Crosley Farm-O-Road

Car of the Day #59: 1950 Crosley Farm-O-Road

Crosley Farm-O-Road

I’ve been thinking about the act of pushing a button.

Buttons don’t exist in nature. Pressing a button is nearly a universally understood action that we’ve created in order to manipulate devices of all sorts, from the first pushbutton radios to the adaptive software button facsimiles that control our touchscreens today. 

We’re just now beginning to understand that pressing something in a virtual sense works just as well in a physical sense… maybe even better when software is making it all click. Hold that thought.

“Twice the speed of a race horse” – Crosley advertising

Back to the radio. As far as “content” was concerned, back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, you could be on TV, radio, or in the newspaper. That’s it.

We now know that changing how we manipulate a device can completely transform it from loathed to loved — prime example was the original iPhone keynote where Steve Jobs made a point of highlighting how cumbersome it was to make a call on a then-current cell phone.

The Crosley Brothers, Powel and Lewis, understood that too.

Adding pushbuttons to a tabletop radio may seem quaint now, or even obvious, but by adding buttons on their low-cost and wildly popular radios, the Crosleys helped to introduce and popularize control surfaces – the humble button – still in servitude to us today.

Side note: Crosley made cars, too, even winning the first 12H of Sebring.

One of my favourite Crosley models is essentially what we'd refer to as a side-by-side ATV today, the Farm-O-Road. When it was introduced in 1950, the United States had a large rural population, with farmers operating much more independently than they do now.

With smaller farms and smaller crops, there was little need for the gigantic tractors and other farm equipment that farms now use.

Aimed at the rural market, the Farm-O-Road was a dual purpose machine equally at home working the land as it was popping into town for groceries, or bringing goods to market. At just 2,324 mm (7.6 ft) long, it rode on tiny 12-inch wheels—sometimes optioned with dual rear wheels!

These were used for traction off-road, but weren’t the only tool a driver had at their disposal. Two gear ranges (with a total of six forward speeds); “Finger-touch” hydraulic power take-off for a range of accessories like ploughs, rakes, and mowers; and the rear was easily configurable into either a truck or some extra jump seats.

A top speed of, at most, 80 km/h (50 mph) wouldn't get you into town very quickly, even though owners had the world’s first mass production overhead cam engine at their disposal. It has 4-cylinders, it has 724cc (44ci), and it punches out 26.5 horsepower. Code name? COBRA. COpper BRAised.

Maybe this snake just hatched? Cobra Baby is marketable, people!

Farm-O-Road would be the perfect companion to minimalists who live in tiny houses these days, but Crosley was too far ahead of time to make it work—approximately 600 were sold in total. 

It reappeared as the even more rare Crofton Bug and Crofton Brawny Bug, of which about 200 were made, with production wrapping up in the early 1960s.

This vehicle has no touchscreen, but it can help to plant whole damn crops. As far as buttons go, the gift of life is a powerful one to push.

Mark my words: if I someday end up with enough property, I'll be sure to add a Farm-O-Road to my stable. Yee-haw! 🤠


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam L., Wiley H.