Taking up an old interest ...
- Just thinking of taking up an old interest for real.
(From the CCOC archives and worth rereading.)
Posted by: "Garry" ghunsaker@... garrys1953
Date: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:12 am ((PST))
Just thought I would drop a note, and let folks know, there's another person out here that keeps returning to thoughts of the Crosley car.
No, I've never owned one. Heck, I've never even driven one. However, with Daimler Chrysler set to import its Smart car sometime 'soon', I can't help but grasp Crosley was only fifty years ahead of its time. I can't help wondering if back in the fifties, when some scientists began pointing out the world oil supply was going to run out, what we might have today if the government had created incentives for small fuel efficient cars back then. Then of course, hindsight is what it is.
My interest in the Crosley cars started back in 1967. At age 15, I was exploring a vacant field across from our new house in Mexico Mo., when I ran across several abandoned buildings. There, nestled between an old
peg frame barn, and what I later found out was the original National Guard Armory, set two of the smallest cars I had ever seen. One, a two-door with what looked like had been a sliding canvas roof, which was
just rusting parts even back then. The other was a little two-door slope-backed sedan. I stood there thinking to myself what kind of foreign cars are these? I had been around Isettas, a couple of early
sixties Fiats, some strange English breeds, and the numerous VW bugs from the local dealership in Kirksville Mo. But these, they were not exactly like anything I had run across before.
For one thing, there was not one part on the cars that wasn't needed for basic function and safety. The hood was missing from the convertible, so being able to get around the engine was a breeze.
'Crosley' was the name I found on the engine. It wasn't until Dad got off work that evening that I found out Crosleys had actually been built right after WWII here in the good ol' US of A. Other than that, all Dad knew is one used to go barrelling through the town he grew up in every weekend. They were junk, was dad's comment. Then that has always been my father's opinion about anything he didn't know about.
And for certain, at age 15, I was sure he must have been wrong about the Crosley.
It wasn't till a few weeks later, when we made the hundred-mile trip to my grandfathers shop, that I was to learn quite a bit more about the Crosley cars. Granddad, having started his own repair shop in 1918, kept every magazine, shop manual and special tool he had bought
since he opened his door for business. He gave me a small spiral-bound book from the early fifties. It included black and white pictures of the basic car models of that time, all of the basic clearances and specs a mechanic would need, and a basic description of each component. Having been around other small cars of that time, which were lucky to have three main bearings, here I was staring at my first example of a five main bearing four cylinder engine. Not only that, Overhead camshaft driven by a shaft from the crankshaft???
At age fifteen, that screamed design factors found only on a few high-end sports cars. Yet from what I had seen, this engine powered what looked more like a miniature of a family sedan of that period. What were these cars? Why were these cars? They were just too neat to not
still being built. What happened? Those were all questions I would be asking for years to come.
I know for the younger folks among us, the thought that having a difficult time knowing where to even look for information will seem odd. But the Internet was still twenty years in the future. If your
local library didn't have anything, or if you had never seen a copy of Hemmings back then, you were pretty much stuck out in the hinterlands of the midwest trying to hunt down information. For me, it would not be until I was in my senior year of high school in 1972 that I ran across someone that not only knew about Crosleys, he had worked for some folks that had taken to bringing used Crosleys in out of Saint Louis, rebuilding them and selling the heck out of them. The one warning he gave me was, they weren't exactly designed to last a long time, a comment he made when I asked why Crosley had used bushings rather than bearings in their transmissions. My friend also pointed out the brother of the man, who was in this quasi-Crosley business, owned a junk yard about ten miles south of town. Yes, Mr. Harbot had three Crosleys. An early pickup setting outside, but still in very solid shape, and two early very nice station wagons stashed inside. However, he was adamant, a friend of his in California had bought them and would be in 'soon' to pick them up. It only took his friend a little over a decade to come and get them. Other than a few car shows here and there, those were the only Crosleys I have ever run across. So, I went on tinkering, and ended up doing a stint as a Honda motorcycle mechanic before settling into working professionally, on VWs. A career I left as the aircooled VWs disappeared from the roads around there. Diesel mechanic, and later the maintenance guy for the local farm Co-op, followed by a rather nasty car wreck, and even working on the handful of air cooled VW's I still have is more than a bit of a pain these days. It's got me to thinking of finding a couple of old Crosleys to tinker on and enjoy.
Having a complete engine that weighs almost a third less than a late
air cooled VW sounds very interesting to me; my arms being what they
are and what not.
I'm not one that wants to get too wound up with overly rare, and extremely correct cars, that should be restored to their exact new condition. Trying to keep a COBRA equipped Crosley up and running is
enough to scare me. Right now, there's a butchered station wagon on Ebay that's caught my eye. But from the looks of the pictures, I think the seller is a bit optimistic on their price. Not to mention my concerns about structural integrity of that body with no cross connections behind the seats. A Crosley pickup would suit me just fine. But, I'm getting the idea they may be more than just rare these days. Ok, so I can dream of finding a late model Hot Shot that someone wants to dang near give away. Hey, I did say 'dream', didn't I?
In doing net searches, I'm somewhat amazed by what is still available in the way of parts and information on the Crosley. I was even more surprised to find ignition parts fit some of the early Willys. So, keeping a Crosley running doesn't look to be that impossible. Then, from a few stories I've read, I do really wonder about the ring gear bolts in the differential Crosley used. I'm still very much in the pondering phase of this possible move to a car that has fascinated me since I was in my early teens. So???
PS: Does anyone have experience with installing hardened valve seats to handle this stuff we call gasoline today? I suspect there is far more I don't know about building a Crosley for today, than questions I currently have.