1951 Crosley: Tiny, Economy Car
Powell Crosley envisioned a tiny, lightweight economy car unlike anything Detroit was manufacturing. In 1951, a 1,370-pound Crosley Super Sedan 2nd had a base price of $1,033 and a 26.5-horsepower, four-cylinder engine.
In the late 1950s, John Van Sickle’s father operated an Amoco service station in a remote town of Ohio, far from Cincinnati where Crosleys were manufactured. The station’s service “truck” was an old Crosley.
Decades later, Van Sickle realized he missed the old Crosley and began looking for one to buy. After years of checking out countless disappointing Crosleys, one day a junkyard owner in Basking Ridge, N.J., telephoned to ask, “You the guy looking for a Crosley?”
Van Sickle answered in the affirmative. He was told that the car was a 1951 sedan that was more or less complete. “There’s a rod through the pan and the top is smashed down from kids jumping on it,” he was informed. If he wanted it, he’d better hurry. Otherwise, it was going to the crusher.
Van Sickle quickly drove to New Jersey to inspect the junkyard Crosley. Where others saw worn-out junk, Van Sickle saw a diamond in the rough and he was just the man to restore the sparkle to this gem. The original spare tire was still slung in its cradle under the car.
After purchasing the bedraggled red Crosley, Van Sickle rented a two-wheel dolly and purchased a pair of boat trailer lights, which he attached via long wires to the rear of the Crosley to make it legal while being towed home to Virginia.
Numbers on the car indicate that it was the 26th Crosley built for 1951. The first order of business was to return the 44-cubic-inch L-head four-cylinder engine to working condition. With that task complete, Van Sickle removed the cardboard headliner and restored the roofline to something resembling the original.
He began to disassemble his 12-foot-long Crosley on its 80-inch wheelbase and eventually had a completely restored 1951 car that is, in now even better than it was originally.
In 1951, the Crosley was delivered as a deluxe model with a chrome propeller affixed to the center of the grille. The propeller would spin as the car was driven. The car also had two windshield wipers, a heater, and a suction-cup ashtray. “I just wish I had a chrome suction cup ashtray,” Van Sickle laments.
To the base price were added extra costs for transportation and the spare tire and tube. While stripping off the red paint he discovered that his 4-foot-wide vehicle left the factory with May Green paint and Cantor Cream wheels.
The three-speed floor-shift manual transmission is non-synchronized. “If you don’t double-clutch,” Van Sickle says, “It will leave you.”
At 70 miles per gallon, the 8-gallon gasoline tank provides enough fuel for well over a range of 500 miles. “I’ve had it up to 65 mph,” Van Sickle says. He did not purchase and restore his car as a garage ornament. For him, it brings back fond memories. “Wherever I drive it,” he says, “it always makes people smile.”