California Barn Find: 1948 Crosley Pickup

Mini-truckin’ was big in the 80s and early 90s, but automotive hall of famer Powel Crosley Jr. was early to the scene with his iteration in the 1940s. Well, maybe it was more of a miniature truck than a “mini truck,” but little nonetheless. Thank you to Barn Finds readers Ikey H. and Patrick S. for sending in this 1948 Crosley pickup, which can be found here on eBay in Oakland, California. This no reserve auction has received 16 bids, pushing the current bid price to $2,725.

If my dad didn’t own a 1950 Hot Shot, I may not even know Crosley cars existed. For those who don’t know, Crosley was an independent automotive manufacturer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally known for manufacturing radios and other small appliances before purchasing the Cincinnati Reds, Powel Crosley Jr. manufactured his first automobile in 1939. The Crosley Corporation continued production with a variety of models and styles – all subcompact – through 1952.

This 1948 Crosley pickup has been parked in climate-controlled storage since 1955. The aqua paint is original and, while not excellent, has still held up impressively well after 72 years. The seller describes the body as solid with no visible rust. Wheels are painted to match the body and wear the standard-issue Crosley hubcap. The front bumper is not Crosley-issue and makes me wonder if this pickup had some specific use that required such a bumper. The tiny bed looks like it’s been used heavily.

While there’s plenty of wear inside, the seats are in surprisingly good shape. There’s no indication of the seats having been reupholstered, but their condition is several cuts above that of the rest of the interior, so I’ll assume they have been. The Crosley interior is a contender for the most simple, possibly ever, as there’s really nothing there that doesn’t have to be. There’s a big speedometer and a couple supporting gauges, bucket seats with a long-reach floor-mounted shifter, and the operability of the windows is limited to their forward-and-back sliding.

That’s a 44 cubic-inch 4-cylinder that powers this pickup. That doesn’t sound like a lot and it really isn’t, but these only weigh a little over a half of a ton. A 3-speed manual transmission sends that power to the rear wheels.

Trucks are hot right now, so maybe the Crosley pickup can join in on that popularity. If not, their simplicity is something to admire and the originality of this example is a rare find. What are your thoughts on this 72-year old “mini-truck” barn find?


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  1. IkeyHeyman

    The first thing a buyer may want to do is ditch the CoBra engine for the later cast iron CIBA engine. Engine failure is probably why this was parked.

    Like 7
    • BilCinMA

      The copper brazed (CoBra) sheet metal block was a war-time feature, being a 48, the cast iron block would have been reintroduced. For clarification, the CoBra did not fail, it rusted out.

      Like 2
      • David Anspach

        Actually, crosley used the tin block until early 49. Tin blocks both failed from overheating and from corrosion. Most corroded out then leaked fluid and overheated and failed.

        Like 3
    • Lou Rugani

      There’s no mention that the original CoBra engine still remains. Hardly any Crosleys still have one.

      Like 1
    • Dave Anspach

      Lou is correct. This truck has the later cast iron block engine. Either a factory or later replacement.

      Like 2
  2. MattR Member

    What a trip. It looks more an amphibious car that a pickup to me.

    Like 1
  3. Howard A Member

    Yeah, that’s a nice story,,,none of which I buy. Pretty sad shape for only several years old when stored. Plus, that front bumper indicates it was towed and some kind of hitch on the back, it pulled something light. Many times, service stations would have a detachable rear bumper hitch, they’d mount on the customers car, and tow either a HD Sevicar or maybe this to deliver the car when done. This thing was used extensively, I bet. Still a fantastic find, Crosley’s were rare, and the pickup, more so. I read, this truck still had mechanical brakes, hydraulic disc 1st appeared mid ’49. The 1st American company to do so. A good price out of California for once. Well I’ll be.

    Like 9
    • CJinSD

      Did they actually retain cable-and-rod actuated drums until they went to hydraulic discs? That’s like skipping from serfdom to capitalism.

      Like 2
      • Tim Hamblen

        That is a cast iron engine. The Cobras did not have the side plates on the block

      • Tim Hamblen

        Yes, cable to hydraulic disc. Disc lasted less than a year and then 9″ Bendix.

    • Little_Cars

      The front bumper to me looks like it may have held some sort of sign board or advertising placard on two upright poles in the front. Perhaps advertising road side service, or some other sort of automotive service. This wouldn’t have been much of a tug if the car being delivered was an 50s Cadillac or Buick.

  4. Al

    The greatest challenge is that engine. It was garbage right out of the factory. It is a simple truck, so taking it apart and restoring it shouldn’t be complicated – but that engine – I wouldn’t want that engine if it was new.

