Ran When Parked: 1950 Crosley Hot Shot

Most folks don’t take little cars like this seriously, but the Crosley Autos are real cars and were the first to introduce several advanced features like the first mass-produced car with an overhead camshaft and 4-wheel caliper type disc brakes. The Hot Shot is the first American sports car as well as the smallest. The Hot Shot did very well in competition in its class in the early 1950s. It’s very different from other Crosleys which are very basic economy cars. It’s a door-less roadster with a dropped frame for a lower center of gravity, with semi-elliptic/coil springs up front and quarter-elliptic on the rear wheels for better handling. It also has a longer wheelbase of 85 inches. This Hotshot is listed on craigslist in Olympia, Washington for $4,500. Running Hotshots sell for $10,000 or more, so this could be a reasonable price. It’s been parked since the 1970s. There are no signs of rust and it appears very original.

The seats are not shown but they are included along with the top and bows. The floor appears to have only a little surface rust.

This is Crosley’s more conventional cast iron block engine introduced in 1949. It’s a 27 horsepower water-cooled 44 CID  inline-four cylinder engine with five main bearings and an overhead camshaft. It had a pressurized lubrication system and 10,000 RPM redline. This little engine will get you to sixty MPH in about a minute and transport you 77 miles in an hour. After Crosley’s demise in 1952, this engine lived on because it was used for other applications like trailer refrigeration units. This engine was also very successful racing in the 750cc class in the 1950s.

Those headlights remind me of the tail lights on a 1954 Ford. It’s hard to take this seriously as a sports car, but it did win the first Sebring 12-hour race in 1950. Other cars covered more miles but with the “Index of Performance” handicapping rules and the Crosley’s tiny engine, the Hot Shot came out on top. The MG TC was slightly faster but cost twice as much. It would be fun to get this running and drive it for a bit but you would have to be a dedicated fan to want to keep it for very long. They are rare, with only 2,500 built, but not terribly valuable. Still, one should be able to recoup their investment. It won’t take up much room in the garage. Perhaps one could get this past a disapproving spouse by claiming it’s a pedal car. It will be interesting to see what our readers think.

Fast Finds


  1. Jose Cantu

    It’s cute but not for the asking price. One zero more than I would pay.

  2. Pete

    I’d love one but wouldn’t pay more than a quarter of that.

    There seem to be many missing pieces. There is enough
    rust on meters and the floor to require work. I’d have to ship it across the country too.

  3. Ikey Heyman

    I’m no expert on Hot Shots, but I’ve never seen one with the headlights integrated into the fenders, the only ones I’ve seen have headlamps mounted inboard on the front of the hood, more along the lines of a “bugeye” Sprite. Has this one been modified ??? In any case, these cars are very collectible and have a loyal following.

    • RayT Member

      I was thinking the same thing. Several image searches — and the appearance of not-fully-finished metalwork where the headlight “pods” join the body — lead me to believe someone did some metalwork. Personally, I prefer the “bugeye” look.

      No one in their right mind would use a Hot Shot — or any Crosley — as a daily driver (unless they live, as I do, in a small town with low speed limits), but that doesn’t really diminish the fun quotient. The one I drove was a simple, direct and honest little sportscar.

      DavidF, it should be kept in mind that not all BF readers are terribly concerned with “return on investment” or quickly tire of the cars we collect. A Hot Shot would return a lot of pleasure to an owner who understood what it does (and doesn’t) do, and doesn’t take up as much space as, say, a Nissan Sentra wagon!

      There’s a set of wheels for almost every taste here, which is one of the reasons I’m a regular reader.

  4. Dolphin Member

    Nice car, and nice writeup.

    One minor correction: the first Sebring race, held in 1950 on New Years Eve, was a 6 hour race.

    It’s a good thing it was, because…
    “that night as Vic [one of the drivers] was driving the Hot Shot home he lost oil pressure in the engine. The car had to be towed the rest of the way. Vic took off the pan and removed the oil pump to find that the oil pump gears were completely chewed up from the high revs [estimated at 7500 throughout most of the race]. He put on a new oil pump that night and drove the car back to the Sebring track the following day for a photo shoot.”

    For the full story see this website on the Hot Shot at Sebring:

    The photo here shows the actual #19 Hot Shot, which shows that Ikey’s comment on the headlights of the car featured for sale here is right—it has been modified from the original. The original build had the lights on the hood.

    Ray T: exactly right, when it comes to a car like this. The body has been modified but could probably be put back to original with little effort….or enjoyed as-is.

  5. Benjamin

    Ok, so the body looks sound… Wonder what would happen if it were to recive an ecotec 4…

  6. GB Fisher

    There seems to be something a little “off” about this unit. I’m no expert, but comparing pictures, it appears the headlight/fender thing, the door cut-out, and the back deck behind the cockpit look like a modified sedan or wagon. Could this be home brew?

    • whippeteer

      Definitely homebrew. I also used our friend google, and none of those features match any of the Hotshots that came up. Granted I would have fun with it if it were in my garage.

  7. Mark McKibbin

    First production Overhead cam? I think not, maybe in the US. My 1925 Lancia Lambda has OHC and it started production in 1922 and it was not the first I’m sure. There were OHC in the veteran era.

  8. Jeff G

    My son & I picked up a tractor project the other day and when he opened the barn door there sat 3 hotshots. One was a convertible and 2 were sedans. Surprised to say the least.

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