CC Capsule: 1947 Crosley Pickup – America’s Smallest Pickup

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Given the excellent Crosley History in our Archives, I’m not going to cover that ground again. But that’s not going to stop us from admiring this little cutie, pulling out our magnifying glass, and taking a closer look at this comic-book pickup.

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The most interesting part of the little Crosley is under the hood, so let’s start there. I didn’t ask, but there’s almost no doubt that this 1947 had its original troublesome COBRA engine replaced by the later cast-iron CIBA mill.

Crosley COBRA block

The COBRA (“COpper BRAzed”) was originally developed by Lloyd Taylor of Taylor Engines for use aboard PT boats and in B-17 bombers during WW2. Since light weight was the top priority, the block was brazed together from stamped sheet steel, with a unitary block/head. The bare block weighed just 14.8 lbs (6.7 kg). This appears to be the bottom of the cylinder block and head, separated from its crankcase.

Crosley Cobra block 2

Here’s another picture looking from above. The single overhead camshaft was driven by a shaft that came up through the tube in the front of the block, and was driven by bevel gears. The Cobra engined weighed 133 lbs complete with its flywheel. It displaced 724 cc, and made 26 hp, and gave adequate service in its military use, where service was regular, and units were readily replaced if faulty.In civilian use, electrolysis soon made “The Mighty Tin” engines essentially useless, and Crosley had a major problem on its hands.


Crosley hot engine

The solution was the 1949 CIBA (“Cast Iron Block Assembly”), whose name is self explanatory (modified high-performance version shown). It was largely the same otherwise, except for the new block/head assembly. And most Cobras were replaced by it. The CIBA came too late to save Crosley, but it made a nifty little sports/racing engine, and acquitted itself on Midget tracks.

Crosley sebring 1950

As well on sports car venues, like this Crosley Hotshot sports car at Sebring in 1950. Americas own Bugeye Sprite, but a few years too soon.

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Here’s the driver’s compartment, a pretty sparse place but not unlike many small imports from Europe at the time.

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This one’s even graced with the optional heater.

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I can’t readily find dimensions for the bed, but suffice to so say that it’s mighty small. I guess it did the trick for certain purposes; frankly, it’s probably about the same size as the Model A Pickup. Times change.

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The front styling is a bit strange, looking like it’s sprouted a mustache. Crosley was desperately trying to make his mini-mobiles look a bit more like the real cars rolling off Detroit’s assembly lines for not much more than he had to charge. It was all an exercise in futility. Sales peaked in 1948, with all of 24, 871 units sold. And then it went downhill until the end in 1952.

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Needless to say, the remaining Crosleys have pretty much all ended up in the hands of their devoted owners. I can see the appeal: it must be one of the cheapest cars ever to restore!

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