- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sandra Alger was 6 years old when her favorite uncle, Arvel Moyers, sprang a 950-pound surprise on her.

Mr. Moyers operated an Esso gasoline station in Harrisonburg, Va., during World War II and with gasoline rationing cutting into his income he dabbled in used cars on the side. One car he never seemed to get rid of was a 1941 Crosley convertible.

Every time his niece and her mother would come to visit, he would fire up the two-cylinder, air-cooled Waukesha engine in the Crosley and drive his niece around town. She thought it was great because it wasn’t as big as most cars on the road. Bumper to bumper it is only 9 feet, 8 inches long.

In 1947 he surprised her by saying, “This is your car.” Of course her parents had no intention of allowing a 6-year-old girl to have a car. Uncle Arvel kept it for her.

A decade passed and she had a driver’s license and a boyfriend and was attending high school in Elkton. One day she mentioned that her uncle had given her a car which lit up her boyfriend’s eyes. “If he gave it to you, go get it,” he advised.

During the next trip to Harrisonburg, she asked her uncle for her car and was halfway surprised when he actually gave it to her. Soon thereafter Mrs. Alger and her Crosley moved to Arlington.

“It’s a fun little car,” she says. Research has shown her that the 135-pound, 40-cubic-inch engine is lubricated by three quarts of oil and a tiny oil-bath air cleaner catches most of the dirt before it can enter the 12-horsepower engine. Eventually the six-gallon gasoline tank started leaking, so Mrs. Alger had it replaced with one made of fiberglass.

The 975-pound convertible rides on an 80-inch wheelbase supported by 4.25x12-inch tires. The diminutive car features as standard equipment two headlights (bulbs and reflectors), one combination taillight/stoplight and an instrument panel light. The driver seated behind the three-spoke steering wheel can clearly see the 60-mph speedometer, although no one has ever seen the speedometer needle come close to 60 mph.

The three-position seat is adjusted by removing a bolt from one of the three holes in the frame of the seat and inserting it into one of the two other holes.

There is a one-piece windshield and each door has two sliding windows fore and aft, which helps add a couple of inches of hip room for the front-seat occupants. Back-seat occupants are protected by side curtains with plastic windows when the top is in place. It is secured by 11 snaps across the top of the windshield frame and 13 more snaps attach the two side curtains to the fabric top. If the driver observes rain clouds forming, it is prudent to find a bridge to hide under rather then stop and attempt to raise the top and attach the side curtains.

The spare tire is attached to the rear of the car to the right of the taillight/stoplight right above the gasoline tank. Removing the gas cap reveals a dipstick attached to the cap. That is the gas gauge. If it’s wet, you’re good to go.

About 1970 Mrs. Alger had the top and side curtains replaced and at the same time had her Crosley repainted in the original color. That seemed to be an ideal time to replace the red vinyl upholstery. Usually Mrs. Alger only displays her Crosley in local car shows or in local parades but in the early 1980s she trailered her prize to a national Crosley meet in Ohio.

The prewar Crosley was introduced as economical and dependable. The Crosley was offer in the following five models:• Two-door sedan — $390• DeLuxe two-door sedan —$400• Convertible coupe— $339• Covered wagon — $441• Wagon — $496. Only 2,289 of the 1941 convertibles were built and they were advertised as being “roomy and comfortable.” They were touted as seating up to four persons with a top that operates in a “jiffy.”

Promotional material from 65 years ago indicates that Powell Crosley may have been ahead of his time.

He boasted that his car could be parked in one-third the space of a typical car and with a single-barrel Tillotson carburetor could deliver 50 miles per gallon easily.

Mr. Crosley may have been a man ahead of his time but all Mrs. Alger cares about is giving her grandchildren a good time with rides in her Crosley convertible.

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