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Madison WI Crosley dealer celebrates Centennial!

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  • LouRugani
    Is this the last Crosley dealer still operating? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Smart Motors sold Frank Lloyd Wright his fleet of Crosleys. That story and more follows in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2010
      Is this the last Crosley dealer still operating?
      Smart Motors sold Frank Lloyd Wright his fleet of Crosleys. That story and more follows in this lengthy but fascinating account of what could be The Last Crosley Dealer.


      Smart Motors Toyota

      5901 ODANA RD.

      MADISON, WI 53719

      Phone 608-316-7777 | 877-39-SMART (76278) |

      Smart Motors' 100 Years of History:

      1908 – O.D. Smart sells first car, the Apperson Jackrabbit (mfr. from 1902-1926) from his father's livery & grain business in Waukesha while attending Carroll College. The Apperson sold for $5,000 which translates to over $116,000 in today's money. O.D. also sold Regal this year as well.

      U.S. automobile production reaches 65,000 units; there are 200,000 cars on the road. Automaker Charles Duryea estimated that as many as half of the 515 companies that were producing cars in 1900 have gone bankrupt.

      1909 – O.D. worked at Waukesha Auto Garage in Waukesha (H.W. Duras, Prop.) U.S. automobile production reaches 127,731. The ratio of Americans to automobiles drops from one car for every 9500 people to one for every 200 people.

      1910 – O.D. chauffeurs Francis E. McGovern (gubernatorial candidate) 3000 miles around Wisconsin in seven weeks on campaign tour.

      1912 – O.D. comes to Madison (Gay Bros. bldg. – 617 University Ave. – a former livery stable) The Enger vehicle was added to the dealership's line-up. The business was on the lower level. Upstairs the Gays had frequent poker parties. It was an ideal hideaway for the stairs were so narrow that Mrs. Gay, when she came looking for her husband, was not able to go up those narrow stairs as she was too wide for those stairs. O.D. was involved in serious car accident 8/21 (rollover and somersaults pinning O.D. under car) and was not expected to live. O.D. was a junior at UW – Madison finishing his mechanical engineering degree. He did survive, and later drove Mr. Suhr (President of American Exchange Bank) and his two sisters to N.Y. in seven days.

      1913 – First Madison Auto Show held in the Fuller-Johnson Bldg..

      1914 – O.D. moves Smart Motors to 601 University Ave. and sold Willys-Knight (mfr from 1914-1933), Willys-Overland (mfr from 1908-1955).


      1921 – Smart Motors begins selling Chalmers (mfr. in the 1910s -1923) and Maxwell (mfr. from 1904-1925) vehicles.

      1923 – Smart Motors adds Paige-Jewett (mfr. from 1908-1927) to the line-up. They were a cheaper range of cars produced by the high-end luxury automaker and were named after company president H.M. Jewett. The Jewett was a six cylinder model mounted on a 114-inch wheelbase chassis and sold for under $1,100 for the open models and less than $1,700 for the sedan. Chalmers production ends.

      1925 – Maxwell Car Co. became the Chrysler Corp.

      1926 – Apperson out of business. State registration of cars begins. F. J. Smart born Aug. 26.

      1927 – Falcon-Knight (mfr. from 1927-1928) were added (lasts only two years). The Whippet (mfr from 1927-1931) was also added this year. Almost all sheet metal parts and many chassis parts were
      interchangeable between the 1927 Falcon Knight and Whippet 93A.

      1928 – O.D. becomes Willys-Overland distributor with over 40 dealers under him. O.D. trains dealers on proper servicing and sales of vehicles. Paige cars became known as Graham-Paige. Hillman taken over by Humber.

      1929 –Auburn (mfr from 1900-1936) and Cord (mfr from 1929-1932 and 1936-1937) vehicles were added. O.D. builds new dealership at 437 W. Gilman St. The shop is on the second floor for "easy access" and has better heat and lighting. O.D. establishes the Whippet – Knight Sales Co. The "Great Depression" hit car dealerships hard, every car dealership in Madison declared bankruptcy except one…Smart Motors.

      1931 – Whippet production ends, models replaced by Willys Six and Eight. Rootes takes over both Hillman and Humber. (Rootes Group – Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam, Singer).

      1932 – O.D.'s record fuel economy run in a Willys (33.9 miles on one gallon of gas).

      1933 – Hudson (mfr. from 1909-1954), Essex (mfr from 1919-1933) and Terraplane added to the dealership's line-up. By 1933, Smart Motors had sold over 9,000 cars and trucks (about a car a day). Willys-Knight ends production.

      1935 – Appointed as the Hupmobile (mfr from 1909-1940) dealer. A hostile takeover attempt and squabbling stockholders take its toll on Hupmobile by 1940.

      1936 – Lloyd (mfr from 1936-1951) vehicles were added to the dealership's line-up. Auburn production ends.

      1937 – During this time two cars was a big inventory for a dealer to have, but O.D. contracted with Willys to sell 1200 Willys through his 50 dealers in one year (fell just shy but it was a valiant attempt). Cord production ends.

      1938 – Hupmobile acquires production dies of defunct Cord Automobile Co. and works out a deal with the ailing Graham-Paige Motor Co. to share them and build in Graham's facilities.

      1939 – O.D. moves the dealership to 2608 University Ave. and adds paint and body departments.

      1940 – Hupmobile production ends.


