Ridin’ With Humphrey Bogart

DSC_0024Coming in new to our shop this week is a 1947 Crosley. “What’s a Crosley?” you’re probably asking.  A Crosley was a motor vehicle invented by Powell Crosley and produced in the 1930’s-1950’s. Crosley produced a string of them until the start of World War II, when all automobile plants were shut down. After the war ended he continued production until 1952.The model we received to work on is a 1947 Crosley Hardtop Wagon.  It came for a full evaluation and was found to have no oil pressure, the oil pump was found to be clogged with years of sludge the second problem was the fuel pump needed to be replaced, that problem is being solved and she’ll be ready to hit the road. So lets talk a little bit about the history of  Crosley Motors.

Powell Crosley was an American inventor and entrepreneur. As well as building Crosley Automobiles he was also the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, built radios and had a crosley2broadcasting company. Crosley introduced his small car to the world in 1939 and broke traditions by selling his car through many of his independent appliance dealers and department stores. The 1939 Crosley Motors automobile had an 80-inch (2.0 m) wheelbase, a diminutive 38.87 cubic inch 2 cylinder air cooled Waukesha Engine (637 cm³), and a price tag between crosley3$325 and $350. The chubby profiled car was offered in gray, yellow or blue, they all had red wheels a black top and the weight was only 925 pounds. During the pre-war period Crosley produced 5,757 cars, however in 1942 the onset of war ended all automobile production in the United States. In 1946, car production resumed at the Marion facility with the new, larger and aerodynamic CC model, designed by the firm of Sunberg & Ferar of Royal Oak, Michigan.  With 24,871 cars sold, 1948 was the best year for Crosley. In 1949 sales began to decline, and adding the Crosley Hotshot and a combination farm tractor-Jeep-like vehicle called the Farm-O-Road in 1950 still could not stop the inevitable. In 1952, only 1,522 Crosley vehicles were sold. Production ceased after the July 3rd of that year, and the plant was sold to the General Tire and Rubber Company.

Crosley introduced many “firsts” in the American automobile industry, including the first use of the term”Sport Utility” in 1948. He introduced the first mass-market single overhead camshaft (SOHC) engine in 1946; first slab-sided postwar car, also in 1946; first all steel-bodied wagon in 1947; first American car to be fitted with 4-wheel caliper type disc breaks in 1949; and the first American sports car, the Hotshot, in 1949. The Crosley’s maintained to be a fairly popular vehicle during their time driven by the likes of Nelson Rockefeller, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Art Linkletter and Humphrey Bogart.  Then there’s the use of the Cobra name. It predated Caroll Shelby’s use of the name for his British-American hybrid, by more than 15 years. It also included a capital B in CoBra. The questioncrosley4 remains did the Crosley CoBra directly influence Shelby’s Cobra?  Carroll Shelby began his  racing career in an MG-based special in 1952, right about the same time Crosley was retiring from the car business. Crosley-engined specials, however, remained in competition for several years afterward, so it’s possible that Shelby would have gridded alongside those cars early on in his career. On the other hand, those Crosley-engined specials would most likely have not run the CoBra engine. We’ll probably never know for sure.


-Matt Beal


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