In 1971, I was fifteen years old. It was the year that my parents organized the first “Hale Farm Village Car Meet” in Peninsula, Ohio. This was done in conjunction with the Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum and the Western Reserve Historical Society and sanctioned by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA). There was a national car judging, a flea market and an auction that were all to take place over a three-day weekend.
Some of the cars from the un-restored collection of the museum were to be sold in the auction to “thin the heard” as well as raise money for restorations of more valuable cars. Among the cars for sale were two that particularly caught my fancy; a 1912 Mercedes Town Car and a 1949 Crosley Station Wagon. As you might imagine, one of them was a little too expensive for a fifteen year-old kid with three paper routes. However, my dad made a deal with me. Out of whatever I could sell at his flea market stall, I could have twenty-five percent. I managed to make the $100.00 it took to buy the car during the auction. This was my first car!
The Crosley didn’t run and it had a broken right-rear spring, but that didn’t keep me from heading down to the NAPA store and finding replacement ignition parts and a carburetor re-build kit. After a little tinkering, I was able to get the car running.
The Crosley Company made two kinds of engines in those days. One was called the “Co-bra” engine. This stood for “Copper Braised”. That’s right, the engine block was assembled and braised together. It was thought that this would provide a lighter frame and more speed for their racing cars, but the engine was a bust. It had five main bearings, so the engine was capable reaching seven thousand rpm’s. At this level the welds would melt apart and the engines would fail (in pieces).
The other kind of engine was the traditional cast iron engine block. This was the engine that my Crosley had. And it still had five mains, so it was able to crank out high rpm’s too!
Built in Cincinnati, Ohio by the same company that made Crosley Radios, the first of their cars were two-cylinder, air-cooled models that were sold from 1939 to 1942. Because these cars got fifty miles to the gallon, they were one of the last American car companies to cease production at the beginning of WWII.
By 1946, there were nine different bodies that you could purchase. All of the Crosleys were now equipped with four-cylinder water-cooled engines, but they were still “gas misers” continuing to get nearly fifty miles to the gallon. The biggest dealer of the popular little car was Montgomery Wards, the department store. That’s right, you would go to the department store to buy the car.
The most popular models were the “Hotshot” and the “Super Sports Roadster.” They were very small, but very fast, holding their own on racetracks like Sebring.
My buddies and I would occasionally take the Crosley out for a spin just on our street, but by the time I was old enough to drive it legally, I had grown too tall to fit in the car. I sold the Crosley and purchased a 1923 Buick, which I drove through most of High School.