JENNINGS COUNTY — A part of Jennings County history will be celebrated at the annual Crosley Car Club meeting and show at Wauseon, Ohio.
Local members of the Crosley Car Club are rolling their prized Crosley cars on to trailers, packing suitcases and dusting off cameras to make the trip to northern Ohio for the event set July to 9.
Though Crosley cars hold a special place in local history and are frequently displayed at events in Jennings County, interest in the antique cars is not limited to this area. More than 1,000 Crosley Car collectors from across the world will join local collectors at the July meeting.
A collector of Crosley cars, Jennings County resident Larry Allsop will be going to the meeting. But he won’t take his two Crosley cars with him this year.
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“They’re not ready for that yet. The cars I have now are just heaps of metal waiting to be restored but I’ll go to the meeting because there will be hundreds of Crosley Cars there and a bunch of guys who get together to have fun,” Allsop said.
Allsop first became interested in all things Crosley in 1972 when he came to Jennings County to manage the Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area for the state.
The Jennings County property that became the Crosley Fish and Wildlife area first belonged to Powel Crosley, Jr. who had achieved fame and fortune for his inventions in radios, appliances and automobiles. Though Allsop never met Crosley, during the 27 years he managed the Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area, Allsop learned many aspects of the original owner’s life. “He was quite an interesting guy,” said Allsop.
Born in 1886 in Cincinnati, Crosley became a part of Jennings County history when he purchased 4,228 acres of woodlands surrounding 7 miles of the Muscatatuck River in 1931. While continuing his primary residency in Cincinnati, Crosley maintained the Jennings County property as a private hunting and fishing vacation area for family and friends. He built a nine-bedroom hunting lodge, ponds and bridges on the property.
Between visits to Jennings County and after achieving great financial success in the world of radio and mass production of home appliances, Crosley decided to go into the mass production of compact automobiles in 1945.
The main office and engineering facility for Crosley Motors was in Cincinnati, Ohio, and assembly plants were in Indiana, one in Richmond, from 1939 to 1942, and another in Marion, from 1946 to 1952, according to the auto club’s website.
“I guess you could say the Crosley car was the first attempt in the nation to create a compact car that would give good gas mileage. It was the right idea but the wrong period of time. The problem was the people didn’t care about good mileage then. They wanted big and they wanted fast,” said Crosley Car Club Area President Barry Smedley, who owns eight antique Crosley automobiles.
The early Crosley cars were small, light and inexpensive. They got between 30 and 45 miles per gallon of gas and sold for about $850.
“I like to say, the Crosley Cars are so ugly they are cute,” said Smedley. “But I will tell you this, you take those Crosleys to a show and put them next to a Ferrari or some other high-priced car like that, you will see people crowding around the Crosley. All eyes will be on the Crosley, not the Ferrari.”
In addition to the small cars, Crosley also produced pickup trucks and station wagons.
Columbus resident James Dudley will also be traveling to the Crosley Club meeting. Dudley owns three Crosley automobiles.
Dudley began collecting Crosleys in 2002 when he decided he wanted a 1948 Crosley station wagon like the one he had in high school.
“A lot of the guys in Columbus had a Crosley car because it was cheap,” he said. “I paid $1,048 for it with the money I made as a paper boy for The Republic newspaper. Sometimes I would get it over 50 miles per hour but that would make the police mad so I had to stop that. It was great.” Dudley said.
It took him a year to find a Crosley to restore and he bought another one in 2007.
“And I bought one this year. My son Eric will help me restore it and we are going to the meeting in Ohio together,” he said.
Crosley stopped production of his automobiles in 1952. He sold his property in Jennings County to the state of Indiana in 1958 and he died three years later.
“It’s too bad it didn’t work out for him because designing automobiles was the main thing he wanted to do and it is the only thing he wasn’t successful at,” Smedley said. “The cars had good strong engines but they just didn’t catch on. But the people that collect them now are great and the club is a lot of fun,” he said.
To learn more about the Crosley cars and the club formed by collectors of the automobile brand, visit crosleyautoclub.com/.