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1946-1954 American Cars

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
edited April 2012 in General
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.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    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.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    edited April 2012
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    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. :(
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    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).
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    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.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    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.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Almost forgot Studebaker's new OHV V8, introduced in the '51 model year. Quite an accomplishment for an independent!
  • berriberri Posts: 9,873
    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.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    How abour a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado or a 1953 Buick Skylark? Nothing boring about those two! 1948-54 Oldsmobiles were darlings in the stock car circuit.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    edited May 2012
    I think the old car hobby has peaked. This is as good as it's going to get.

    Having kept its industrial base intact after WW II was a 2-edged sword for America. On the one hand, it allowed us to dominate the global automobile market (as the UK once did), but on the other hand it kept us in a kind of technological rut in terms of engine design.

    The engines of the 40s and 50s and even early 60s were really not much different from those of the 1920s. Any 1920s mechanic could have worked on them. Engine refinement was a matter of degree, not type.

    They were big and powerful but not very efficient.

    But of course you needed big honkin' engines to drive big honkin' cars with those new gadgets such as AC and power steering and automatic transmissions.

    I think America's approach to car building in the late 40s and early 50s was similar to their approach to building weapons of war---keep 'em simple and rugged and well-built, and when they break, just throw them away and build another.

    Another thing that drove car design through the 1950s was a distaste for nostalgia. Americans wanted the future---jet aircraft, outer space---the concept of "retro" was not well regarded, or well rewarded.

    Any company that clung to the past was making a huge mistake.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    I think there will always be some demand for fun cars - muscle, ponycars, etc, but yeah, something like a 69 Caprice sedan is probably at about the high point of its desirability, if not past already.

    Once the boomers are unable to drive, from age or from being 10 feet under, the entire market and hobby will be changed. Only then will we know what the future will be.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    As long as I'm alive, there will be a demand for something like a 1969 Chevrolet Caprice though I prefer the 1970 model. I saw a really nice 1970 Chevrolet Impala Custom at Spring Carlisle this past Saturday in a nice shade of light blue metallic with a beautiful brocade and vinyl interior to match.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,829
    edited May 2012
    But will there ever be demand for a 1950 Chevy? I think 60's on up demand continues because they're in movies, parents remember them, etc. Pre-55? Not so much. Nowhere to go for demand but down.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    You're a very notable exception :shades: , and sadly for the market, one customer doesn't impact demand much, unless you are seeking to buy every surviving 70 Chevy. But this will be good for you, as your dream car will be attainable.

    I do like those brocade interiors, can't help but want to touch them. When I was a kid a nutty relative had a 65 or 66 Coupe deVille with a brocade interior that I remember well, and when I was a teen a local dealer had a mint 65 Caprice with a similar interior.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    What is happening now with the early postwar cars already happened with common prewar cars - the enthusiasts are dying off. If you remember that 50 Chevy fondly from when you were 22 and saved up to buy a new car, you are now 84 years old. That's a tough market to cater to. Already, a lot of prewar cars were worth more even in raw dollars 25 or 30 years ago than today - and they have no upside. But can be a fun toy at an ever more affordable price, for those with spare money.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    My first car was a dark green 1952 Chevy that I paid 35.00 for. It was a POS but it actually ran quite well. I've always missed that old Chevy!

    So this pops up on Ebay... _trkparms=aid%3D111000%26algo%3DREC.CURRENT%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D18%26meid%3D5343335- 5273473722%26pid%3D100015%26prg%3D1008%26rk%3D1%26&_trksid=p5197.m1992&item=3209- 27531015

    Now, it's a Powerglide while mine was a stick.

    My questions...Does anyone have any opinion on if the miles stated are correct?

    The one thing that troubloes me is the fact the engine has been painted black and I sure don't remember any 235's that were black. the underdash shots are amazing along with the interior photos.

    I did call the guy and he was adement about the miles but I don't think a papertrail exists. It came from Maryland where it sat for many years in a garage. He said it had been painted once, years ago. He said it drives like a dream and has no faults.

    Yes, he did admit that it drips a bit of old. What old Chevy doesn't?

    I kinda decided that if I do buy it that I will dismiss the miles and just buy it for what it is.

    Lots of time left and the bids will probably scare me away.

    The corker? The car and the owner are in my hometown! He's ten years younger than I am but we know some people in common! Amazing!!

    Thoughts? You guys are my brain trust!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Here's an original 1950 to compare it to:

    It doesn't look like the engine color is correct, no.

    The car does look very original however. Too bad about the eyebrow over the windshield--I'd take that off and store it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    edited June 2012
    Well this one is a 1952 and the other one is a 1950 but, still I remember them to be that grey color UNLESS the 235's were a different color than the 216's were.

    Another thing that kinda makes me believe in those miles is the lack of a radio. You would think someone would have added one.

    Kind of funny that they would have paid for that stupid visor but passsed on a lousy radio especially on a Powerglide car.

    Those visors REALLY cut down on visability and to me, make no sense. Trouble is they drill into the car when they install them. When we were kids, I can't tell you how many we yanked off. Today, they are sought after!

    Add those to Continental Kits, Fender Shirts and Blue Dot tailights to things I detest on an old car!

    I was hoping you would respond...THANKS!
  • oldbearcatoldbearcat WVPosts: 197
    Isell: I've owned a 48 Fleetmaster that's got 71K on it for a couple of years. Looking at the condition of the 52, it sure looks like a low mileage car - the condition of the wiring and undercarriage, from what I can see in the pictures,is what indicates low mileage and prolonged indoor storage to me. Wish my 48 was in that kind of shape.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    edited June 2012
    The clock on that Chevy is down to about 11 hours now and it's up to 11,100. The seller has added a "Buy it Now" figure of 15,500.

