Green’s Dictionary of Slang

crate n.

[SE crate, a container; all descriptions of animals/vehicles carry a taint of inferiority and/or the possibility of a physical or mechanical breakdown]

1. (US) an old or worthless horse.

[US]‘Mark Twain’ Innocents Abroad 155: We were to select our horses at 3 P.M. At that hour, Abraham, the dragoman, marshaled them before us [...] Blucher shook his head and said: ‘That dragon is going to get himself into trouble fetching those old crates out of the hospital the way they are.’.
[US] in DARE.

2. an aeroplane.

[UK]Hall & Niles One Man’s War (1929) diary note 22 Jan. 290: Those beautiful flying box-cars – those unmanageable crates!
[UK](con. 1915) Hall & Niles One Man’s War 119: The old ‘crates’ we flew at that training school would give any self-respecting pilot the willies.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 6 June [synd. col.] Bogart Rogers [...] forwards these bits of aviation slang: A plane is always a crate, a bus or a ship.
[UK] ‘Rows & Rows & Rows’ in C.H. Ward-Jackson Airman’s Song Book (1945) 139: From the Nile to Singapore we’ve left our empty crates.
[US]J. Michener Bridges at Toko-Ri 58: I’m not going to get this crate out of Korea.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 128/2: crate n. Any automobile, truck, bus, airplane, or even a ship.
[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 174: Can’t that crate be repaired?
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 219: Do you think I don’t know how to fly this fucking crate?
[UK]Viz Oct./Nov. 47: Right...let’s see what this crate can do!
[UK]Guardian G2 22 Aug. 19: You know there’s more to being a pilot than simply lugging these crates across the pond!
[SA]Sun. Times (S. Afr.) Travel 27 Jan. 3: A laconic Alaskan bush pilot who banged the crate down into the 12-foot high grass covering the runway.

3. (US Und.) a (wall) safe.

[US]Hostetter & Beesley It’s a Racket! 222: CRATE — A safe, or wall-box.

4. an automobile.

[US]W.R. Morse ‘Stanford Expressions’ in AS II:6 276: crate — an old Ford.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Spanish Blood’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 21: This your crate?
[US]J.K. Butler ‘Saint in Silver’ in Goulart (1967) 62: How long’s this beautiful crate been parked here?
[US](con. 1938) C. Chessman Cell 2455 102: Where’d ya get this crate, clout it?
[UK]H.E. Bates When the Green Woods Laugh (1985) 236: ‘I see you too have a Rolls,’ Mrs Jerebohm said. ‘Oh! that old crate. That’s a laugh.’.
[US]San Diego Sailor 78: Bud hopped out and [...] I parked the crate.
[Can]R. Caron Go-Boy! 301: Can’t find reverse on this fuckin’ crate!
A. Robinson Dick and Jane 65: We toodalooed Steir at Duane Street and hopped into the sleuth’s crate.
[UK]J. Baker Walking With Ghosts (2000) 70: I never expect it to start. This must be the oldest crate in the universe.
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.

5. (US) a coffin; thus crated adj., in a coffin.

[US]R. McAlmon in Silk Stockings (1963) 53: I thought I was going home in a crate.
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Big Jeff’ in Short Stories (1937) 52: The gravediggers cursed all holy hell when they lowered his crated body.
[US]L. Pound ‘American Euphemisms for Dying’ in AS XI:3 201: Crate.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 128/2: crate n. A coffin.
Pensacola News Jrnl (FL) 2 June D1/5: It has been tagged as a crate, a bone-box, an oak overcoat, a six-foot bungalow, a shell. Chicago gangland mentioned it [...] as a wooden kimono.

6. (US tramp/Und.) a prison.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 128/2: crate n. A jail.

7. a boat.

[US]N.Y. Herald Trib. 31 Dec. 14/4: The Coast Guard orders a fleet of faster boats. [...] The rum mob takes the specifications to a Brooklyn man and says, ‘Make us a crate that’s ten miles faster than these’.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 128/2: crate n. Any automobile, truck, bus, airplane, or even a ship.

8. a lorry; a bus.

[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 428: The bus was out of sight. ‘Boy, they really ramble in them big crates.’.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 128/2: crate n. Any automobile, truck, bus, airplane, or even a ship.
[UK]‘Hergé’ Tintin and the Picaros 59: Put my foot down? ... With this crate?

9. a railway hand car.

[UK]I. Fleming Diamonds Are Forever (1958) 145: First thing is to get this crate to Rhyolite.

10. a tank.

[US]T. Anderson Your Own Beloved Sons 219: Get this crate moving!

11. (Aus.) a bicycle.

[Aus]T. Winton That Eye, The Sky 69: He [...] came back riding an old yellow bike, a crappy old crate with a girl’s carry basket on the front.

In phrases