sports. (Source:


As unlikely as it sounds, a privately-entered Crosley Hotshot competed at Le Mans in 1951 and won the Index of Performance, a complex formula invented by the event’s French organizers to reward the efficient, small-displacement engines that powered most of their small sports machines.

The Le Mans Crosley, restored. (


I had most likely mentioned to Harry that I had refurbished a 1948 Crosley station wagon late in my high school years, with the gracious help of Stan Halley, an auto shop teacher at the Morris County Vocational Technical School in Denville, New Jersey, who allowed me to use his home shop for the messier aspects of the project, such as sandblasting nearly twenty-five years of corrosion from its chassis and the application of “red lead” oxide paint to its body in an effort to ward off the tin worm. But I digress.

This particular chat with Harry Morrow probably occurred near the beginning of a two-week break after that year’s Spring semester at Art Center, and I might have also casually mentioned my intention to drive back east for a short visit. At any rate, as soon as he heard “Crosley,” Harry casually remarked that he was in possession of not only a Crosley Super Sports chassis and engine, but a trailer with which it could be hauled back to the east coast. Both could also be had for a reasonable price (reasonable for a starving art student, that is).

The 1965 Ford Car & Truck Recreational Brochure promised that towing would be easy.


As is typically the case, the financial details of the transaction have been lost to the mists of time. But the outcome was that I became the proud owner of both the Crosley chassis as well as Harry’s well-used trailer –an obviously homemade device that used C-channels for rails atop a welded angle-iron frame. After licensing the trailer, I wasted no time replacing its two ancient and nearly bald tires, but did nothing else, in particular, to prepare for its maiden (and, as it turned out, only) long-distance voyage.

Fortunately, no photos of the Crosley or the loaded trailer exist. I’m also sure that the ICC statute of limitations governing questionable interstate commerce has long since expired. Motoring back east, I shared the driving duties with one of my Art Center classmates, who was unfortunate enough to be behind the wheel of my ’69 Mustang as the nut securing the trailer hitch ball decided to part ways with the rest of the assembly somewhere in the late evening on a midwestern Interstate.

The trailer after its cross-country trip. Pretty sketchy, eh?


We were in the middle lane of the highway, and even with its relatively light Crosley payload, the fishtailing trailer threatened to wipe out adjacent motorists, who wisely braked so that they could watch the unfolding event from a safe distance. Somehow, my buddy managed to haul the whole mess to a stop on the shoulder of the Interstate, where after more than a few deep breaths, we ventured outside the Mustang to assess the possible damage.

The trailer hitch ball was long gone, but the trailer’s safety chains saved our bacon. They had been secured tightly enough to allow the car and its cargo to eventually come to a safe halt, leaving the tongue of the trailer suspended a few inches above the ground. Unbelievably, the Mustang’s rear valance panel remained undamaged.

After recovering from that ordeal, we elected to try for some fitful sleep in the Mustang’s high-back front bucket seats, only to be awakened by a highway patrol officer who sternly advised us that we couldn’t stay in the car overnight and to get off the highway as soon as possible. Leaving without asking whether we needed any other assistance, he motored off into the distance.

Good looking, but not great for getting some shut-eye.


Fortunately, we were able to limp our assemblage off the highway to the nearest exit, and checked into a roadside motel where we spent the (rest of the) night. Early the next morning, the hotel manager directed us to a local shop where we had a replacement trailer ball installed (and you can bet, securely tightened). The rest of the eastward trip was excitement-free, and after dropping the trailer and its load back home in Morristown, New Jersey, we continued on to central New York state, where we both enjoyed a hearty, well-deserved home-cooked dinner with my classmate’s folks. Needless to say, neither of us dared to mention our towing adventure…

The Mustang and I made it back to Los Angeles with no other incidents, but there’s one more pony tale to tell in next week’s installment…


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1969 Mustang Mach I – Sliding Down The Slippery Fastback Slope

Curbside Classic: 1969 Ford Mustang – Everybody’s Favorite Second Choice