(Page 2 of 3)
The 1939 Crosley was powered by a Waukesha 2-cylinder, air-cooled engine of 35.3-cubic inch displacement. It had an 80-inch wheelbase, weighed just less than 1,000 pounds and rode on 4.25x12 inch tires. Initially available only as a convertible coupe for $350 ($5,688 today), a sedan, station wagon and pickup truck were offered starting in 1940. The soft-topped station wagon was driven across the U.S. and back by Cannonball Baker, averaging 50.4 mpg over 6,517.3 miles.
By then known as “The Car for the Forgotten Man,” Crosleys were sold by the same stores that handled Crosley appliances, including Macy’s in New York. Mrs. Averell Harriman was supposedly the first Macy’s customer to buy a Crosley. By the time production was halted after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, only about 4,000 cars had been sold.
Launching the Cobra
Shortly after the war, Crosley announced a new 4-cylinder, overhead-valve automobile engine that weighed only 59 pounds and produced 26 hp. The “COpper-BRAzed,” or “Cobra” engine was made of thin sheet-steel stampings, with the cylinder walls only 1/16-inch thick. The thin sheet-metal stampings and tubes were crimped together and brazed into a single piece by melting pure copper into all the joints and baking for an hour in a furnace.
Crosleys came in several models: convertible coupe, sedan, station wagon, panel and pickup truck, all equipped with the Cobra engine. But the sheet metal engine rusted out from inside and, in 1949, was replaced with a cast iron version. A sports model, the Hotshot, enjoyed a lot of success in sports car circles for a number of years, but generally Crosley cars sold poorly. During the late 1940s and ’50s, the American motoring public was interested only in bigger, more powerful and fancier cars, and the very practical, no frills but inexpensive Crosley held no appeal.
Targeting rural markets
In August 1950, Crosley introduced the Crosley Farm-O-Road, designed “To do big jobs on small farms, and smaller jobs on big farms.” Created for rural customers who wanted a cheap, easy way to do the chores and go to town, the little utility vehicle looked like a baby brother to the Jeep, although the Crosley wasn’t four-wheel drive. With a wheelbase of only 63 inches, the Farm-O-Road was short! It had the standard 26.5 hp, 4-cylinder, overhead-valve engine that drove the rear wheels through a 4:1 auxiliary gearbox. Either rear wheel could be locked for short turns or to assist traction. It got almost 40 mpg and was said to be capable of 60 mph with two passengers, which probably seemed a lot faster in the tiny open car.