By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

Forget the Smart Car, the Geo Metro and the Chevette, because Crosley perfected the small car in America decades earlier. Getting its start in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1939, Crosley built fantastic compact sedans, wagons and trucks with quirky styling. All Crosley’s cars employed body-on-frame construction with simple suspension systems and seriously light weight — 1,100 to 1,400 pounds across all models.

While the Crosley was impressively frugal, 30 hp didn’t get anyone around very quickly. Enter then, your enterprising hot rodder of the 1950s with the classic tools of the trade, and you get this Crosley-derived sports racer.

The most dramatic part of the 1952 Crosley’s transformation started in ’57, when its owner removed the sheet metal bodywork in favor of an aftermarket fiberglass body from Almquist Engineering. As one of the throngs of fiberglass companies to emerge in the 1950s, Almquist added fiberglass bodies to its speed parts line by purchasing the troubled Clearfield Plastics company.

Early on, Almquist specialized in small cars, including Crosley, Fiat and Morris, but later expanded its line to larger 100-plus-inch wheelbases. While installing an Almquist body required higher-than-average skill levels (like many body kits of the time), their products were high quality and included various steel reinforcements throughout the bodywork. Offerings included small roadsters including the Saber I and II, the Speedster I and II, and even a ’32 Ford-style roadster and larger El Morocco sedan. Owner Ed Almquist sold the company in 1966, believing that the fiberglass body market was waning in the U.S.

The body used in this build is one of Almquist’s early models, the Saber I, which features a sleek grille opening, bobbed tail and raked front fenders. The later design element not only created a dramatic visual statement, but would also allow flow more fresh air to the front brakes in theory.

But subtracting weight was just one tool in the early hot rodding handbook, and you can’t call it hot rodding without adding some serious power under the hood. For that, the builder removed the Crosley’s four-cylinder engine in favor of a tried-and-true Ford Flathead V8. It’s impossible to know the actual timeline, but the ’39 model Ford has since been modified with a host of speed parts, including a Ken Austin 3x2 intake with Stromberg carburetors, Edelbrock racing pistons, Clay Smith M3 camshaft, Offenhauser heads and a .030 overbore.

The engine bay is a real treat for the eyes, rich with vintage hot rod flavor, with wild coolant-system routing and various treasures in cast aluminum. Interestingly, the seller relays that the engine exhales through a pair of modified ’48 Midget manifolds into a pair of tapered ’36 Ford driveshafts serving as sidepipes. Imagine the exhaust note!

Today, the Flathead puts its power down through a close-ratio, four-speed transmission from a Ford Mustang Cobra II, into a Ford 8-inch rear end. Extensive work has been done in more recent years to perfect the suspension and brakes, including revised suspension arms and geometry and the installation of front disc brakes from a Datsun B210.

Raced from 1957 to 2013, this Almquist-Crosley special has decades of modifications, development and competition under its belt. This car has to be a real feast for the senses, but moreover a real terror to drive! The seller hasn’t listed a name for the car in the ad, but my write-in is the Big Cojones Special.

In all seriousness, this is an awesome vintage racer with unending charm. The car presents really well, but there’s definitely some attention required here and there after years on the track. For the right money, this car is a great vintage racer, and a real attention-getter at concours and vintage racing events.

There isn't a price listed here in the seller's eBay ad or the dealer’s website, but this car surely represents great value for money. For interested parties, here’s some past sales we were able to dig up:

Sold at no reserve at Mecum Indy 2019 — $10,450

No sale at auction on Bringatrailer.com 1/25/18 — $9,500