Brothers was set up in 1867 by Francis (1839 - 1897) and William (Sir William from 1909) (1844 - 1911) when Francis, with help from his uncle, bought the engineering business of John M Dunlop at Great Marlborough Street in Manchester city centre manufacturing pumps, presses and small steam engines. William joined him shortly after the purchase. The company name was initially changed to Crossley Brothers and Dunlop. Each of the brothers had served engineering apprenticeships, Francis, known as Frank, at Robert Stephenson and William at W G Armstrongs, both in Newcastle upon Tyne. William concentrated on the business side with Frank providing engineering expertise.
Although Crossley's origins date back to the 19th century when Sir William Crossley acquired world rights (excluding Germany) from Nicolas August Otto to develop his newly invented four-stroke gas engine of 1869, the company did not enter the truck market until 1932. Prior to that it specialized in engine manufacture and, from 1912, in military vehicles. In 1932 a range of forward-control diesel trucks for payloads of 3 to 7 tons was introduced. Three years later came their Atlas forward-control model, including a double-drive six-wheeler for 12 tons. Their brief presence in the civilian market was brought to an end at the outbreak of war in 1939. During World War II a 4x4 forward-control 3-ton truck, the Q type, was supplied in large numbers to the RAE No further trucks were built and the company was absorbed, along with the Maudslay
Motor Company, into Associated Commercial Vehicles in 1948. ACV marketed certain AEC vehicles under the Crossley name in some export markets through to the late 1950s.