1949 Crosley Hotshot
In the years leading up to World War Two, Powell Crosley, a successful electrical engineer, established his fame for producing electrical appliances under the Crosley name. In 1939 Powell Crosley introduced a new car called the Crosley. It was intentionally designed and engineered to fill an auto market where smallness was desired for people living in urban areas where a small car would be more useful and easier to store. Several models were available including America’s first station wagon, a small “slab-sided” (new to auto styling) automobile what would the gain recognition in the carmaker industry. Crosby’s automotive experiment would sustain itself as enough production kept the Crosby Corporation continuing to offer an alternative car. Then along came WW ll.
Domestic automobile production ended by early 1942 while manufacturers turned their attention to the war effort. Crosley shifted its activities to providing the military construction of many mobile and defense products.
By the late forties, road and track racing became an increasingly popular national pastime but the major manufacturers were slow to respond while trying to supply the quantity of family-friendly cars demanded by the public. However, many established but much smaller independent auto makers saw this as a chance to grab a portion of the market that the “Big Three” was largely ignoring, small to medium sized purpose-built sport/performance cars that could be easily entered into the road racing scene. Thus, the famous expression “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday” became the mantra of small manufacturers trying to attract younger buyers who were interested in experimenting with driving a quick smallish car. At first the approach worked, and small-scale manufacturers were able to build and sell sporty cars. Many of the brands produced did manage to make a mark on the racing circuit and several earned unlikely Honors for their feats. Ultimately, and somewhat unfortunately, the major auto builders finally caught up and began to provide the public with decent sporty cars with performance in mind. So, many of these wonderful auto experiments soon ended, one by one, and their legacy now fills the back pages of classic car publications that feature the major makes of the fifties.
Not to be left behind in the surging interest in providing small, performance engineered cars Powell Crosby, already resuming production of his small “slab-sided” urban transporters following the war, jumped on the band wagon by introducing the Hotshot in 1949 and it wasted little time making an impression. The little car bore no close relationship with Crosby’s more domestic offerings, it had a longer wheelbase than the others (85”), a unique frame that included a novel suspension and brakes. The suspension included coil springs at the rear axle and because used a closed driveshaft, required the use of links to stabilize the rear axle, a pair of trailing elliptical springs and tubular shock absorbers. Probably the most innovative feature of the Hotshot was the brake mechanics. Crosby developed and installed novel hydraulic disc brakes to all four wheels. Although innovative, the brakes would soon become a problem, failing to constant exposure to the elements and too frequent use. By 1950 all Hotshots, and its new cousin the Super Sport, would switch back to drum brakes. The Hotshot shared the same engine and transmission with all the other Crosley models.
In 1950, a Hotshot was entered into the novel Sebring Race in Sebring, Florida, that year alone a six-hour effort. The race was purposely designed with an “index” racing format. Cars were classified according to engine displacement, so cars like the Crosley, with its tiny 44 cubic inch inline four-cylinder engine, landed in the in a lower class meaning that it had to complete certain assigned minimum laps to be eligible for a victory, which it did. It won the race against much more powerful and race hardened marques. Sales increased briefly but the end came in 1952 when Powell Crosley ended automobile production altogether due to financial losses with the car. Nevertheless, the Crosley Hotshot and its offshoot, the Super Sport, inspired a dedicated following and a cottage industry that developed performance enhancing parts that could nearly double the little four cylinder’s horsepower output.
My car was delivered in September 2022 and proved to be an almost perfect restoration project. The body was in excellent condition, no dents, very little rust, easily restorable and complete. The car will be stored while I try to finish other projects. I will sooner than later have the engine looked at: compression test, leak down as well, upper valve train inspection and condition of lubricated surfaces. Maybe it will be a turnkey!
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