By B. Mitchell Carlson
Last winter, Old Cars Weekly subscriber Brad Yoho of Stillwater, Minn., completed the restoration of an unusual 1948 Crosley that was customized several decades ago. The Crosley began as a factory-produced convertible, although the convertible Crosleys at this time had more of a sliding roof than a true complete folding top.
Yoho believes the Crosley was customized in the mid 1950s. He purchased it from David Ross of Naples Fla., but the car came with a 1958 Oklahoma title issued to Robert Braisel on July 23, 1955. Braisel signed and transferred the title on Sept. 12, 1988, but with no name or assignee for the transfer, although it was notarized in Chickasha, Okla., at that time. He has been unable to find out any other history of the vehicle to this point.
When purchased, the car carried the custom features pictured here. Its most pronounced custom tricks are its heavily Frenched headlamps and a Howard “Dutch” Darrin-style dip in each door. It also has a continental-type spare tire mounted at the back. All of these features were in vogue during the 1950s. Additionally, the side window frames were fully removed, making the car a true roadster, albeit one currently without any sort of top. Yoho is exploring options for fabricating a top, but he’s currently content with the Crolsey as a fully open car.
The body structure is reinforced with 3/4-inch tubing, especially across the top of the body opening, around the passenger’s compartment, making the body quite sturdy. The doors and hood were also fabricated with the tubing using the original panels as a basis. All of the body filler consists of lead. While no one will confuse the body as the product of a professional body maker, it’s not too bad for a highly personalized car, and the work is better than most body fabricator wannabes armed with a Sawzall and a barrel of Bondo.
In finishing the car, Yoho wanted to retain as much of the original bodywork and character of the car as possible. The grille is a piece of pre-punched metal resembling a 1955 Ford grille. Various other trim pieces were sourced from used cars of the era, including the ’52 Oldsmobile tail lamps.
When new, this Crosley would have been powered by its maker’s COBRA sheet-metal engine block. When found and restored, it had the later Crosley CIBA cast-iron block. Crosley’s CIBA engine was also used in its Hot Shot speedsters with a few performance parts, and this Crosley hot rod employs those parts, such as a cast-aluminum valve cover, aluminum air cleaner adapter (to lower the profile to fit under the hood) and modern breather filter.
Another unique fitment to the car is the radio. It has an Arvin head unit, but connected to a Firestone vibrator and speaker. Yoho feels these unusual features, along with the car’s unique appearance, may help jog someone’s memory of the car and help fill in its past.
When Yoho purchased the Crosley hot rod, it was not too far from being a rolling shell. The car was painted in recent years, which helped make the restoration a little easier. However, it was missing several components, most notably wheels, tires and seats.
Yoho sourced a set of stock Crosley rims and discovered that the first years of the base model smart car used a comparable tire size (155/80R12s). As most smart cars in the United States were upscale models, Yoho found a wholesaler who gave him a good deal on a set.
The seat frames were found online and Yoho had them reupholstered. The rest of the interior soft trim was installed by his sister-in-law.
Since many Old Cars Weekly readers like a challenge of this sort, let us know if you know anything about the history of this car.