Cincinnati’s Crosley Car: A Small Vehicle That Made a Big Impact
Everyone knows the major automakers leading the industry, but many people don’t recognize the smaller, independent manufacturers over the last century who’ve produced their own vehicles–and how many there have actually been. While many of these visionaries’ and entrepreneurs’ names have been lost over time, their influences have impacted the industry in big ways.
One of those innovative trailblazers was the Crosley Corporation’s Crosley; the Cincinnati company’s compact car may have been small, but it’s left a big mark.
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An Abbreviated History of the Cincinnati-Based Crosley Automobile
Down in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1930s, industrial entrepreneur Powel Crosley Jr.–who owned the Reds baseball team at the time–envisioned an affordable, efficient subcompact car. Working with his brother, and engineer, Crosley released the two-door Crosley convertible in 1939. Per Crosley’s vision, the vehicle weighed under 1,000 pounds, averaged over 40 mpg fuel economy, and cost under $300. It was 48 inches wide and was meant to be sold in department stores like an appliance.
To improve sales, Crosley made some alterations to the platform and introduced multiple body style options, like a four-door convertible, a station wagon, and a panel truck. World War II brought some production hiccups for the company, but at the same time earned it the spotlight for its fuel efficiency and prices–with big-name cars costing five times a Crosley car.
Unfortunately, while enjoying mild success through the 1940s, Crosley Motors eventually was done in by its commitment to simplicity. While the company strove to streamline and simplify to save customers money, American consumers grew more and more obsessed with bigger, extravagant vehicles. Thus, the last Crosley cars were produced in July 1952.
While Crosley’s many industrial and broadcasting efforts were successful financially, success in the automotive industry eluded him. Still, we have a lot to thank him for. In addition to making one of the first car radios, his vehicles were the first American models to have disc brakes. He also introduced the term “sport utility vehicle,” the first first mass-market single overhead camshaft, and the first American sports car.
Without Crosley’s endeavors, it’s likely we won’t be driving the same vehicles we are today.
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Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.