A lesser-known name in automotive history is the Crofton Bug, a pint-sized off-road vehicle that was smaller and more simply made than a Jeep but was capable of tackling any type of terrain. But we cannot talk about Crofton without mentioning a few words about Crosley, another obscure name in the car world.
Crosley was a small American manufacturer of affordable cars for the masses that started operations in 1939 and disappeared after just eleven model years. Between 1939 and 1952, the company produced various car models, from sedans and convertibles to pickups and even a sporty two-seater.
More importantly, Crosley was an innovator, being decades ahead of its time. The automaker was the first to introduce a mass-market vehicle equipped with an overhead camshaft engine and a leader in braking technology, fitting its vehicles with 4-wheel disc brakes. The company is also guilty of developing the first post-WWII sports car, the Crosley Hotshot, and using for the first time the term "Sport(s) Utility," indicating the birth of a new vehicle category.
When the company went defunct in 1952, a San Diego GMC dealer by the name of W.B. Crofton bought the rights to the Crosley overhead camshaft engine as well as the Farm-O-Road design, a tiny Jeep-like utility vehicle introduced in 1950. The successful dealer set out to build a successor to the Crosley Farm-O-Road, and that's how the Crofton Bug was born.
The Crofton Bug utility vehicle can be considered, in many respects, one of the first ATVs. Just like the Crosley it is based on, it was designed as a small and lightweight all-terrain vehicle for farmers, hunters, and gamekeepers, and many see it as a predecessor of the modern side-by-side vehicle. Its diminutive size and agricultural/industrial uses make it quite similar to modern-day Polaris SSV/ATVs.
Just around 200 units of the Crofton Bug were produced between 1958 and 1964, and fewer than 100 are known to still be in existence, which makes them quite rare.
It uses the original body-on-frame construction and features rear-wheel drive. Moreover, the Crofton Bug is a very light utility vehicle. It is 1,000 pounds (454 kg) lighter than the Willys Jeep CJ-2, a similar vehicle it could compete against back when it was launched. It is also significantly narrower, which allows it to access smaller trails that other compact vehicles could not venture on.
Its lightness and open design meant that if it ever got bogged down, it was literally possible to jump out and try to get it unstuck from the mud by simply pushing it.
In the front, there are also quite simple controls - a steering wheel, the manual gear lever, and three pedals. A rather optimistic 120 mph speedometer is also part of the minimalist dashboard.
This rare 1960 Crofton Bug is scheduled to roll across the auction block this week. Though details about it are very scarce, we do know this particular example is powered by a correct 44 cubic inch 721cc Crosley inline four-cylinder engine that should produce 45 hp (46 ps). The mill, which was relatively advanced for its time, is mated to the Crosley three-speed manual transmission sending power to the live axle rear wheels.
If this collectible utility vehicle piqued your interest, know that it only has 15 miles on the odometer and is offered with a price guide of $10,000 – $15,000 USD.