Falling From The Sky: 1939 Crosley Convertible

One of the best lines in the epic movie “The Three Amigos” was El Guapo’s exasperated cry, “Are gringos falling from the sky?”  Well, it certainly seems we have found an automotive equivalent.  The classic car market has been, relatively speaking, overwhelmed with Crosleys.  Take for example this 1939 Crosley convertible coupe for sale on craigslist in Geneva, Ohio.  Looking very presentable, this prewar lightweight is being offered for $8,900 as it sits.  There are some mistakes in the ad that point to the seller not being very knowledgeable about their product.  However, this little droptop is a solid example of an innovative car we just don’t see often.  Thanks to faithful reader Roger for the tip off.

For those who don’t know the story, Powell Crosley made his fortune selling radios.  While many companies were in this business, Crosley found a way to build and market his at a lower cost.  He later went on to build a number of innovative appliances including the first refrigerator to have shelves in the door.  Even as he built his appliance empire, Crosley never forgot that his first desire was to build automobiles.  1939 found him in the right position to do just that.  Crosley went after what he felt was an underserved part of the market: small, lightweight cars.  With a debut at the Indianapolis Speedway and a noticeable presence at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, Crosley certainly got the country’s attention.

What he didn’t get was their money.  Sales were flat.  Just under 6,000 cars were sold before wartime necessity halted production.  While the cars were fairly reliable after the bugs were worked out, America was just coming out of the Depression.  Everyone wanted larger cars than Crosley offered, and there wasn’t exactly a gas crisis going on.  Selling a 12 horsepower car with a noisy air cooled two cylinder engine is a tough task.  This is especially true when your competition is a used Ford, Chevrolet, or Plymouth with around eighty horsepower and such luxuries as a heater and a comfortable interior.  Gas rationing a few years later made Americans look at Crosleys in a different light.

After the war, people once again were looking for more luxurious transportation.  It has always been assumed that the survival rate for prewar Crosley automobiles was low.  However, the internet has brought a number of these distinctive cars to light in the past few years.  Cars that would be advertised in a regional paper or maybe Hemmings Motor News are now accessible to anyone with a computer.  Many of these cars were held for years by people who are now passing on, and their heirs sometimes have little knowledge of what they have inherited.  Most just know they want it cleared out of grandma and grandpa’s domicile so the realtor can put their former home on the market.

The seller tells us that this Crosley is titled as a 1948 model, and that makes it easier to get plates to drive it on public roads.  We are also told that the car has a four cylinder engine, and that we should do some research and see how wanted these cars are by collectors.  All of this information is from someone who says that they own other Crosleys.  We can only hope that the title for the 1939 is laying around somewhere.  I have heard there are ways to get a title for a car lacking one, but that would likely justify a lower price.  From what we can see, the car is in relatively good shape.  There are some rough areas to contend with though.  Rust damage in the floors and on the cowl will need to be addressed, and the seats need to be re-stuffed and reupholstered.  There is no mention of the convertible top’s condition or the location of the bows and mechanism.

Prewar Crosleys are undeniably cute, and would be a fun toy to drive around the neighborhood.  You can even tow one on atop a lawn trailer if you wanted to take it to a show.  The problem with this one is that there are so many more collector cars in this price range that are more practical to use and enjoy.  Of course, this was the dilemma that Powell Crosley overlooked in the beginning.

Hopefully this car finds a home and hits the roads again.

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Comments

  1. stillrunners

    Like….more at a little lower price !

    1
  2. That AMC Guy
  3. Mark

    Did Volkswagen base the beetle off these cars, first look oughtvwas an old beetle ?

    • Chinga-Trailer

      Dr Porsche copied the Tatra when he presented “his” design to Adolph Hitler. Tatra successfully sued over this plagerism. Not many Americans know the VW’s past with it’s Nazi and industrial espionage connections.

      • Wolfgang Gullich

        There wasn’t industrial espionage per session, Ferdinand Porsche worked with Hans Ledwinka early in his career as a car designer and “looked over his shoulder once or twice” as he was quoted as saying.

        3
  4. Ken Smith

    Lots of Crosleys had their bodies used for modified race cars in the 1950s.

    3

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