The Crosley Motor Company

Greg Zyla
Q: When was the first Crosley car produced and when did Crosley cease operation?  Also, how many Crosleys were produced?  I love to read about the old cars, and wonder if you would give an overview of another American manufacturer, the Crosley. Thanks, Charles, L.,Grosse Pointe, WI.

A: I'd be happy to Charles. Crosley Motors Inc. was founded by Powell Crosley Jr. in Cincinnati, Ohio, back in the 1930s. The reason I remember Crosley so well is that I was a big Phillies baseball fan beginning in 1958, when I used to listen to the games on a Crosley manufactured radio! Crosley owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and all home games were played at Crosley Field, where there was little incline in left field.

The first Crosley car appeared in 1939 and weighed just 925 pounds and came with an 80-inch wheelbase and 39 cubic inch 2 cylinder air cooled Waukesha engine. The cost started at just $299, and met Crosley's philosophy of "every American who can afford any car should have an opportunity to buy a brand new, truly fine car."

The early Crosley only came in three colors, including yellow, gray or blue, and by the beginning of World War II in 1942, he produced near 6,000 cars. However, the onset of the war ended all automobile production in the United States. Following the war, Crosley was back at it and introduced a 4-cylinder Crosley that produced 40-MPG.

Although successful in small appliances, radio manufacturing/broadcasting and Major League Baseball, Crosley's cars never caught on in sales numbers. By the early 1950s, buyers were more concerned with tooling around in a Oldsmobile 88, Ford Station Wagon or Chrysler Imperial. His hopes of American consumers attaching themselves to his little wonders was all for naught, and although very famous for many other inventions, his car company did not succeed.

By the time Crosley ceased production in 1952, ironically his "small car" ideology would later be proven correct in marketing theory, as Volkswagen's Beetle came to America in 1949 and went on to worldwide success. During his car building days, Crosley built pickup trucks, station wagons, convertibles, cars and also his "Hotshot" sports car, which had the "bug eye" Sprite look long before Austin Healy introduced its sporty Sprite in 1958. Overall, Crosley produced near 77,000 vehicles during his car manufacturing days. He also loved automobile racing, and always wanted to drive in the Indianapolis 500 when he was younger.

Some of the Crosley firsts include the first push-button radio, early television productions (including soap operas), first refrigerator with shelves in the door, most powerful commercial radio station ever (WLW Cincinnati), first lights on a major league baseball field (the Reds played the Phillies that night in 1935), radio transceivers and fuses for the war effort, first to use disc brakes on American cars and much more. He was a true industrial genius.

Crosley died from a heart attack March 28, 1961, at the age of 74. He'll long be remembered for his creativity, and his Crosley automobiles will never be forgotten. See, which has over 1,000 members and was founded in 1969.
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