1st U.S. Sports Car: 1951 Crosley Hot Shot

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So, you think you’re a hot shot, eh? Well, then you need this 1951 Crosley Hot Shot. This cute little bugger is listed on eBay with a current bid price of just over $4,500 but the reserve isn’t met. These cars can sell for $10,000-$15,000+, especially in this nice condition. I could be persuaded to check this one out in person if anyone was serious about bidding on it since it’s only an hour away in Owatonna, Minnesota. And, I may do that anyway, I’ve always wanted a Crosley and a Hot Shot would be like starting at the top.

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The Hot Shot was touted as America’s first post-war “sports car”. Whether it was or not is always debated whenever something like that is put out there. It always comes up when small vehicles are shown, as to how unsafe they would be in a crash with any vehicle this side of a rubber raft. And, even with that, the rubber raft may come out on top. Crosleys weren’t made for 2016 traffic or 2016 freeways, they were made for 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s around-town use, most often as an inexpensive second car for neighborhood errands.

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Isn’t this thing unique? There is no trunk so the spare tire sits on the rear deck where the trunk should be. You won’t be able to bring more than a box of Tic-Tacs with you since there isn’t any storage on board, but you probably wouldn’t take a Crosley Hot Shot on an overnight journey anyway. Or, do we have some brave folks out there? The seller doesn’t really give any information about this car other than that it comes with a “rag top”. It should look like this with the top up. You had better not be in a driving rain storm with no side protection, there isn’t much coverage even with the top up. But, that’s what cars had for tops for the first couple of decades of the 20th century.

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I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain doesn’t drive a Crosley Hot Shot, but I could be wrong. We probably all know that Powel Crosley, Jr. was a classic inventor and marketing genius who made a fortune with radios and also owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. He, along with his brother who was an engineer, introduced the company’s first car in 1939. The company wasn’t a success until 1941 when more body styles were offered. 1948 was the high point with almost 25,000 cars sold (!) but sales declined from that point, even with the Hot Shot and Farm-o-Road being introduced. The end came when Crosley was sold to General Tire and Rubber in 1952. There was hope that they could merge with Nash but when Nash merged with Hudson that was it.

You can see on this car that there should either be a Crosley radio in the dash or a cover plate like this car has. There are some odd, random holes in the dash and the whole thing was painted red, no doubt for ease but not for authenticity. It wouldn’t take much to bring the interior back to where it should be, but it sure looks nice in there now! Each restoration tweaks the design a bit, here’s one that’s really fancy.

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The Hot Shot didn’t get any more of a hot shot engine than the others did. This is the CIBA (Crosley Cast Iron Block Assembly) engine, not the one that most folks know, the CoBra (Copper Braised), or, The Mighty Tin. The CIBA engines were much more reliable than the earlier CoBra engines were, at least for production car duty. This is a 44 cubic-inch, 26 hp four-cylinder so don’t expect to do any burnouts in front of Jay Leno’s Garage. This car looks great to me but I’d like to see it in person to check out the details. If the restoration was done well, other than a few interior items that could be updated, it could be a great buy if it stays under $10,000. Have you ever driven a Crosley Hot Shot or even seen one in person to see how small they really are?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    I’ve always thought, there was this order of vehicles simpleness. Like, 1st, a golf cart, next a King Midget, then this. I’ve wondered why Crosley radios weren’t in these cars too. I’m not sure Crosley ventured into the automotive market, that was pretty much dominated by Motorola.( anybody?) I’ve had literally dozens of small cars, and Scotty is right. The 1st thing people think of, “I’d hate to get hit in that”. Well, if you live your live with that idea, you may as well stay in bed. Driving something like this ( or a motorcycle) requires extra attention. While out of my league for a toy, it seems to be a pretty good deal.

    • Howard A Member

      Looks as if we lost the “edit” feature again. Live their life with that idea,,,

    • Vince Habel

      A lot of cars in this era had Philco radios

  2. RIMSPOKE

    i thought the “hot shot” was the version without doors
    where you had to climb over a high sill to get in .

    these models with the doors are called a “super sport” .

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      You are correct, Rimspoke. My mistake.

  3. Ben T. Spanner

    I think the door less version was the Super Sport with dual carbs. Back in the day I knew a guy with a Super Sport with a Lancia 5 speed crash box and an after market head made by Braje. He was about 6 feet tall, but young and limber. His daily driver was a 1957 Porsche Speedster. Mine was a 1954 356 Coupe.

    At some point, Super Sports had disk brakes with round pucks. As I recall they were made by Dunlop. The engine was overhead cam with a 2.25 inch stroke with 5 main bearings. No wonder it could rev.

  4. Chris A.

    This would be a lot of fun with a hopped up engine and a Devin body. A Crosley did very well at one of the early Sebring races.

    • RayT Member

      A Crosley WON the first Sebring race! Of course that event was run under an “index” formula — like the Index of Performance at Le Mans — which gave the Crosley an advantage, but it still counts as a “win”.

      These are fun to drive if you adopt the mindset of their day. Certainly not fast unless fully kitted out with Braje hop-up parts (and even then, “speed” is relative), but handling, steering and brakes are good within the Hot Shot’s performance envelope.

      Not sure about the doors. The Hot Shot I drove didn’t have any, but had only a single carburetor, so was not a Super Sport, which I believe the Sebring winner was..

      I drove one on back roads only, and am not sure I would have enjoyed it in the city or on the highway. But it left me smiling….

      • Dolphin Member

        Ray beat me to it, so I’ll fill in a couple of details. The first Sebring race, on New Year’s Eve in 1950, was 6 hours long and the winner, the Crosley Hot Shot, won on an Index of Performance based on engine size and number of miles completed in the 6 hours. The Crosley started in the 28th spot, which was last. Many other cars ran greater distances but they all had larger engines than the Hot Shot.

        http://crosleyautoclub.com/Sebring/Sebring.html

        After that all Sebring races were 12 hours long and the winner was the car that completed the most laps.

  5. Francisco

    The Bugeye Sprite didn’t have a trunk either.

  6. Scot Douglas

    Heh heh. Copper “Braised”.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      HA! Good grief, that’s quite the typo there. Nice catch, Scot!
      Copper “Brazed”, and I can’t blame it on spellcheck like I do when I’m on my phone.
      Although a nice, fresh piece of copper if braised just right.. mm mmm.. good eatin’.

  7. geoff

    the hot shot has no doors this is a super sport

  8. Bob Hess

    Bugeye has a trunk… just no trunk lid.

  9. Bob Townsend

    Most Crosleys had, of all things, Crosley radios.

  10. Rex Rice

    In 1949 there was one in the showroom of a dealer & when I saw it, I was in love! I sat in it and swore to own something like this when I got older. Starting with a TR-3 and funning through Porsches and Fiats, I’m 80+ and still having what is left of my hair blowing in the breeze, thanks to that Hot Shot.

  11. Beatnik Bedouin

    67 years on, many people don’t realise how significant Crosley sports cars were, let alone heard of one. They were quite popular in club level road racing during the 1950s and very competitive in class.

    There were also ‘rail’ dragsters built with hot-rodded CIBA mills at the drags back in the 1950s (I’d love to build one of these if I could find an old, rebuildable CIBA marine engine, over here).

    The problem with the CoBra engines is that their form of construction really required a lot of maintenance and were never suited for long-term automotive use. They were quite advanced for their time, however.

    I had the chance to meet Lloyd Taylor in the 1970s and spent some time talking to him. Even then, he was still experimenting with sheetmetal engine components – interesting guy with a formidable intellect.

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