      1942 thru 1945 – No automobiles were manufactured for civilians to save metal for the war effort. Only doctors that were issued special exemptions were able to purchase a new car. O.D. worked nights at Gisholt Machining Co. to make ends meet. O.D. also supplemented his income in his role as Justice of the Peace by performing wedding ceremonies in his home at all hours of the night.

      1946 – O.D. sells the first "post war" vehicle in Madison, the "Universal Peace Jeep" by Willys. The price was set by the "Office of Price Administration" at $1,200. Crosley (mfr from 1939-1952) automobiles were added to the dealership's line-up.

      1950 – O.D. establishes a relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright who purchases a fleet of Crosleys for his students to make their annual trek from Taliesin (Spring Green, WI) to Taliesin West (Scottsdale, AZ). FLW would sweep into the dealership with his cape flowing and his porkpie hat, rapping (and denting) the hoods of the Crosley Hotshots he intended to purchase with his Malacca walking stick. O.D. made note of all the damage on the bill of sale. He never lost a dime on Mr. Wright, something not everyone who had dealings with him could say. This year, O.D. added Packard (mfr from 1899-1958) and Studebaker (mfr from 1904-1966) to the dealership's line-up.

      1951 – Rootes Group (mfr from 1907-1976) added (includes Humber 1898 and Hillman). Lloyd production ends.

      1952 – Crosley production ends on July 3.

      1953 – O.D.'s son, F.J. Smart joins his father in the family business and takes over day to day operations. O.D.'s son-in-law, Paul Emmerich also comes on board. J. R. smart born June 9.

      1954 – Hudson production ends.

      1955 – Last Willys car built.

      1956 – Brian Smart born Oct. 21.

      1957 – O.D. Smart retires after 49 years in the car business. Last Hudson rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha, WI.

      1958 – Packard production ends.

      1959 – Sunbeam (also Rootes Group) vehicles were added to the dealership's line-up.

      1960 – Smart Motors experiences severe flood damaging (totaling out) 15 cars (four new) Sept. 4, 1960.

      1963 – Avanti makes its debut as a Studebaker only to branch out on its own after Studebaker ends production in 1966. Avanti succumbs to the same fate only one year later. Several attempts to revive it are still ongoing.

      1964 – The City of Madison approaches Smart Motors with a "fair offer" for the property using "Eminent Domain" to make way for Campus Drive.

      1966 – Smart Motors adds Volvo and Toyota (two Land Cruisers sold) franchises. O.D. Smart dies. F.J. Smart relocates dealership to 5901 Odana Rd. where we remain today. The move doubled our service capacity and tripled our parts capacity and more than doubled our land sq. ft. The last Studebaker ( a wagonaire) to roll off of the assembly line was sold to Harrah's Auto Museum in Reno, NV (after mfr verification) By F.J. Smart. Grand opening activities; pony give-away, `public hanging' – seat belt promotion.

      1967 – Our last Avanti sold. Chrysler assumes complete control of Rootes.

      1968 - BMC (founded 1952 – defunct 1966) (MG & Austin merge with BMH and LMC to form British Leyland Motor Corp) and were added to Smart Motors vehicle line-up.

      1969 – Our last Rootes Group car was sold.

      1971 – Our last BMC product sold. J.R. Smart joins his father in the family business.

      1973 – Oil Embargo hits. Toyota gaining in popularity as we break the 200 unit/yr mark.

      1975 – Brian Smart joins his older brother and father in the family business.

      1987 – Smart Motors builds separate Used Car facility at 5702 Odana Rd.

      1989 – Smart Motors builds separate Toyota Sales facility at 5801 Odana Rd.

      1992 – Smart Motors adds nine service bays and remodels Volvo showroom at 5901 Odana.

      2003 – Smart Motors adds the Scion franchise to the dealership's line-up. Paul Emmerich, Vice-President and co-owner of Smart Motors with brother-in-law F. J. Smart, died on Thursday, December 4th after serving 50 years in the auto business.

      2005 – Smart Motors purchases two properties contiguous with sales and service operations (5837 & 5721 Odana Rd.) for expanded parking and new facility.

      2006 – 40th anniversary with Toyota and Volvo franchises. Volvo franchise sold (Aug.) to make way for 100,000 sq. ft. Toyota facility (largest Toyota facility in the Midwest).
      Toyota sales volume – 2550 (new only). Volvo sales volume – 61 (Aug. year to date). First time in our history that we actually sold a franchise versus outlasting it. F.J. Smart died Tuesday, December 19th, 40 years after his father, who also was not able to witness the completion of the newly constructed facility.

      2007 – New 100,000 sq. ft. Toyota & Scion showroom and Service facility completed in time to celebrate our family's centennial anniversary (100 years in the car business). New facility features 600 New vehicle display area, 200 pre-owned vehicle display area, fully air conditioned 41 bay service department that also utilizes waste oil for heating, a 4-lane express lube service, full service vehicle rental department, a retail parts & accessories store, 24 unit indoor showroom, a 25 stall indoor New Vehicle Delivery area, complete with a 100 year mural of the dealership, a car wash, two children's play areas, and a guest lounge complete with a business center & WiFi, TV lounge, reading area, fresh baked cookies & popcorn, fare trade coffee, espresso & cappuccino, tea, soda, water, yogurt, fresh fruit and juice boxes for the kids.

      Smart Motors, Madison WI | 608-316-7777 | 877-39-SMART (76278)
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