Last post on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:08 AM
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#1 of 56 1946-1954 American Cars
Apr 30, 2012 (8:26 am)
The 1946-1954 models are often characterized as pre-WWII carryovers, but this was only true for the '46 and '47 models. While '48-'54 was a period before the big styling in '55 and '57, there was lots of innovation during those years. For example, GM's introduction of new high compression, short stroke OHV engines in Olds and Cadillac, plus the '51 Chrysler hemi; torque converter automatic transmisssions by several manufacturers; pillorless hardtop styling; tail fins (for better or worse) on the '48 Cadillac; innovative new styling by each of the independents, including the '54 Kaiser Darrin; and several all-new post-war platforms.
I could go on, but my point is that this was an exciting period for domestic manufacturers. I invite you to add to the list and comment.
#2 of 56 Re: 1946-1954 American Cars [hpmctorque]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Apr 30, 2012 (9:41 am)
Many historians call 1955 the year of the first "modern postwar car" in the USA, but of course the '55s didn't just pop up out of nowhere.
What the 46-54 cars lacked most was progressive and vibrant styling that reflected the future, not the past, and it wouldn't have hurt to install 12V electrical systems earlier than 1955 and to get rid of flathead engines sooner than some of them did.
On the positive side, many fo the 46-54 cars were of high quality, especially the interiors and chrome work.
I wouldn't say that most of them are fun to drive, however. The V8 cars with power steering are of course the most roadworthy today.
Apr 30, 2012 (10:19 am)
The era of the grandpa car, buyers who bought many brands in 53-54 must have been pretty upset in 1955 when design jumped a decade.
A few highlights of the era come to mind...many 48+ Caddys, shoebox Fords, I like Ford glasstops, some Buicks are cool, any hardtop has interest, Briggs bodied Mopars were very sturdy. I don't care for many period Chevies, especially 53-54 models for some reason, boring looking.
#4 of 56 Re: . [fintail]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Apr 30, 2012 (10:44 am)
What we were seeing in the late 40s was the melting away of pontoon fenders and running boards, and the move to the "slab-sided" car with "3-box" styling. A 50s Ford would typify that and of course a '55 Chevy would be the defining moment.
Many 46-54 coupes are being rodded in modern times because they aren't worth restoring--so we're seeing them live on in another form---pretty neat.
The future for 46-54 4-door post cars seems a bit grim.
#5 of 56 Re: . [Mr_Shiftright]
Apr 30, 2012 (10:55 am)
I don't mind seeing common old cars rodded - as you say, keeps them alive. A common 52 Ford or something has no real historical value, it's just an old car. It'll rot and die if not put to some kind of use.
A guy in my building, around my age, had a 52-53-ish Buick sedan that I posted some time ago. The electrical system was giving him problems and it was really dull to drive, so he sold it off. Going to be tough to get young people into those cars, when they have no personal connection.
#6 of 56 Re: . [fintail]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Apr 30, 2012 (11:09 am)
it's going to be tough to get young people into ANY old car.
I get to drive a lot of old cars, and the mid to late 50s really do drive better in most cases. The only exception is the late 40s early 50s Hudsons. Those cars drive great (for their type I mean).
#7 of 56 Re: . [Mr_Shiftright]
Apr 30, 2012 (11:21 am)
The pre 1960 stuff especially. I think muscle cars and sports cars will always have some demand, and more flamboyant normal cars, but a lot of stuff will fade off.
I wish that would happen to Brighton-era veterans.
#8 of 56 Re: . [Mr_Shiftright]
Apr 30, 2012 (2:59 pm)
Yeah, Hudson introduced its "step-down" unibody for the '48 model year. Aside from the fact that it was porky weight-wise, it was handsome, innovative and road worthy.
And, you're right about the quality of the cars of this period; assembly line workers still had a depression era mentality, and union-management relations was less contentious than in later years. The U.S was a net exporter of cars, and American cars were prized the world over for their quality and other attributes. Of course, scarcity, the fact that our factories were remained intact, and our position in the world had a lot to do with Detroit's reputation and influence.
I would add that the size and proportions of American cars was more closely related to their functionality than after '54 (eg. Chrysler corp.'s "chair-height seats).
As for features, Chrysler introduced power-steering in '51, and A/C, introduced by Packard in the late '30s, became a more common option.
Getting back to new engines, Ford introduced its Y-blocks in '54 ('52 for Lincoln), and the '52 restylings were very attractive and modern for their day. The Y-blocks weren't the best example of engine design, but they were more efficient than the flatheads they replaced (the '54 Ford had exactly the same displacement as the '53 - 239 c.i. - but put out 130 hp vs 110). Buick introduced the Nailhead for '53.
Apr 30, 2012 (4:38 pm)
Almost forgot Studebaker's new OHV V8, introduced in the '51 model year. Quite an accomplishment for an independent!
#10 of 56 Re: . [fintail]
Apr 30, 2012 (5:25 pm)
The pre 1960 stuff especially
Maybe even pre 70 or 80. It is kind of hard to predict though because a lot of today's young generation don't seem all that much into cars. Although I've seen several driving around in old 60's metal. Rust and loss of discretionary income aren't helping the old car hobby either, except with the 1 percenters and they seem to gravitate to the high priced stuff that you seen in auctions on TV.