Q: Hi Greg, I enjoyed your article on the Crosley cars so I want to share with your readers how a green 1952 Crosley Station wagon (see photo) was undoubtedly an unusual introduction to what would be a lifetime of VW Beetle ownership.
The Crosley was purchased in 1952 for $200 for me to use traveling a few miles each way to the University of Delaware campus. Just like so many Beetles in later years, the Crosley floors were so badly rusted my dad and I had to replace them with new ones made to dad’s patterns by a local sheet metal shop.
Eventually, problems with Crosley’s unique 750 cc engine and transmission meant they needed a major renovation, which we did ourselves. Further, we never cured the inadequate latching of the rear doors that let them to rattle over every bump.
Despite that annoyance, I survived with the Crosley as my daily driver for the next two years. At the time, almost all US auto makers were going to bigger, more powerful cars with loads of chrome. But the Crosley showed me that an alternative to the Detroit trends of the day was not only acceptable, it was also great fun.
Eventually I needed transportation for longer distances and a year-old 1953 Beetle became available in Wilmington, DE. This dealer business was owned by several of the younger members of the Dupont family before there were VW dealers everywhere. This odd new car immediately ended my Crosley ownership, and driving it home I felt like I graduated to a limousine.
About a year ago I tried to find out by my Crosley’s serial number if anyone still owned the old wagon, but no luck. However, I appreciate the fact that people still keep the old Crosleys going, judging from your letter from Richard that I found a link to in the Yahoo Crosley Group.
When my 1953 Beetle's timing gear needed replacing while I was a sub-poverty-level university student, I was encouraged to do the same rebuild on my Beetle's engine as I did my Crosley.
My guide was Floyd Clymer's handbook, which began with the introduction that this vehicle was so complicated you should leave work to properly-trained mechanics. I think this was a concession to the German builders who were afraid that an inexperienced tinkerer would make a mistake that could cause their cars to be disabled at the side of the road, resulting in poor publicity for a product so unusual and "foreign."
Fortunately all went well, and my Beetle not only provided my local transportation for the next several years, it took me and a friend from central Pennsylvania to New Mexico to my parents’ new home. There, my dad traded me his newer VW Beetle and kept mine as his commute car. I then continued my travel to California.
After a year in California working, I bought a new 1962 Beetle in Sacramento and returned my dad's Beetle to New Mexico.
The '62 survived about 15 years, during which time a wife and then a young son arrived. Several other different vehicles followed for use as the family car.
Still feeling an attachment to Beetles, I acquired a 1963 Beetle in 1988 from my neighbor. After considerable renovation, I had it repainted white with a trace of green that had been the color of my number one Beetle.
Today, it never goes very far from home and serves as my daily driver for local shopping and trips to restaurants. It has become a conversation piece because of its age, just as my first Beetle was because it was so unusual. This is my official “Beetle No. 4” and just 10 years younger than my first ’53 Beetle.
Greg, I now look forward to reading your columns online on the many sites and appreciate all your old car efforts. Sincerely, Milford Brown.
A: Thanks so much Milford! Your letter and photos are a tribute to the VW Beetle, its history and your lifetime of dedication.
Good luck to you in the future and stay in touch if you have more Beetle happenings, perhaps the purchase of a VW Microbus or camper? I think a VW van would look great sitting next to your Beetle.