When 14-year-old Jackson Ross first laid eyes on the 1950 red Crosley Hotshot in December in Erie, Pennsylvania, it was love at first sight.
He knew it was going to be a long journey, with plenty of bumps along the way, before he could restore it to its former glory. The vehicle had been in storage in New York for a long time and needed a lot of work.
But Ross couldn’t wait to get started.
Crosleys were manufactured by the Crosley Corp. and later by Crosley Motors Inc. in the United States from 1939 to 1952.
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They were first assembled in Indiana, and the first Crosley was shown at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 1939. It was a two-door convertible weighing under 1,000 pounds and sold for $250.
The Crosley struggled to achieve sales success early on. In 1941, the company introduced different body styles, including a sedan, a station wagon and a panel truck.
During World War II, Crosleys became popular because of gasoline rationing and their good mileage, 50 miles to the gallon.
Crosley is responsible for introducing the term “sport utility” in 1948 and the first American sports car, the Hotshot, in 1949.
How exactly does a kid who’s not even old enough to have his driver’s license get his hands on such a car? Ross’s grandpa, Tim Hamblen, owner of Tim’s Trim Shop in Seymour, has fueled his interest in Crosleys his whole life and is serving as his mentor for the project.
Hamblen is a longtime member of the national Crosley Automobile Club, which has between 1,500 and 1,600 members, and owns four Crosleys himself. He has taken Ross to the national Crosley show since he was a little boy.
The family’s interest in Crosleys started when Hamblen first bought one off of a local car dealer.
“Jerry Edwards had bought a collection of cars, and there was one in it, and he didn’t want it, so I ended up buying it,” Hamblen said.
He compares his love of Crosleys to a drug addiction.
“You get one, then you got to have another one,” he said.
After writing and submitting an essay on his knowledge of the automobiles in November, Ross, an eighth-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour, was selected in a national search as the winner of the Crosley Automobile Club’s second Crosley Youth Project.
Ross said he was excited when he found out he had won and was surprised because he doesn’t think he’s very good at writing essays.
The program awards a restorable Crosley, this one donated by club member Bob Rogers, to a young person to promote the hobby of restoring antique cars to a younger generation, said club President David Anspaugh.
Although he hasn’t had the opportunity to work on any of Hamblen’s Crosleys, Ross said he is learning a lot now and has gained a greater appreciation for restoration work and the Crosley model.
“I’m learning how to do the upholstery, how tight you have to have the bolts in the motor,” he said.
After driving to Erie, Pennsylvania, where they picked up the car, Ross and Hamblen got it back to Hamblen’s shop, completely stripped it down and began the process of putting it back together, making needed repairs along the way.
“We got the body off, the motor out, all that stuff,” Hamblen said. “The goal was to get it back just in primer, but we aren’t going to paint it until later, maybe late this summer.”
Ross, now 15, has been involved with every step of restoration, including welding, which he found out he’s pretty good at and really enjoys doing. He’s planning to attend Trinity Lutheran High School in the fall and is looking forward to joining the school’s new car club.
“They are old cars, and I just like old cars,” Ross said of his interest in Crosleys. “Most old cars are heavy, but this one is really light.”
In the past four months, Ross and Hamblen have received support and assistance from the Crosley Automobile Club and its members, who have donated parts, supplies and technical knowledge to help in the restoration process.
“It’s been an interesting project,” Hamblen said.
Ross spends time after school working on the car at Hamblen’s shop, where the Crosley is stored, and he’s interested in auto mechanics as a career.
He enjoys working on the motor the most, he said.
“He’s more of a mechanical mind,” Hamblen said. “I’m hoping he takes over the shop someday.”
Because Hamblen is getting busier in his shop and Ross has a lot of end-of-school-year activities coming up, the two are planning on taking a break on the project for a while.
As part of winning the contest, Ross must write quarterly reports about the restoration process for the club’s magazine, “The Crosley Quarterly.” He also will be attending the annual Crosley show with Hamblen in Ohio in July, where he will show off the work he has done. By that time, he will have his learner’s permit and will be able to drive the car with his grandpa riding with him.
Once Ross has finished restoring the car to the satisfaction of the club, he will receive the title and will officially own his first car.
Hamblen only knows of one other Crosley around town other than his.
“There’s not many of these cars in Seymour,” Ross said.