Q: Greg, could you please identify the years that the car manufacturers did not build cars during World War II? I know they built many war needed items as you mentioned in your columns, but maybe you could explain in detail this time in manufacturing. My dad had a new design 1949 Chrysler Windsor which I know was all-new and I loved that car. Thanks much. Bob L., MI
A: Bob, I’m happy to help. To be specific about the WWII effort, car manufacturers did not build cars for three years: 1943, 1944 and 1945. When the war came to an end, the 1946 models were “unveiled,” but were the same as the 1942 vehicles as all work went into wartime product production. As noted in my last column, Kaiser-Frazer came through with the first “all-new” design in 1947.
Specifically, all vehicle manufacturers from Checker to Ford helped build the needed equipment. The government ban on certain car use items began in January of 1942 with a mandate that all chrome bumpers and trim be discontinued due to the need of these materials elsewhere. Instead, the car manufacturers utilized a coated plastic and these cars were called “blackout” units as nothing would shine under lighting.
By February of 1942, car production was completely halted, and companies like Chrysler, as an example, started building Wright Cyclone airplane engines, anti-aircraft guns, radar units, mine detectors, tanks, tugboats and track personnel carriers.
Your father’s new design Chrysler arrived mid-year 1949 and was called “Series Two.” This new Windsor 4-door retailed for $2,329 and featured lots of chrome, a big grille, vertical taillights and 116-horsepower from a 251 cubic inch inline flathead 6-cylinder. The 276-inch and 331-inch Hemi V-8s would appear in 1951, and leads to another good story I always like to tell.
Although the war was over, Chrysler still worked in defense and built many Hemi air raid sirens both during the war and postwar. Using the 331-inch, 180-horse 1951 Hemi V8, these air raid sirens were some of the loudest ever produced and were said to travel a minimum of four to five miles guaranteed and up to 50 miles when conditions were right.
By 1958, the sirens were out of production and the hot rodders snagged up all those 331-inch Hemi engines, utilizing them for all types of race cars. If you would like to see these sirens in action go to http://www.victorysiren.com/x/index.htm and click on “Hear Big Red” on the left and then on Sound Clip eight. The site is loaded with great info.
Thanks for your letter.