Leaving the cold sun of winter behind, May brings the first hot kiss of provocatively lengthening daylight. Memorial Day approaches. Garage doors open to proclaim wrenching’s transition to a summer sport.
Even as the Coronavirus shroud lingers, the summer sun brings hope. Cars we love, like hibernating bears, prepare to leave their caves. We do all we can to help them. This is one man’s story.
Austin Healey? Nope! It’s Austin’s Crosley
Wayne Carini badly wanted Irv Gordon’s 3-million mile P1800, the world’s most famous Volvo. Bob Austin, who had joined Carini at the Long Island garage that housed Gordon’s collection since Gordon’s passing in 2018, possessed an equally passionate desire. However, though a longtime Volvo executive and Irv Gordon’s good friend, Austin’s yearning focused on another car in Gordon’s collection, a little green golf cart sized Crosley sports car.
Carini’s effort would bear no fruit. Gordon’s 3.2 million mile P1800 would assume its rightful place of honor in Sweden as a star at the Volvo Museum. Austin on the other hand smiled all the way home as the owner of a 1949 Crosley Hotshot with 4,700 miles.
Austin’s taste in automobiles might best be described as eclectic. Austin’s litany of past drives include a Ferrari, Avanti, Willy’s Jeepster, Cobra, Sunbeam Tiger, MG TD, Volvo 740 Turbo station wagon, a Royale Formula Vee race car (which presently resides in Austin’s living room…no really, his living room), but his heart belongs to Crosley. Austin’s youthful dalliance with an NSU Sport Prinz is best considered a telling behavioral marker foreshadowing his lifelong blind love for anything Crosley.
Peering behind Austin’s unapologetic passion for vehicles born of Powell Crosley’s post-WWII foray into the automobile business reveals, as is often the case with curious behavior displayed in adulthood, a childhood experience.
As a 10-year old, Austin loved his father’s 1957 Chrysler. With giant fins, sleek visual dynamics, hemi power and a massive road presence, that Chrysler bristled with character cues that George Barris would later employ in creating Adam West’s iconic Batmobile. However, young Austin could not conceive of piloting that finned chrome behemoth. Boy and beast just did not connect. But then one day…
Young Austin laid eyes on a Crosley. In recollecting that first glimpse, Austin says, “As a kid I thought hot damn! This is a car I can relate to.” For young Austin here was a car built for him. It had little tiny wheels and tires on a kid scale chassis. He could imagine driving a car like this and working on a car like this.
Sporting a smile with roots in a child’s dream, Austin says, “Every time I see one, it takes me back to that joy experienced as a 10-year old.”
Restored in the early 1980s, Irv Gordon’s Hotshot was last driven in 1988. Austin finds the 4,700 mile odometer reading quite believable. Acknowledging the Crosley’s limited comfort, Austin says, “I doubt anyone could drive a Crosley much more than that.” Austin notes that when dealing with hills, the Hotshot’s 46 cu. in. 25.4 HP engine is incapable of breaking any posted speed limit.
Austin’s initial intention simply called for new tires and a fresh battery. However, the Covid-19 lockdown restricted his driving opportunities, severely limited his ability to register the car and expanded his free time. Thus, the Covid-19 pandemic while sparing Austin’s health infected Austin’s Hotshot project with the dreaded “Scope Creep.”
The famous slippery slope witnessed “new tires and a battery” drift into “maybe those kingpins seem a little sloppy’ to presently where the disassembled suspension and brake components litter the floor below the four jack stands that suspend the shoeless Hotshot like Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder in dry dock.
“It will be finished by June,” says Austin. As he lowers the garage door he looks back at the Crosley and flashes a smile that remains forever young.
Excellent writing and great story!
Thank you. I look forward to seeing the Hotshot on the road and seeing all of us together seeing the Hotshot on the road.
It will be exciting to see Bob bring Irv’s Hot Shot back to life!
Love it! What an Oasis for me! My mailbox is filled with long and arduous topics…I skipped them all and dove right into your blog. Just perfect for a day like this..with the sun peeking out and my E type + 911 coming back today.
Appreciate your comments. Those are two great cars to enjoy the better days that are coming.
Great articles, going all the back to the first about Mustangs. My first car was a 69 Mach 1. Would love to have back. Second car a Petty blue Roadrunner. Would love to have that back also. Just left now with a 64 vette and 55 T BIrd. Always love a good read from a good car guy! Keep ’em coming! Gynn Eller
Thank you. Its always pleasing to get good feedback from a great car guy. I’ll keep eyes open for for a good Mach 1.
I remember Irv talking about his Crosley fondly and so happy to see it found its new home with Bob!… as they say.. cars find you! Enjoy it Bob! Great Blog Burton and keep up the great stories and muses from all the fun adventures with the vehicles, the roads and especially the people!!!
It is a great community of car people out there. I am trying to share their stories.
Bob – When the Crosley is completed and I manage to get myself back to the east coast, I claim the shotgun seat for a nostalgia ride.
With the diminutive size of the Crosley, it will have to be a sawed-off shotgun
I have been a follower of Bob since reading his column in Hemming’s Sports & Exotic Cars. His remembrance of he and his father admiring a new MG TC on display brought back vivid memories of my own childhood..thanks Bob.
Bob indeed has a fine gift for story telling.