The Crosslé Car Company was founded in 1957 when John Crosslé, a former champion motor cyclist, built his first racing car. The Crosslé Mk 1, and the following Mk 11 and Mk 111 - all 1172cc Ford Specials - won the majority of their races, and there was no shortage of potential purchasers for John’s fast machinery at the end of each season. John Crosslé’s attention to detail and value for money ideals, coupled with innovative design and sensible construction, soon led to a rapidly expanding company.
During the 1960s the Crosslé Car Company produced European Formula Junior, American Formula B and Formula C cars, and Sports Racing cars. In 1968 a Crosslé 12F won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Formula B Championship.
1969 saw the creation of John’s first Formula Ford – the legendary 16F – in which Gerry Birrell won the European Formula Ford Championship.
In addition to numerous successes at home, in 1970 a Crosslé 19F set the first 100mph lap at Aintree Circuit and in 1972 a Crosslé 25F (John’s favourite model!) set a new lap record at the Formula Ford World Cup at Brands Hatch. A Crosslé 31F won the first British Formula Ford 2000 Championship in 1975, and in 1976 a Crosslé 30F won the SCCA Formula Ford Championship at Road Atlanta.
These successes and the growth of Formula Ford internationally led to increased production at the Crosslé factory in Holywood, County Down. By the late 1970s over 100 cars a year were being produced, with exports forming 81% of sales.
Crosslé’s Formula Fords have been the popular choice of racing schools worldwide, because of their strength and quality of construction. Thousands of young hopefuls have had their first motor racing experience in a Crosslé, including such famous names as Nigel Mansell, Eddie Irvine and John Watson.
1991 saw the Crosslé Car Company take a dramatic change of direction in design terms when John Crosslé developed the 80T, the company’s first Sporting Trials car. This innovative design has dominated the sport since its debut and the 80T’s success has seen a resurgence in this branch of the sport both locally and nationally. Arnie Black, who had been responsible for many Crosslé successes in Formula Ford 1600, Formula Ford 2000 and Historic racing, took over the company on John Crosslé’s retirement in 1997. He developed the sales of the ‘late run’ 9S Sports Racing car – widely regarded as one of the most beautiful sports racing cars ever built.
The 9S was originally designed in 1966 to contest the European International 2 litre Group 6 Championship and the ‘new’ version is built on the original 1960s’ jigs with a design modification to allow the use of the modern Ford Zetec 2 litre engine. The 9S continues the Crosslé tradition of building strong, well constructed cars and it has enjoyed huge success across Europe.
The Crosslé Car Company, now in its fifty-fifth year of continuous production, is certainly the longest surviving customer racing car constructor in the UK.