Small Bargain: 1948 Crosley Convertible

Powell Crosley had the great idea of introducing economy cars to the American consumer on a large scale.  The only problem the appliance magnate had was that he was a few decades too early.  Despite an immediate postwar boost in sales due to scarcity, the against the stream concept ended up being a bust.  While Crosley car production ended in 1952, there has always been a fair amount of collector interest in these spartan little cars.  This 1948 Crosley convertible, an older restoration being sold on craigslist out of Dinwiddie, Virginia, may entice more than a few raised eyebrows among aficionados of this quirky brand.  Why?  The price is at a market low of $4,200.  Thanks to Ian C. for the tip!

While Crosleys were an inexpensive car in their day, market prices for cars in good condition have been anything but.  Driven by high auction prices and a newfound appreciation for microcars, good Crosleys have been bringing low five digit prices for convertibles, Hot Shots, and Super Sports.  Are they worth it?  In the case of the Hot Shots and Super Sports, they probably are.  These were milestone sports cars, with one even winning the index of performance at the first Sebring sportscar race.  The regular convertibles are famous for a starring role in the Porky’s trilogy of movies but little else.

Still, you can’t help but like them for their cute looks and diminutive style.  These little cars were well built but underpowered even in their day.  The 44 cubic inch engine was a novel design first used during World War II to power generators for the Navy.  Called the CoBra for the novel copper brazing method of steel stampings to create the upper block.  The bottom end was cast aluminum.  The little engine performed beyond expectations in the wartime generators, but use in automobiles proved troublesome.  Galvanatic action between the dissimilar metals and the corrosive effects of the antifreezes of the time lead to a number of premature failures.  Crosley switched to a cast iron block in 1949, and you will find this block under the hood of nearly all running Crosleys today.

Speaking of the word running, there is no mention about this car’s ability to propel itself.  The ad simply says that it has been in storage for a number of years and was an older restoration.  That word means different things to different people.  My guess is that the car was disassembled, painted, and freshened up wherever possible.  A few things like the seats, sill plates, and the condition of the paint in a few areas point to this not being a restoration equivalent to an AACA Senior award.  That is OK though.  What came out the other side was a presentable car to have fun with.

You can see the lack of preparation in the inner fenders of the engine compartment.  Or, this may also be a car that has sat outside for a while under the dreaded blue tarp.  One clue to this is the water around the battery terminal.  Regardless, the engine compartment looks otherwise tidy and fairly well restored.  The only glaring problems are the rattle canned air filter and lack of tidiness and authenticity in the wiring.  The engine itself appears to be a later cast iron unit.  These engines put out 26.5 horsepower, but could be hopped up with period speed parts to produce almost double that number.

You might enjoy a little more power, but these cars were not designed for current interstate speeds.  With a narrow track, low gearing, and a solid front axle combined with a top heavy design, Crosley sedans are not a vehicle you want to toss around at high speeds.  A car like this is built for runs to the ice cream shop on a warm summer night, or for local car shows.  They are fun, quirky, offbeat cars that few people are familiar with.  Parts are available, and the Crosley Automobile Club can provide lots of support to a new owner.

Do you have room in your shed for this cheap convertible?

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  1. Ken Member

    “Still, you can’t help but like them…”

    I can.

    • Bob

      I just love the “flowing lines” of this little cruiser.
      It has to be one of the sportiest cars ever made.

  2. LAB3

    I’d need to find two of them, one for each foot.

  3. Bob Hess Member

    Never figured out why only one tail light…. Kept doing that right into the ’50s.


      Actually the last Crosleys with only one taillamp were the 1948 CC models. Thanks.


      Actually, the last Crosleys using only one taillamp were the 1948 CC models. Thanks.

    • Will Owen Member

      It took that long for most states to require two taillights! Their only function, I believe the thinking went, was to let someone behind you at night know that there’s a car ahead … or,if it’s a kerosene lantern, some Amish guy in a buggy.

    • Robert White

      “Better, Cheaper, Faster.” was De Forest Crosley working business model for manufacturing. De Forest was partner with Crosley before Crosley built this car.

      1939 De Forest Crosley Superheterodyne 9-tube AM/SW


  4. Ben T. Spanner

    I don’t think you need to worry about tossing it around at high speeds. A friend of mine in the late 1960’s had a SS convertible with a Lancia crash box transmission.

  5. Z1rider

    Is this factory? Or was the roof cut out and someone devised/fabricated a folding top?


      It’s factory, and it’s called a fixed-rail convertible. Nash Ramblers also used the style from 1950 through 1954.

  6. scottymac

    “…could be hopped up with period speed parts…” Seen at this past summer’s Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Ky. Installed in a sweet little wagon.

  7. scottymac

    “…could be hopped up with period speed parts…” Seen at this past summer’s Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Ky. Installed in a sweet little wagon.

  8. Will Owen Member

    A friend of mine had a Crosley wagon, probably the most popular Crosley of all. There was another one owned locally, by a very large farmer – 6′ plus and maybe 300+ pounds. He had the front seats removed and the steering column extended, and drove it from the back seat. His getting in and out could easily draw a crowd …

  9. stillrunners

    Neat – o……

  10. John Taggart

    thinking of these little bugs from when I was a kid you would see them at the “hell driver Shows” or auto daredevil shows at the county or state fairs in the 60’s and 70’s Remember Jack Kochman and the Danger Angels and the clown who drove these with the fireworks acts and over ramps named King Kovacs and Joie Chitwood Thrill Show they all had this little bug when they started Great memories I have of these super charged shows

  11. Paul T Root

    There is (was in October) one fpr sale up in Calumet, Michigan. Saw it first in the summer when we were up there. I see many interesting cars up in the Keweenaw when we go up there. A 68roadrunner in Bruce Crossing, a nice 65 Mustang in Chassel. Even saw a Bi-turbo once.

  12. Bobby

    This is a factory convertible, it seems to run good, shifts through all the gears

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