Have you ever grown weary of persons using adjectives that give a vague or inaccurate picture of what they want to describe? Have you ever heard someone say “My car stopped”, when they really mean “The engine stalled”?
Occasionally, a person will use adjectives that indicate predisposition, or bias–as when my great-aunt once described my grandmother’s 1992 Buick Roadmaster as “tiny.”
That said, the words “small”, “slight” or “diminutive” can all be used to accurately describe any Crosley automobile; after all, any car with a wheelbase spanning 80 inches cannot be considered large. Nevertheless, not even that simple measurement provides sufficient perspective. It’s likely we all agree that the Crosley is petite, but does that go far enough? It’s really hard to quantify any such descriptors on an individual basis.
A bit of context, provided by the above photo, will help us put Crosleys into proper perspective. To wit: I came upon this scene quite recently. Seeing such a diverse spectrum of machinery, I was first inclined to capture it as an outtake. Think about it: How often does a Studebaker Lark get to appear relatively large? How often is a Cadillac Allante upstaged by a Studebaker? (Then again, how often do you see an Allante?) The three of them seem small enough to park in the Suburban’s cargo area. Yet after snapping a few pictures, I quickly recognized the bigger, deeper question: How many people are able to capture a licensed Crosley in the wild?
Last fall, the full history of the Crosley automobile was masterfully captured at Curbside Classic here. This Crosley being a 1951 model, let’s zoom back to the penultimate year for this spirited machine.
For 1951, Crosley produced 4,500 Standard- and Super-series wagons out of a total production of some 6,600 vehicles of all body styles (final-year production totaled about 2,000 units for 1952)–all of them with a 26.5-hp four-cylinder engine displacing all of 44 cu in.
What Crosleys lacked in power, they made up for in variety: Coupe, sedan, wagon, and convertible body styles were available.
Crosleys never were known for lavish interiors. When roll-down windows are optional on your wheels of choice, there’s no denying you have entered Stripperville. Yet for those seeking cheap transportation, $1,002 for a standard Crosley wagon was considerably cheaper than the $1,324 it took to buy a Ford business coupe. What’s more, the Crosley offered more useable and accessible storage than the business coupe while using about half as much fuel.
The Coca-Cola shift knob does add a bit of pizzaz to an otherwise spartan interior.
In 1951, drum brakes replaced the problematic disc brakes of previous years. Things can get really sticky if you can’t stop while piloting a 1,400-pound Crosley loaded down with unknown quantities of Pepsi-Cola and Dr. Pepper.
Not surprisingly, Crosley soon faded away, plagued by quality issues and impending obsolescence brought on by new and higher-speed highways. Of course, seeing this Crosley did prompt several questions: If Crosley were still around, would their cars have suffered from the same bloat as other brands? And, perhaps more importantly, would Crosley have stuck to or strayed from their founding mission to build basic, inexpensive cars? The world will never know.
Many Crosleys still on the road in the Cincinnati area, especially on the west side of town.
Several years ago in 1995, I was returning from Eldora Speedway and a sprint car race with my cousin, and on I-75 in Dayton, I pass a very ample man driving a Crosley coupe. He was straining to run at all of 45 mph as I passed him in our Plymouth Acclaim!
I hope he arrived safe wherever he was bound…
In Cincinnati Union Terminal at the history museum, there is a pristine Crosley on display. The cars are unbelievably cheap and flimsy. They make an MG Midget feel like a Cadillac in quality and rigidity!
No, I don’t, I wouldn’t want one at any price. Now as for my avatar the other day, let’s talk!
A very nice article, but too bad the owner plastered all those stickers/logos all over his ride…
As for Mr. Crosley’s other creations, his TVs were fine and his radio station, WLW, still cranks out the Reds and everything else quite nicely! The transmitter and tower is only about 6 miles from our house, too.
That’s one way to make a Plymouth Acclaim feel like a hot rod!
What a great find. I do not believe I have ever found a Crosley actually in service. The closest I came was when my kids and I saw one used in a department store display. They were small, and thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Another great point of comparison: you have now shown the only way to make the interior of a Studebaker Lark look luxurious – show it next to a Crosley. BTW, is that a Stude pickup parked out on the street in the far background of the last picture?
An alternate theme of this piece could have started with a joke, like “A priest, a minister and a rabbi were in a restaraunt” – only this would be ” a Cadillac Allante, a Studebaker Lark and a Crosley were sitting in the parking lot.” I just know that there is a decent joke in there somewhere.
What an unlikely combination, one not likely to be duplicated any time soon. Good thing you were there with a camera.
JP, you are quite observant! Yes, it’s a ’59 Studebaker 3/4 ton pickup. There are a number of pictures of it on my computer, awaiting a moment of inspiration.
To go further with the priest, minister, and rabii thought….all of these were in the parking lot to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, in Hannibal, MO….there is some more fodder with that…
Oh, now it’s coming. In the world of Huckelberry Finn, the Crosley is Huck, the Lark is Jim and the Alante is the con artist known as the King. Anyone for a new category of Curbside Dramatizations? Anyone? Hey, where did everybody go?
i thought you were in the twilight zone.
It wasn’t new $1300 Ford business coupes that the $1000 Crosley was competing against, it was late model used cars. In 1949 my father bought a low mileage 1947 Plymouth 2dr sedan for $1100. Not exciting, but not an object of derision either.
Yes, and the Plymouth was the better value, too.
The Crosley was doomed for that exact reason (well, a few others too).
Exhaust valve rotators?
Yup it’s something that was used in many engines to increase the life of the valve. There are couple of different ways it was done over the years but they all serve the same function of rotating the valve a few degrees with every opening.
The fuel disparity between the ford and the crosley is even greater. The crosley used no fuel at all during those frequent jobs when it wouldn’t run.
Rich set of bumper stickers on that Lark. But which president are they angry about, JFK? In the ’60 race somebody put a Kennedy sticker on my dad’s Studebaker. I can still see him out there with a razor blade, cussing like the devil.
Mark Twain wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.
I had never seen a Crosley in real life, dead or alive, until about a month ago when a friend of mine and I decided to hit up a classic car cruise in we rarely attend, on the other side of town. A sedan delivery like this, but a ’49, pulled up and we swarmed it.
The old man driving it told me he was shocked that I knew what it was since I’m 27 haha.
In 1963 when I was in graduate school at Oregon State University I bought a 1950 Crosley station wagon from my landlord. I’m sure that little rig had more room in it than a contemporary business coupe (other than a Mopar product), but it felt like it was really straining to go 50 mph on the highway. I drove it downtown (Corvallis) a few times, and once all the way to Monroe to visit an old guy who had a field full of Model A’s. I ended up towing it back up to my old South King County stomping grounds and selling it to my old wrecking yard guy for the same price I’d paid – $50.
The only Crosley I’ve ever seen was at a car show. It was a hot-rodded wagon, with a Ford flathead 60 motor. I’d love to see and hear a stock Crosley in motion. I don’t think I’d want to own one, though. I think I’d feel safer in a Trabant.
The engine looks tiny. And this is coming from a guy who drives aircooled Volkswagens. From what the owner said, my VW Bus would probably out run it.
I still think it was such a neat little car.
From a distance it looks like an austina35van and you would love that