Crosley ahead of its time
By TAMMY KINGERY
Associated Press (Sunday, October 4, 1992)
MARION, Ind. A 45-year-old time capsule sits in Everett Weesner's garage in the form of a nice yellow package with two doors, four tires and one rear headlight.
Weesner owns a 1947 Crosley to his knowledge the only one in the
city where the car was made for its last six years of production. The automobile has some of the rounded lines of the period, but is narrow, as if squeezed from both sides.
"My granddaughter says it looks like a gangster's car," Weesner said as he brushed away a smudge on the hood.
He says he's amused by the attention the car draws when he drives it
across town. "They look," he said. "But they don't know what they're looking at."
The Crosley, innovative but ultimately unsuccessful, was produced
in Richmond before World War II, and from 1946 to 1952 at a Marion
plant that is now Gencorp Automotive. Inside the deep glove compartment of Weesner's machines lies a 1951 receipt for a $2 repair bill for a carburetor. The original owner's manual is also stored in the glove compartment. "Limit speed of your car to 30 mph during the first 500 miles of operation," it suggests. "Use any good gasoline line in automobile.''
Weesner says he used to park on the sidewalk to keep his model safe from errant drivers until local law enforcement frowned on that.
The car's creator, Powel Crosley Jr., was a man of ideas known for
many inventions, including the Crosley radio. The auto company was
headquartered in Cincinnati, and at one point Crosley owned the Reds
baseball team and WLW radio.
"He was a real entrepreneur," said Jean Allan, a Crosley collector from Indianapolis. "He had more ideas than any 10 companies could pursue." Allan owns two Crosleys and her enthusiasm for the cars is catching on in her family. Her father, who owned a red Crosley when they first came out, recently bought one to restore.
(Photo) Former Crosley workers gather around a 1947 Crosley in Marion recently to mark the 40th anniversary of the Marion plant's closing
"The Crosley dad bought is a '51 station wagon," she said. "What they're most famous for is the propeller on the front. It actually turns, although it's not powered."
On average, Crosleys are 12 feet long, bumper to bujnper, and weigh
between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds, Allan said.
The two-cylinder, air-cooled engine is smaller than those in some
lawn mowers, she said. And the reason the cars were so narrow and tall
had a lot to do with the person who fathered the idea.
"Powel Crosley was 6-4," she said. "Every car is big enough for
him to get in and drive comfortably. There's enough head room and leg
room because he said he was not going to drive a car he couldn't be comfortable in."
The cars, inexpensive and very fuel-efficient, were probably ahead
of their time, and a 1943 ad boasted, "It's smart to own a Crosley." But the public's interest waned and the company ceased production in 1952.
Andy Johnson, a former group leader at the Marion plant, helped organize a reunion of Crosley workers at the end of August. He and four other former employees toured the plant one day as they were making the arrangements. "It's like coming home after being out of state for 50 years," he said.
E.M. Elliott was a process engineer who traveled to the Cincinnati headquarters twice a week. Some of the trips were made in Crosleys not
equipped with heaters. "I darn near froze to death," he said.
Elliott left the plant about four months before it closed. "When I left, I knew the writing was on the wall because of the competition from the Big Three,'' he said.
"It was a good little car. It's a shame somebody didn't go on with it."