Curbside Classic: 1951 Crosley Sedan Delivery – A Lot of Pop in a Small Package

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.