Crosley Pup Weighed Half as Much as a Jeep

Ever wanted a mini-Jeep? Well you’re in luck, because American businessman and inventor created just that in the 1940s, to be dropped out an aircraft. It weighed less than half the weight of the Willys Jeep, and you’d be forgiven for think it is a kid’s toy.

The vehicle, named the Pup, was engineered to be cheap and light, even featuring canvas mudguards and a vinyl windscreen.



The Crosley Pup is the brain child of Powel Crosley Jr., an American industrialist who made significant contributions to various industries before venturing into automotive manufacturing. Born in 1886, Crosley’s career was marked by a series of successful ventures, notably in radio and consumer appliances, where he revolutionized market accessibility by offering affordable products to the average American household.

His entry into the automotive industry in the late 1930s was driven by his goal for affordability and accessibility that characterized his earlier successes.

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Crosley’s automotive career began when the market was dominated by large, luxurious vehicles that were out of reach for the average consumer. Crosley aimed to produce vehicles that were economical, both in terms of initial purchase price and ongoing operating costs.

1939 Crosley convertible.
A 1939 Crosley convertible. Image by dave_7 CC BY 2.0.

However, despite it being one of his greatest ambitions, Crosley was never able to break into the automobile market. Instead, he found much success in automotive accessories, which he supplied to dealers.

But when the Second World War came around, and the US was ramping up production of vehicles and equipment, Crosley saw an opportunity to give his automotive dreams another go.

Crosley’s automobile portion of the company began working on vehicles that they hoped the US would award contracts for. They were all characterised by their unusual, outside the box designs that ranged from small off roaders to mechanical dog sleds.

Crosley Snow Tractor.
The Crosley Snow Tractor, meant for pulling cargo across snow. Image by JOHN LLOYD CC BY 2.0.

The most well known of these was the Pup, a miniature “Jeep”-type vehicle that was proposed to the US in 1942. This vehicle was made in response to a military requirement for an air-portable jeep to accompany paratroopers. The Willys Jeep was too large to fit in paratrooper cargo aircraft of the day, so a much smaller vehicle was needed.

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A number of manufacturers, including Chevrolet and Willys, submitted designs. But it was the Pup that came closest to being produced.

Crosley Pup and driver.
The Pup is one of Crosley’s most famous Second World War creations.

The Pup

Designed and developed in the early 1940s, the Crosley CT-3, better known as the Pup, was aimed at becoming a nimble truck that could be transported inside a C-47 aircraft.

It was designed to be minimalist yet effective, stripping away any non-essential features that could compromise its performance or reliability in the field, or too bulky for air transport. It followed a similar design layout to the famous Jeep, but was much smaller and lacked many “unnecessary” features.

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Underneath, the Pup’s chassis was taken from one of Crosley’s automobiles, and paired with a simplistic, squared body that comprised of a hood, single piece windscreen, and an open cargo and passenger compartment.

Pup next to Model 666.
The Pup was TINY!

The dash was very basic, and inside there was only accommodations made for a driver and one passenger. Perhaps its most striking feature is the canvas fenders. These pieces of bodywork, which are typically metal on other vehicles, were made from fabric to reduce weight. This meant they were easily replaceable if they were damaged. The windscreen was made from a single sheet of vinyl.

Under the short hood was a 637 cc (38.9 cu in), two cylinder air cooled Waukesha Model 150 Twin Cub boxer engine. This 12 hp engine was extremely compact, and had been used in Crosley’s pre-war civilian vehicles.

Pup in C-47.
The Pup inside a C-47’s cargo hold.

Interestingly, the Model 150 had originally been designed for orchard sprayers. During the Second World War, they found use in powering the winches for barrage balloons.

It was connected to a three speed manual gearbox. A low range set of gears were available too. The interior, if you can call it that, was extremely basic and looked a lot like a children’s toy. Due to limited space, the passenger had to sit in the back. All in, the Pup weighed just 510 kg (1,125 lbs). This was half the weight of a Willy’s Jeep.

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The Pup underwent testing by the military in 1942 and 1943, and actually impressed to begin with. 36 Pups were ordered, including prototypes, but that would be the extent of their production.

A number of weaknesses were found in the design, including being too small and having delicate components. There are some reports that 6 were sent to Europe, and, at least for a time, were intended to be used in action by paratroopers.

Crosley Pup at car show.
The Pup was fittingly delicate for a military vehicle. Image by JOHN LLOYD CC BY 2.0.

However the Pup never saw action, and it never entered service. Like many other projects, it was simply easier to use or adapt the Jeep, as it was already in production and its users were very familiar with it. Adding another vehicle would create additional burden on the Allies’ logistical system.

Today a number of Pups still exist, in museums and private collections. As only 36 were built, they are very rare indeed.

Other Strange Crosley Vehicles

The Pup wasn’t Crosley’s only Second World War vehicle, however. The company also produced some strange tracked designs. These focused on utility roles for the transport of supplies over harsh terrain.

The Mule was a single-seat, fully tracked cargo vehicle that was also powered by the Model 150 engine used in the Pup. The driver sat at the front, and behind him was a small cargo bed. It was meant for moving supplies around off road or in snow. It could be rigged up to a tracked trailer for even more capacity.

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Crosley Mule.
Crosley Mule cargo tractor.

Like the Pup, it wasn’t successful. Next was the Duck, which was an awesome-looking amphibious cargo transporter based on the Mule. A boat-shaped hull was added above the fully-tracked chassis to displace enough water for it to float.

In the center of the Duck was a wheel for steering, and the machine had room for passengers or cargo. Crosley himself tested the design, floating it across the Ohio River in front of the public.

One of the weirdest of Crosley’s creations was the Snow Tractor. A wide track circled around an engine, with two handles at the rear like a wheel barrow.

Crosley Duck.
Crosley Duck, driven by Crosley.

A number of these vehicles were made. It was meant to be hooked up with a cargo load and pull it through snow, like a mechanical dog sled.

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Crosley made Motorbikes and trikes too. The bike is very interesting as it is shaft driven, and fitted with a reverse gear. Its rear mud guard doubled as a fuel tank for the engine, which was the same Model 150 found in Crosley’s other machines.

Crosley Bike.
The shaft-driven motorbike. Image by JOHN LLOYD CC BY 2.0.

Crosley’s proposals were creative, and often met with praise, but none would ever enter service. It was not all bad though, as Crosley saw plenty of success as a manufacturer for the military. The company would manufacture kitchens, components bomber gun turrets, and even the highly secretive proximity fuse.