"something of an extraordinary nature will turn up..."

Mr. Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield

Kit Foster's



December 17th, 2009

The Jackrabbit

Who among us hasn’t wanted to build his own car at one time or another. Most of us have only thought about it. My cousin Tom is one of the few who actually did it, at least part way. When Tom was in his early teens he bought a Crosley two-door sedan (like this one). He managed to get it running, but rather quickly became bored, so he took the body off. For a while he drove the naked chassis around in the fields and woods near his home.Then things got adventurous, as Tom learned to weld.

The two-seat body-less Crosley became a monoposto machine, with the engine and rear axle mounted on a sprung subframe. Then he happened upon the rear axle from a 1950 Dodge, so he designed a tubular frame that would accept the Dodge rear and the much narrower Crosley front axle. It was made up out of threaded steel pipe, screwed together and welded at the joints.

Then he purchased a worn-out 1935 Ford, like our old Mommycar. The Ford’s V8 was transplanted into this new car, overwhelming the Crosley front suspension, so the Ford front axle and wishbone were adapted. About the only Crosley parts that remained were the steering wheel and the seats; its engine was relegated to running the arc welder.

He called it the Jackrabbit, not to pay homage to the Apperson car by that name but to describe its demeanor. With virtually no weight, the engine was basically pulling itself, and the car fair bounded over hill and dale. The brakes were two-wheel hydraulics, operated with a hand lever, and the shift lever was relocated to the rearward cockpit with a parallelogram linkage.

I helped him with some of the welding, here in October 1956. After a time, Tom tired of the Jackrabbit and sold it to his younger brother Dennis. Tom’s later projects included a Benson gyrocopter and a Bradley GT, both from kits. He went on to found his own computer company.

There were many such home-built cars created in the 1950s. Some of the more sophisticated ones were given fiberglass bodies, a good medium for one-offs and small lot production. Geoff Hacker, a guru of fiberglass cars has an awesome website devoted to them.

The Jackrabbit was eventually scrapped, never having had a body. One wonders what it might have looked like clothed in fiberglass. One impediment to making it street legal would have been the position of seating relative to the engine, making forward vision difficult. At the very least, a lower radiator would have been required.

Serendipity: n. An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
“They were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Horace Walpole, The Three Princes of Serendip
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