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September 19, 2022

The Crosley Hotshot: America’s First Postwar Sports Car

During World War II, American soldiers assigned overseas were introduced to the thrill of spritely open roadsters. It wasn’t long before American automotive manufacturers turned their attention to the growing demand for open, two-seaters. Powel Crosley, Jr. of the Crosley Radio Corp and Crosley Motor Inc. (and owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team!) took note. He and Crosley engineer, Paul Klotsch, began dreaming up what is commonly known as America’s first postwar sports car, the 1949 Crosley Hotshot.

The Hotshot was a modest move from Crosley’s line of minimal vehicles, being five-inches longer and riding on an 85 inch wheelbase. Instead of opening doors, the driver and passenger stepped through a drop-down in the side panels. In 1951 and 1952 Crosley added full doors to the Super Sports while the HotShot continued using the step-down sides with removable half doors. Under the hood was the new CIBA (cast-iron block assembly), four-cylinder engine with 26-horsepower. The high-revving CIBA engine replaced the COBRA (copper-brazed) engine, in use since 1946. Best of all, the Hotshot had an initial base price of $849!

To complement its advanced engine, and added weight (30lbs more than the CIBA), Klotsch read up on spot disc brakes, a superior braking system used on light aircraft. In late 1949 and 1950, all Crosley’s off the production line, including the Hotshot and Super Sports, came equipped with “Hydra-disc” brakes, an adaptation of Goodyear-Hawley aircraft brakes, on all four wheels. These brakes had great stopping power, but on the salted, wintry roads in the north, the alloy parts corroded and locked up. In mid-1950, Crosley switched to the 9-inch Bendix hydraulic brakes of a more conventional design.

Crosleys were re-badged as Crosmobiles for export only. They were identical to standard Crosley except for the Crosmobile-badged hood, rear badges, and hubcaps. The reason for re-badging the exported Crosleys was to avoid any conflict with England’s Crossley Motors. Powel exported Crosmobiles to Europe, South America, and Cuba, making them an extremely rare find in the United States, and a very low number survive today.

Throughout the early fifties, Hotshots dominated 750cc H-modified sports car racing, winning 10 out of 12 SCCA West Coast races alone. Here is a set of beautiful photos of the Crosley Hotshot.


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