The Crosley was an automobile manufactured by the Crosley Corporation and later by Crosley Motors Incorporated in the United States from 1939 to 1952.
Industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr., of Cincinnati, Ohio, owner of Crosley Broadcasting Corporation and the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, had ambitious plans to build a subcompact car and developed assembly plants at Richmond, Indiana, and Marion, Indiana. In May 1939, the first car was shown at the Indianapolis Speedway. It was a two-door convertible that weighed under 1,000-pound (454 kg) and sold for US$250. It did not achieve sales success, but in 1941 more body styles were introduced.
The chassis had an 80-inch (2,032 mm) wheelbase, half elliptic springs with beam axle in front and quarter elliptics in the rear. The power came from a two-cylinder Waukesha air-cooled engine that had the fan as a part of the flywheel. The engine was connected with a three-speed transmission and then directly via a torque tube to the rear axle, thus eliminating the need for joints. However, this arrangement was judged unreliable, and conventional universal joints were fitted beginning in 1941.
In 1941, the body styles available were expanded to include two- and four-passenger convertibles, a convertible sedan, a station wagon, a panel truck, a pickup, and two models called "Parkway Delivery" (a mini-panel with no roof over the front seat) and "Covered Wagon" (a convertible pickup truck with a removable back seat).
During World War II, the Crosley became attractive because of gasoline rationing and the good mileage it could achieve: 50 miles per US gallon (4.7 L/100 km; 60 mpg-imp). Crosley was the last company to cease production of civilian vehicles in 1942, partly to allow car buyers the opportunity to purchase as many Crosleys as possible to aid in fuel rationing, and partly because the War Production Board needed some time to determine a useful purpose for Crosley's small factories.
A 1950 Crosley station wagon on display at the Central Texas Museum of Automotive History.
Civilian car production resumed in 1945 with the aerodynamic CC, but only at the Marion plant; the Richmond facility had been sold during the war years. Crosley introduced a number of "firsts" in the American automobile industry, including the first mass-market single overhead camshaft (SOHC) engine in 1946, first slab sided post-war car also in 1946, first all steel bodied wagon 1947, first American car to be fitted with 4 wheel disc brakes 1949, first American sports car, the Hotshot, also in 1949. 1950 brought the FarmORoad model, a 63-inch (1,600 mm) wheelbase utility vehicle predictive of the John Deere Gator and other UTVs.
Pre-war production with Waukesha air cooled I2
1939: Series 1A including convertible Coupe and convertible Sedan
1940: Series 2A including Sedan, Deluxe Sedan, Coupe, Covered Wagon, and Wagon
1941: Series CB41 including Sedan, Deluxe Sedan, Coupe, Covered Wagon, and Wagon
1942: Series CB42 including Sedan, Deluxe Sedan, Coupe, and Wagon 2-Door
Post-war production with COBRA water cooled I4
1946: CC Four including Sedan and Coupe
1947: CC Four including Sedan, Coupe, and Wagon 2-Door
1948: CC Four including Sedan, Sport Utility Sedan, convertible Coupe, and Wagon
Post-war production with CIBA water cooled I4
1949: CD Four including Deluxe Sedan, Coupe, Wagon, and Hotshot Roadster
1950: CD Four including Sedan, Super Sedan, Coupe, Super Coupe, Wagon, Super Wagon, Hotshot Roadster, Super Sports Roadster, and FarmORoad.
1951: CD Four including Business Coupe, Super Sedan, Wagon, Super Wagon, Super Coupe, Hotshot Roadster, Super Sports Roadster, and FarmORoad.
1952: CD Four including Standard Business Coupe, Super Sedan, Wagon, Super Wagon, Super Coupe, Hotshot Roadster, Super Sports Roadster and FarmORoad. (Crosley, Encyclopedia of American Cars, 2003,)
1951 Crosley Super Sport
With 24,871 cars sold, the best year was 1948. Sales started to slip in 1949 and adding the Crosley Hotshot and a combination farm tractor-jeep called the Farm-O-Road in 1950, could not stop the decline. In 1952, only 1522 Crosley vehicles were sold. Production ceased after the July 3rd shift that year, and the plant was sold to the General Tire and Rubber Company.
