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Old Econobox: 1948 Crosley Station Wagon

Today Crosley may be known for household appliances, but back in the forties they tried their hand at automobiles and boy, did they come up with some interesting ones. With all the small cars on our streets today, this little guy would blend right in, but it must have been a shocking sight when new. Crosley wasn’t afraid to try new things and they were fairly successful for a few years. This 1948 Crosley Station Wagon is representative of the type of cars they used to build. Find it here on craigslist in Billing Montana with an asking price of $3,200.

To keep prices down, Crosley did away with all the frivolous luxuries. There was no unnecessary ornamentation in here. Heck, even the engine was made out of sheet metal. Crosley had won a contract to build generator engines for the military. They needed to be cheap and weight under 100 pounds so they could drop them into remote areas, use them for a while, and then dispose of them. The resulting engines were lightweight and able to rev up to 10k rpms so Crosley decided to stick a 726cc version into their cars.

Crosley eventually went to a cast iron block to help with reliability problems. Surprisingly many of these engine found their way into race cars after being sightly modified. Crosley even went so far as to build their own budget sports car which went on to win the index of performance at Sebring! As an American manufacturer of modest micro cars they truly were the underdog in an European dominated racing world.

This particular wagon is better suited for the farm then the track. Supposedly there is room for four with space for plenty of luggage. We are not sure we would ever want to take it above 30, but you may not be able to anyways with only 26 horsepower on tap. The whole package is light though so it might be fun to drive and it will save you some change at the pump. With 26 horsepower you wont be getting anywhere fast, but you will save some change at the pump. Sure beats driving a new econobox…


  1. Richard

    Love to know how the heck you make an engine of any kind with sheetmetal. That’s the kind of thing that makes you shake your head and wonder what the engine designer was thinking. Might be a cool car to have, but there’s no way I could take it out on the street, at least not when there are lots of other cars driving around, too.

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  2. J. Pickett

    The sheet metal engine was called the cobra, which stood for copper brazed steel. It was an innovative design but the metallurgy and coolants of the time, (often just water or water and wood alcohol in the winter) weren’t up to the task. So they went to cast iron. The warranty problems hurt them some, but the main issue was America neither wanted or needed such a small car then. Maybe a novelty like a Metropolitan, but look what happened to Henry J. and others. There was one on my block but my dad gave me the impression that someone had to be stupid to buy one when a perfectly good used car cost about the same. Say early 50’s after production caught up with the shortage.
    Some people say that Powell Crosley required them to be narrow enough to fit through the doors of his existing appliance stores. You know car as appliance like a toyota or honda.

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  3. Alan Northcott

    What’s wrong with you guys? This car is beautiful! Wish Florida, where I live, was a little closer to Montana – oh, and it would help if I had a job so I could afford it! I’d like it as a driver.


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  4. A Ewers

    4 people can pick it up, and park it in the foyer or hall closet, which was apparently a popular prank amongst friends of owners.

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    • JIM

      ……. back in the late 1940’s in Mannington, WV there was a Salesman that owned one.
      Some of us boys tried to “hit-him-up” for some free-bees …….
      He got real nasty with us, so… when he went inside to take an order, four of us picked up the little car and carried it up the four steps going into the store and was going to “blackmail” him.
      He surprised us all by squirming it around until he had it heading down the steps and just drove it down to the street and drove off.
      A great memory of my teen years.

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  5. Kman4

    Being unique doesn’t always make a car collectable. If the car has nothing about it that is attractive and was an unreliable performer that didn’t do much of anything well except to look ugly. At ugly, it was a winner. This is NOT a driver and if you had bought one of those used ‘real cars’ that were available for the same money, you might actually have a genuine collectable driver. Compare the value of this to any decent survivor from the early fifties whether European or American. I drove the first Honda sports car to turn up here and it was cheap too and revved up to 12,000 but it was also a fun little sports car. I wish I had bought that one and kept it.

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    • Clay

      Anyone into cars knows no early Honda would rev to 12K and would probably crap at 5K RPM.Indy cars don’t do much over 10K.

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  6. mikey

    Hold on laddies. Crosley engines powered many race cars and race boats…..to victories in the their class. Example: Crosley Hot Shots raced at Sebring.

    Easy to work on and great on gas mileage. To some, they are ugly………to me…….cute as a button. You cannot imagine how tiny they are by looking at a picture.

    There are Crosley clubs and part suppliers. These cars were very popular and many thousands were made in different variants (trucks, verts, wagons and sport racers) Mostly old guys like them.
    The younger can’t get it…………..they’re young.

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  7. WareWolf

    Awesome lil cars.. wish i had one.. might make a great skeleton for an electric home-brew of some kind…

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  8. Duffy Bell

    It would make a great pizza delivery truck

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  9. craig

    I found one in a barn, not running, but most of it is there I think. A1948 Econobox; what’s it worth? Not sure I’d restore it maybe just have it as a accent piece. Thanks Craig

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  10. Mark E

    From what I understand, the COBRA engine worked fine as a constant speed engine for a generator or water pump but not so well an a variable speed, max torque automotove application. That’s why they ended up redesigning the engine.

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  11. Art

    Crowley engine was used yellow jacket molded plywood speed boats. They used v-belts to drive propeller shaft. Very fast and yellow jackets were garenteed not to flip.

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