Crosley - Smaller was good, then bad, then good again, then bad for a while, now good and bad.

A Whatley? Crosley. I know. I never heard of it either, but I'm not telling you that. I'm gonna sound like I knew all about Crosley. This is gonna be great.

You know how every time the price of gas spikes upward, the sales of compact cars do too? Well, during good old Dubya Dubya Eye-Eye (WWII) gas (and lots of other things) were in such short supply that there was gas rationing.

Enter Crosley, an Indiana-based car company founded by two brothers in 1939 that specialized in sensible, small, efficient utilitarian vehicles. Crosley came along right about the time that world affairs went in the pooper and suddenly Americans liked the idea of a small car that got 50 mpg. There were delivery-vehicle type Crosleys and the country-fried "Farm-O-Road" and regular runabouts like the one in todays ad. Smart, right?

Yes, you're right. That's smart. How smart? Hold your horses and I'll tell you. Crosley built the first American production car with disc brakes on all four wheels (Many cars today are still available with horrible drum brakes on the rear, jeez!). Crosley built the first American sports car, and coined the term "sport-utility". Wait, what? Hmm. Maybe Crosley deserved to be punished for that one.

So, why'd they fail? Well, Americans are nothing if not short-sighted, and once times got better after the war, we went back to chanting our old mantra "More is more!". As the chromed-out land yachts of The Fifties took hold, desire for the dinky and sensible Crosley dwindled.

Also, contributing to the corporate death rattle was the shittiness of the engine in the Hotshot - that first American sports car. The engine block, instead of being a, you know, BLOCK of iron, was made from brazed-together pieces of sheet tin. Engine life was kind of an issue. That's why in this ad, Crosley is so jazzed about their "CIBA", which somehow means "cast iron block". Welcome to the engine block party, Crosley. Glad you could finally make it. I'll take your coat. The drinks are over... - hey, you don't look so good! Crosley? Crosley? *THUD* Crooo-sleeeeey!

The manufacturing plant was sold to General Tire and Rubber in 1952. Ah well.

To this day, popularity of small cars moves in tandem two-step with the price of oil. The price of oil goes all crazy, right along with the general happiness level in the Middle East, even though America now imports twice as much oil from Canada as we do from Saudi Arabia. It's perception. You know how people startle really fast and calm down slowly? The price of oil does the same thing, and that's because it's keyed to how scared we are of the Middle East, and not much more.

Small cars are now getting some attention again, but huge SUV boats are still wildly popular, partly because manufacturers can qualify for a very green-sounding "Hybrid" badge if they tack on a ten horsepower electric motor, improving efficiency by 1 mpg. Job done.

Hey, nice Disembodied Floating Head! Well, sort of. She has a neck, so she's not THAT disembodied. Certainly no award winner. Lose the neck and you'll be a contender, doll-face. Maybe she really is just a severed head? Her boyfriend must own a car faster than a Crosley.

UPDATE: I think it's graphically suicidal to print the name of your company with a treatment that looks like it's been crossed out. "CROSLEY a FINE car."

Click for big.


Steve Miller said...

Crosley -- both the car amd the man -- is an interesting story. Here's a link with the story and a lot of pictures. http://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/america’s-home-grown-kei-car-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-crosley-automobile/

Got a soft spot for these cars after seeing a couple run at the Newport (IN) Hill Climb, which is held each October for "orphan" and antique cars. THere was a bright yellow Hot Shot, piloted by a large man and co-piloted by his (tiny) dog. It's a good thing these matches are run by class...

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Hey, thanks for the insight, Steve! I'd imagine that the Hotshot in the hill climb had been treated to an engine swap.


Steve Miller said...

Oh, no. These cars are required to be stock.

Newport has a steep, third-mile-long hill on the town's main street. Being reasonably close to Indianapolis in the early days of the Circle City's automotive heyday (Think Stutz, Cole, Moon, Marmon, Deusenberg...) this hill was frequently used for testing new cars and engineering developments.

Yep, famous name Louis Chevrolet (before he became a brand) was practically a fixture in Newport.

The Hillclimb was developed as a tourist event sometime after WWII. WIth the closing of the nearby army nerve gas facility, it may now be the town's biggest money maker

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Your car stories are always valuable and interesting, Steve. Please keep storying!


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