September 17, 2023

The Cars That Were Designed by a Radio Company. Badly, Too.

Here in the Home Office I have an ancient Crosley radio like this one, rescued from my grandparents farm. It sat in the kitchen from the late 40s through to sometime in the early 70s.  It still works, too.  So does the company–in name, anyway.

Not only did one of Crosley’s companies manufacture radios beginning in about 1923, he also owned WLW-AM in Cincinnati.  

The founder of the company was Powel Crosley, Jr, an inventor and baseball nut who would later own the Cincinnati Reds.  If you’re a fan, you’ll know that the Reds home base is Crosley Field.  

Another one of his companies made appliances (including refrigerators).  Another developed the proximity fuze, which was adopted for aerial bombs by the US military in WWII.  And another division made–wait for it–automobiles.

Beginning in 1939, Crosley Motors began cranking out a model called the Transferable, which was powered by a 637 cc 2-cylinder air-cooled motor better suited for a lawnmowers.  Only 5,757 were made–and sold at prices between $325 and $350–before production stopped in 1942.  

It wasn’t a great car, but Crosley did fit it with a radio.  This made Crosley the second company to install radios in cars.  (Motorola was first in 1931.)  And remember the push-button AM radio?  That was a Crosley invention.

The Transferable was followed by this:  the 1949 Crosley Hotshot, which sold for about $850.  On the plus side, this was the first-ever US car to be fitted with disc brakes.  

A total of 75,000 Croselys were sold before production was shut down for good in 1952.

Back to broadcasting for a second.  Crosley’s WLW was once the most powerful AM radio station in all of the US, pumping out a single at 500 kW.  Today’s AM stations are capped at 10% of that.  And then there was Reado, where newspapers were read out loud and then broadcast.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37058 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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