Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oops.

I wasn't looking for another car - it just happened.

I've actually been getting rid of stuff.  Over the past couple of years I've come to terms with the fact that I have a pretty small garage, not much other storage and very little free time.  I got rid of my 'extra' Super Sports and sold my '48 station wagon project back to my pal Dean who had bought it from me years ago, then decided he couldn't take it, and then recently decided that he could.   I also sold off the '69 Ford van I used to haul my band around in.

That leaves me with PLENTY of Crosley projects: I still have the '49 convertible, '51 Super Sports and the Fibersport race car.  But, what I didn't have was a Crosley station wagon.

Wagons made up about half of Crosley's entire production - for a while, Crosley was the world's biggest producer of steel-bodied station wagons.  There's a reason for that - where the other Crosley models were cute and odd and funky, the station wagons just made more sense.  The sedan was the 'master' design, but the wagon had improved lines, and was just enough bigger to seem more like a real car.

I really wanted a wagon when I first got into Crosleys - and given that they were the most common model I thought I'd be able to find one fairly easily.  But, as I discovered, most people who wanted a Crosley wanted a station wagon - they were the model that everyone remembered.  After a long, fruitless search I ended up buying a Super Sports, and later the convertible - but I never stopped wanting a wagon.  Then later I found the above-mentioned project wagon, but it needed everything.

Cut to last month.  Someone on a Crosley bulletin board mentioned that there was a Farm-O-Road for sale on the Denver Craigslist.  The Farm-O-Road is one of the rarest Crosley models, so I thought I'd contact the seller and offer to list the car in the classified section of the West Coast Crosley Club newsletter.  I do that quite a bit when I find interesting Crosley stuff on CL in the western states.

I never did find that Farm-O-Road.

I did, however, see an ad for what appeared to be a very clean 1951 Crosley Super Station Wagon.  There weren't a lot of details in the ad, and only a few small photos.  Out of curiosity I emailed the seller for more details.
He got back quickly and sent more photos and information.  The car had belonged to one owner from 1959 to 2014.  He had driven it from '59-'69 and then carefully put it in storage with his other dozen+ collector cars.  The CL seller knew the owner's family and had bought the Crosley on a whim when they had sold off the whole collection earlier this year.
The car was straight, original, and probably most important, had almost no rust.  There was a patch of surface rust on the roof where the owner had stored some burlap sacks that rubbed through the paint.   No rust in the floors at all.  It also came with a big stack of documents and memorabilia, and some spare parts, including an extra engine and radio.  It even had the 1969 Colorado plates still registered to the car.
Amazingly, the interior was all there, including the headliner.  The front seats were tattered, but everything else looked OK. That may not seem that unusual, but Crosleys, being the cheapest car imaginable, had headliners made of a coated chipboard (kinda like the material other cars used for sun visors) held in place with aluminum ribs.  Once that headliner gets damp it starts to sag, soon bends the aluminum ribs and then, sayonara.  In all the years I've been looking at Crosleys I've seen less than a dozen cars with complete, intact headliners.  This one looked near-perfect.

And, it was running.  The owner had carefully prepped it for longterm storage so the CL seller had changed the oil, turned the engine over without the coil wire connected to get the engine fully lubricated, and then fired it up. He said it took him all of 20 minutes to get it running. He even sent under-the-hood video, complete with some horn-honking.
video
I hadn't been looking for a car at all.   I knew I wanted to get a wagon someday, but I wasn't trying to find one now.  First, I wanted to sell my Savoy, which I haven't really been driving, and then I wanted to get more done on the Super Sports which I've just started working on again.  And, even though I thought that the asking price was very fair, I had zero money set aside to buy a car - a couple of expensive vet bills had just cleared our 'discretionary' fund.   I figured that someday down the road I'd get a wagon when I found the right one, but I was in no hurry.  I tried to stop thinking about this car.

That didn't work.

It didn't help that it was one of my favorite Crosley colors (sorta industrial blue) , and that it had the side-opening, one-piece rear door - way cooler than the standard 'clamshell.'  It also didn't help that this was the rarest - and my favorite - of all Crosley types: a survivor.
Nearly all Crosleys fall into one of three categories: 1) a total project, needing everything; 2) a restored car, probably nicer than anything that ever left the Crosley factory; 3) a kustom/hotrod, with significant modifications.  What you rarely find is a survivor: a nice original car that has been used, but well cared for since it was new.    Something nice enough that it's presentable, but not so nice that it's gonna kill you if you get a door ding in the parking lot at the grocery store.   That's my kinda car.

As luck would have it, my good friend Suzy happens to live in Denver.  How good a friend, you ask?  A friend who once let me store a dead 1951 Nash Statesman in her driveway for six months.  That's a good friend.   I asked her if she'd take a look at the car for me - if it wasn't as nice as described, then it would be easy to stop thinking about it.

Suzy and her fianc√© checked out the car.  They were pretty impressed with the condition and sent me pictures and video.  Everything checked out as the seller had described - except that some of it was nicer than I'd expected.  Like the original paint on the floor:
video
There were some dings on the rear corners and the back valance was wrinkled - looks like someone had backed into something and then the damage was never properly repaired.  But, overall, the car was really sound, complete and original.  The brakes even worked, which seems almost impossible given how long it had been sitting.
I stewed over it for almost a week and finally decided to make an offer: if the seller would take a down payment, and then hold the car for a month or so until I could pay the balance and get out to Denver and pick it up, I'd do it.  That way I'd have some time to make room here, put some cash aside and take time off work to go get the car... it would still add some stress into my life, but it wasn't totally crazy.  The seller thought about it for a day and then said OK.

I had myself a station wagon.

to be continued....



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very Nice!

Anonymous said...

Way cool time. Now its time to sell me the convertible. Dale

Anonymous said...

You are a damn good friend too! Can't wait to see you. Suzy

Ol' Man Foster said...

Woo hoo! See you in a couple of weeks!

bkrsdoz said...

You can't have too many! They're so cute!

M. Park Hunter said...

Aaannnd... Has the new wagon come home to California yet? Waiting for part deux of the story...

Ol' Man Foster said...

Second installment posted!

mickey said...

This is a little off this subject but I came across a car today that looks like a 1913 Mercer Raceabout but has the engine, frame and odometer from a Crosley. You ever seen or heard of anything like this? I have lots of pics to send if you'd like to see it.What email?

Ol' Man Foster said...

Mickey- I would LOVE to know more about that! you can email me at timtmaker at yahoo.com