1950 Skorpion Bodied Crosley
Car People! You’re driving through the neighborhood you may have lived in for dozens of years and you spy the corner of an old car under a bunch of Christmas decorations, a vintage bedspread, and a napping cat. It’s a head snapper followed by a power slide and a polite case of stalking. How in the world did I not know that there was an original unrestored ’36 Ford 4 Door Sedan on 4 flat bias-ply’s in a garage that I have travelled past over 1,000 times in 15 years. This example happened to me and it’s why I know there are old cars tucked away in suburbia and this post is about another example. Only the cats really know the treasures and where they lie. That’s Oscar dozing on the ’55 knowing I won’t shoo him off in order to preserve my cover and some clear coat.
I attended a fundraiser for Teen Challenge and this included a bouncy house, good cheap grub, and a 5 car show. The organization is doing good work and I worked with a guy named Robert that graduated from their program. Inspired, humbled, grateful, and entertained was I. Look them up and consider them as a charity you could support.
Meanwhile back at the Church there sat a 1984 Excalibur, a 1918-1920 Model T truck, a little black fiberglass open top micro machine with Crosley hubcaps, a ’30 Model A truck, and a green 55 Chevy. When was the last time you saw one Chevy at a car show?
The little Skorpion turned out to be an extremely rare car and the numbers I am finding in my research are impressive. 28 kits were shipped in 1950 to customers and here sat one that was purchased and built by the 86 yr. old man in front of me – in 1951. 1 owner in 65 years, 28 shipped, driven from the East Coast to California, and lovingly enjoyed ever since. The road trip is a blog post…the Skorpion build is another…..
Here’s a tidbit of what I found so far……
“1950 was an exciting year for Jack Wills and his friend of 8 years, Ralph Roberts. Together, they had been involved with fiberglass since its inception, and had experimented with a fiberglass body shell on a Crosley chassis with a motorcycle engine. This project called the Wasp, led them to finally hit upon a workable idea: manufacture a fiberglass body that could be adapted to the same chassis but with Crosley running gear.” “Jack on the other hand had been working with plastics since 1936. He built everything from ornamental dogs to full size hulls for boats. He was one of the first to recognize the possibilities of fiberglass.”
“Roberts, a designer, went to work for Le Baron in 1921. In the next twenty years he became the top man with that famous custom body firm and also chief of the styling section for the Briggs Corporation in Detroit. The Chrysler Thunderbolt was one of his designs, and classic fans are familiar with his work on both the Packard 12 and the Chrysler Custom Imperial.”
Hence the Skorpion. While the bulk of the units produced were in kit form, the two men did build four complete cars, which puts them in the same league as I many other sports cars produced at that time. The fiberglass body consisted of four large parts along with a few small ones. Body components were designed to fit a modified Crosley chassis. The cars could be produced from standard Crosley running gear, but could also be made using components from the “Hot Shot” model, the fast and agile sports car Crosley produced. In fact, the little “Hot Shot” had grown so popular among the sports car set that speed equipment was abundantly available for that Crosley motor. The car was very agile and could attain speeds of upwards of 90 MPH!
Jack went on to become a noted authority on fiberglass and wrote a book on the subject, Glass Fiber, auto body construction simplified, which was used as a primer for most up and coming people in the field.
FREDERICK J. ROTH
Copyright June 2003
The little Skorpion and the proud owner as we stood and listened to the stories. Oh and “ornamental dogs” was not a typo.