Crosley is known as a pioneer in the use of modern disc brakes. Most vehicles these days are equipped with disc brakes on the front wheels; many even come with disc brakes on the back as well. However, not all that long ago disc brakes were not widely available and they were typically only found on high-end sports cars.
Actually, disc brakes have been around almost as long as the automobile has been. They were developed in the late 1890s in England and patent by Frederick Lanchester and put to use in Lanchester cars in 1902. What should have been a great innovation was not, as the choices of metals in those days were very limited and this forced Lanchester to go with copper for the braking part that acted on the disc itself.
Because the roads then were very crude and consisted of little more than dirt trails, the copper proved to wear out much too quickly, and disc brakes were put back on the shelf. It would be almost another fifty years before disc brakes would begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel and begin to be implemented into certain automobiles.
The first modern style disc brakes were produced in very small numbers and used in the 1949 Crosley Hotshot. The design was flawed, as road salt and grime entered the hydraulic mechanisms and caused problems. At the time Crosley engineers said a simple rubber dust cover would have prevented these conditions but that Powel Crosley would not approve the change, and they were discontinued one year later due to complaints. As a result, Hawley Brake Corporation of Corning, New York filed suit against Crosley Motors for $156,076 in damages, alleging a breach of contract for the order of 25,000 sets of disc brakes. The contract had been signed in December, 1948 but Crosley canceled the order in June of 1950, leaving Hawley with 9,250 sets of brakes on hand. The suit was settled out of court for a reduced amount.
At that same time, Chrysler was offering its version of disc brakes from 1949 to 1953 on their Imperial model. These brakes were greatly different, however, and were fully-enclosed. It wasn't until 1953 that Dunlop would change the world of braking as it came out with what was considered to be the first reliable disc brakes.
Disc brakes began to catch on as the years rolled forward and they could be seen in a number of automobiles such as the 1953 Jaguar C-Type Racers, the 1954 Austin-Healy 100S (first model with four wheel disc brakes), the 1955 Citroen DS, the 1956 Triumph TR3, the 1963 Studebaker Avanti (optional on other Studebaker models for the year), the 1965 Rambler Marlin (optional on other AMC models for the year), the 1965 C2 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and the 1965 Ford Thunderbird.
Very quickly the auto manufacturers began to see the advantages of disc brakes over traditional drum brakes. Stopping distance was greatly reduced, and the disc brakes performed much better in wet conditions. Disc brakes also had a much greater resistance to overheating which caused "brake fading" to occur.
Soon, more and more models of various nameplates used at least front wheel disc brakes as standard equipment. Today one would be hard-pressed to find a vehicle that doesn't at least have standard front disc brakes, and many of today's sports cars feature disc brakes on all four corners, and even non-'sporty' cars use four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment. Though the technology had existed for over a century, it took quite a while to catch on, but catch on it did, and now almost every vehicle on the road today is stopped courtesy of disc brakes.