Regardless of its short life, and small size, the Hotshot is well remembered as phenomenal sports car with in its own class. The Hotshot not only won the Index of Performance at Sebring in 1951, but also the Grand de la Suisse that year as well. A Siata 300 fit with Crosley power won the SCCA's 12 hour Vero Beach race. Through out the 1950s Crosley engines dominated 750cc sports car racing, winning 10 out of 12 SCCA west coast races alone.
Crosley CoBra Engine Complete with Transmission
The original engine is the Waukesha Model 150 Cub Twin, a 580 cc air-cooled L-head opposed twin-cylinder engine built by Waukesha Engines of Waukesha, Wisconsin and utilized from 1939 through 1942. It was replaced in 1946 with the CoBra (for "Copper Brazed"), a 721 cc overhead-cam four. That engine in turn was replaced in 1949 by the new and more reliable CIBA (Crosley Cast Iron Block Assembly) engine utilizing five main bearings.
Crosley CoBra (1945–1949)
Crosley CoBra Block and Valve Cover
The CoBra (Copper Brazed, also known as "The Mighty Tin") was originally developed by Lloyd Taylor, of Taylor Engines in California, for military use aboard PT boats and B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. The engine was made from sheet metal rather than cast iron like most other engines. This was done to get a thin, uniform wall thickness and thus avoid the creation of hot spots around the combustion chamber that could ignite the fuel, causing pre-ignition (knocks). These engines were used mainly to power generators, refrigeration compressors, etc., and were widely praised for their successes in the war effort.
The engine was not adopted for automobile use until 1946. It was a very small, very lightweight engine; the block weighed only 14.8 pounds (6.7 kg); complete with all accessories (including the flywheel) weighing only 133 pounds (60 kg). The engine displaced a mere 44 cu in (0.721 L) and produced 26 horsepower (19 kW) at 5200 rpm. Longevity was not a requirement for their war duties, but unfortunately, corrosion became a problem for engines in long-term service, as in automobiles. Serious problems led to a tarnished reputation as the power plants in Crosley cars.
CIBA (1949–1952; 1955)
The CIBA (Crosley Cast Iron Block Assembly) was a more traditional and more reliable engine utilizing a cast-iron block. When Crosley Motors, Inc. was sold, the engine was renamed "AeroJet" and production continued. Production of the AeroJet ended in 1955 and the engine rights were sold to Fageol and later to a series of different companies ending in 1972 with the Fisher Pierce Bearcat 55. Maritime modifications mostly included increasing displacement and converting the engine to run with a vertical axis.
In Europe the Crosley CIBA would be used to great advantage in 750cc sports car class, eventually maturing to a double overhead camshaft (DOHC) design used in the Bandi 750 as well as Nardi and Siata customs.
Notable Crosley owners
General Omar Bradley
Humphrey Bogart (Two-cylinder Crosley)
Kathy Godfrey (1951 CD sedan)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1951 CD Surrey)
Geraldine Ferraro (Two-cylinder Crosley)
Paulette Goddard (Two-cylinder Crosley)
Pamela Harriman (purchased the first 1939 Crosley)
George M. Humphrey, Secretary of the Treasury
Art Linkletter (1952 CD Sport Convertible)
Alex Raymond, Flash Gordon cartoonist (Crosley-Bandini)
Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York (1950 HotShot)
Gloria Swanson (Two-cylinder Crosley)
Fred Waring (Two-cylinder Crosley)
Frank Lloyd Wright (1952 VC Super Sports)
Henry N.Manney III Road and Track contributor (Hotshot)
Crosley Car Owners Club (CCOC) History
Powel Crosley Jr.
Lewis M. Crosley
List of defunct United States automobile manufacturers
CROSLEY A Compact born 30 years too soon!
Crosley Car Owners Club (CCOC)
Crosley Automobile Club Inc.
West Coast Crosleys
Crosley Engine Family Tree
The Mighty Tin (CoBra)
Category at ODP
The Crosley Automobile — A Fine Car
Crosley Radio Corporation
Review of the book, Crosley
Crosley at the Internet Movie Cars Database