    My hand keeps reaching for the mouse to place a bid but I keep getting a nagging feeling that "something" isn't right about that car.

    For one thing, it appears to have carpeting instead of rubber mats in the front seat and I'm 99% certain they didn't come that way.

    And that engine should be painted grey and not black. Why would someone feel the need to paint an engine in a 16,000 mile car?

    And it's been repainted.

    I wish I lived closer so I could go see it. With my luck, the rods are knocking or something is amiss. Pictures can hide a lot!

    Oh well...
  • oldbearcatoldbearcat WVPosts: 197

    I think you're right about the carpet - if it's like my 48, you have to take out the mat to get to the master cylinder fill plug. It's under the floor. I can understand the rest of your concerns as well. The only way to be sure about this car would be to have someone local inspect it for you. I found my car on Craigslist, and, it was only 15 miles away. I inspected it, explained to the owner the issues I found, and made him an offer I was comfortable with. So far there have been no major surprises with the car. Given the price its up to now, I'd be reluctant to bid on it as well. I saw a car like this one for sale at a cruise-in last weekend. The car looked good from 10 feet away,and it had new chrome. When I took a closer look, I could see that the wiring was all shot, the heater was kaput, the engine was an oily mess, and some body rust had been painted over. The owner wanted $9500 for it. The car was showing 90K on the speedo.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    The Chevy got up to 12,100 and didn't make the reserve. He did add a "Buy it Now" price of 15,500.

    On the phone, he was pretty vague about a few things. I'm pretty sure he bought it just to flip it. He admitted that it leaked " a bit" of oil.

    At that age, all of the rubber parts and seals would be shot I would think.

    Those old Chevies had a closed driveshaft and sometimes the internal seals would go bad, especially on the Powerglides. If you parked them on a steep hill, the transmission fluid would get past those seals and run into the differential overfilling it and making a hell of a mess.

    They made a "kit" where you pounded a sleeve into the front of that driveshaft. I won't say what they called them as to not insult anyone here who might be from Oklahoma.

    It was really a mickey mouse quickie way to fix it but they would work for awhile.

    I never met an old Chevy that didn't leak at least some oil

    The thought of jumping into a 60 year old car and driving it 1000 miles home scared me a bit too and shipping was 750.00. To register it, I would have to pay Washington sales tax of 9.5%.

    Add all of those things up and the uncertainty of buying a car sight unseen gave me cold feet. Just not that much of a risk taker I suppose.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    That Chevy hit 13,000 and that was short of it's reserve.

    Today I managed to find the latest Old Cars Price Guide and thye have it peggged in Number 2 condition at 12,200. Giving it a Number 2 rating could have been a stretch too.

    So, the seller really got all of the money at least in my book he did.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,829
    I've been impressed how well many ebay autions reflect the actual market value, rather than sellers' inflated ideas. Inside line recently sold their '85 Porsche 911. They tried ebay, top bid was $17,100, less than their reserve. They then went through many efforts to get a better price, and ended up selling overseas. The final sales price? $17,500, that $400 was hardly worth the effort and time they expended.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    eBay is a good way to appraise a car presuming you have enough points of sale. The bidders are voting with their wallets, not their opinions.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 47,599
    I don't like it when "low mileage original" cars have new paint and sometimes new interior. If I am looking for low miles, I want nice original cosmetics. If I can't get those, might as well just get a restored car, which will probably be easier to live with in the long run anyway.
  • oldbearcatoldbearcat WVPosts: 197

    I agree with you. Vague answers don't encourage you to crack out the old wallet. I saw what the bidding was up to as well. My 48 supposedly had a rebuilt engine and tranny when I bought it. Her rear main seal drips oil and her tranny leaks gear lube as well. After rummaging through the Chevy forums for advice, I decided my best course of action was just to refill things as needed and stick a kitty litter pan under her when she's in my garage. Keep looking - you'll find what you're looking for. Took me two years of looking before I found the 48 and pulled the trigger on it. Last Summer I ran across a beautiful restored early 50's 2 door Chevy with dual carbs and fenton headers on it at a cruise-in. The guy wanted $12K for it then. If I run across it again, and its still for sale, I'll give you a heads up - if you're interested. The one I mentioned in my earlier post at $9500 IMO was very overpriced and needed a lot of restoration.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I totally agree with you. A couple of things scared me about that Chevy.

    The fact it had been repainted..." a long time ago".. OK, paint wasn't as good 60 years ago so I guess I can accept that.

    The entire engine had been painted black...WHY, on a 16,000 mile car??

    Maybe I was just looking for reasons not to buy it cheapskate that I am.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    I don't doubt that engine and transmission have been rebuilt. Back in those days, 50,000 miles was a lot of miles.

    Those also had the old babbetted bearings and splash lubrication. Those bearings need to be adjusted and shimmed once in awhil before the rods start knocking. Hopefully there is someone in your area that knows how to do this.

    And, as I said before, it is nearly impossible to find an old Chevy that doesn't leak oil and that "dog turd" rear main "rope" is usually the source. Until it gets real bad, I would live with it.

    DO NOT let that engine get low on oil and try not to wind it out too hard in the lower gears. These weren't bad engines but they don't like high RPM's.
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