    Like 2
    • BillCinMA

      Painting with a big brush “The greatest challenge is that engine. It was garbage right out of the factory” is not useful. If a reason can be identified, share it with us.

      Like 2
      • Tim Hamblen

        I’ve pulled those engines out, rebuilt the oil pump and put them back in , ran fine.We pulled a 48 out of a barn yard, sat for 30 yrs. My friend put a new fuel pump on it and it fired right up. Purred like a kitten.

        Like 1
      • Lou Rugani

        Briefly, Bill, the CoBra was an innovative sheet-metal engine developed for the US Navy. Powel Crosley saw its postwar automotive possibilities and acquired the rights. The seams were copper-brazed, but dissimilar metals resulted in electrolysis, causing coolant leakage. Just one overheating episode from that or, say, from low coolant or a broken hose would lead to quick and permanent engine destruction. Crosley Motors then rushed the CIBA (Cast Iron Block Assembly) engine into production and replaced CoBras cheaply, but the car’s reputation had taken a fatal blow. Sales plummeted and it was all over by mid-1952.

        Like 1
    • Lou Rugani

      That’d be the CoBra engine, of which few still exist.
      The CIBA is a fine, longlasting engine.

  5. BlondeUXB Member

    Seats look re-done. Paint looks rattle can.

    Like 2
    • Tim Hamblen

      Yep, Crosley had a color similar but that ain’t it.Someone painted the wheels at the same time.Crosley wheels were white

  6. Terry

    I have a Crosley sedan that that I received from the original family and I can see how the modified the front bumper came about. The family traveled from Texas to California with four people + a mattress tied on top and to cross the mountains they had to have a another car tow them up the mountain grades. This was in the early 50’s when families had that “can do” mentality.

  7. James Simpson

    Probably a contender for one of the ugliest vehicles ever made—its sooo… ugly, that it is actually beautiful. Yes, a cross between an early Servel refrigerator and a 49 Chevy COE, its aerodynamics are more like a 4×8 sheet of warped plywood. I really love it, and can imagine it with a single rear 24″ wide dragster slick, a pair of rubberized half-track steerable treads on the front, and a single Cyclops Cibie Oscar headlamp frenched into the hood. It really does not deserve to be restored as the mistake that it was, but, rather embellished totally left wing steam punk–as to what it could have been as an off-road snowmobile in the Polar Express movie or a dry cob corn husker appliance that would be equally useful. Still, …It has its place in history.

  8. Jeff Miller

    I saw a rusty hulk like this decades ago and what immediately popped into my mind was do slight amount of rodding to it. Strengthen the frame a bit, put a 3.8l GM V6 in it, and hang a fishing rod in the rear window.

    This would be a great little sleeper car and fun to drive once the power and brakes were upgraded.

  9. Karl

    Crosley got into the auto mfg business right after WWII when the big 3 were building BIG powerful cars with all sorts of new wonderful gizmos on them. Crosley decided to build a very small very economic to own and drive, his market was exactly the opposite of the BIG 3. WELL he built a factory and setup a dealer/service network and produced around 100k cars and all was going good till he started getting calls from his dealers of engine failures! After a bit of research they figured out that the coolant they were using in the engines from the factory was eating/destroying the engines from the inside out! Bottom line was that was the end of the Crosley automobile company!! Very smart guy and he made millions on his radio stations and home appliances. Great story!

    Like 3
    • Dave Anspach

      Yes, and then dropped the discs which corroded badly after a year and used 9 inch hydraulic drums. Truck is very likely a repaint since the wheels match the body color and would correctly be red. Seats are a definate recover . The big yellow thing under the hood is likely a gas tank and that means the real one is probably junk.
      Rather than point out all of the history flaws stated here, check out for actual facts and statistics

      Like 3
  10. john Kirkland

    Dad presently has 3, plus spare engines. He drove one in the early 60s and had a tire come apart. The tire shop searched all over town for a replacement tire – which was a wheelbarrow tire.
    Powell Crosley was a innovative guy and did well at business. He was the Henry Ford of radio. His station WLW went from 5 watts to as high as 700 kilowatts – which could be listened to in Europe and South America. Experimented with television as early as 1929. First baseball game under lights was at Crosley field.
    Crosley built lots of spare engines for the government and for industrial applications. The club has lots of technical experience and the cars can be worked on with a handful of tools.

    Like 1
    • David Anspach

      John Kirkland, you dad would benefit from being a club member. Perhaps you could get him a membership for a birthday or Christmas. Only 20.00

      Like 3

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