Those funny-looking cars in Bakersfield on Saturday were Crosleys, asterisks on the American automobile historical timeline

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A piece of mostly forgotten history paid a visit to Bakersfield on Saturday  — accompanied by some unusual hobbyists. 

The Crosley Car Club, West Coast Chapter, came through town. Its members weren’t merely celebrating the distinctive, ground-breaking subcompact manufactured between 1939 and 1951. They were in the southern valley to celebrate the Elon Musk of the 1940s, Powel Crosley.

Crosley was based in Cincinnati. 

Crosley was a TV and radio broadcaster, owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, and designer and manufacturer of radios, TVs, refrigerators and a lot more … including the innovative all-steel Crosley automobile. Crosley Motors made sedans, sports cars, even an SUV.

“All steel. And lightweight,” said David Coffey, the Bakersfield businessman and arts patron who hosted the event. “Absolutely. They were really designed for people as a second car after the war.”

Coffey, a Cincinnati native and relative newcomer to the Crosley car family, played host to the Crosley convention. His Crosley needs a little work, but that’s what trailers are for.

“It in fact does not make its own car noises at this point,” said Coffey, asked if his Crosley was operational. “But, you know, it’s probably $1,000 away from driving down the street and me yelling at people that are cutting me off because maybe I’m not going fast enough.”

Crosley production peaked in 1948. The company ran into reliability problems a couple of years later and then the Big three — GM, Ford and Chrysler — took over. In all, Crosley made only about 48,000 cars. 

So, why all the affection for this unusual little asterisk in the history of automobiles? That’s the power of nostalgia about America’s postwar years.

Seventy, 80 years later, few Crosleys remain. But as long as there’s a Crosley Car Club, the brand lives on.

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