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      Car History: Car History Year 1949
    Posted on Sunday, September 26 @ 23:58:16 UTC by Cars
      Cars When the Step-down was shown to Hudson dealers late in 1947, they could not believe their eyes. Worried about how long they could continue selling out-dated pre-war designs in the face of steadily rising competition, they found the long, low and sleek automobile everything they could have wished for, and more. It was well received by road testers, too, who praised its styling, "readability" and its comfort. For the next three years, the new Hudson would boost the small independent company's profits tremendously as the public stepped up to step down. The Berlin air-lift came to an end and, still in the sky, James Gallagher made the first non-stop flight around the world in a Boeing B-50A Lucky Lady II, while another Boeing, the Stratocruiser, introduced new stan-dards of airline passenger luxury. On the ground, more than 6 million cars poured out of factories and aviation influences abounded in the designs.

    There was a momentous transformation in Ford's fortunes as their out-put nearly tripled and they zoomed into the number one spot, overtaking arch rivals Chevrolet. On the face of it, this tremendous success can be attributed to the brand new automobiles they had to offer, but there's more to it than that. For a start, the 1949 model year spanned almost eighteen months, as the restyled cars Hwere launched in June 1948 and remained on sale right up until November 1949. This early announcement also shortened the '48 model year considerably and reduced sales of the pre-war designs on offer in that year, which were much the same as the '46 and '47 Fords. Even taking all this into account, it has to be said that the '49 Ford was worthy of all the media attention and phenomenal sales that followed. The Ford is significant because it was the first low-price car with a slab-sided body devoid of any of the traditional fender lines. Other makes such as Hudson (another landmark in automobile styling), Nash and Kaiser-Frazer also produced similar concepts but they were not as successful nor as cheap as the Ford. Chevrolet and Plymouth, meanwhile, still had pronounced rear fenders and an obvious dip between head lights and hood. In fact, the slab-sided Fords were regarded as so flat that they soon earned the nickname "shoeboxes," though today it's hard to equate the curved lines with a shoebox. Engineering was revolutionary too (for a Ford!); this was the beginning of exciting times for the blue oval brigade. Following the death of founder Henry Ford in 1947, his grandson Henry Ford II introduced swinging changes and sought to rid the company of old-fashioned practices. One of young Henry's most stalwart supporters was executive vice president Ernest Breech, and it is chiefly due to his efforts that the company won through. Breech also had a significant effect on the styling of the '49 Ford models, as we shall see !ater on. But the first things to disappear were the transverse leaf springs and beam axle suspension that old Henry insisted upon, to be replaced with coil spring independent front and longitudinal leaf rear suspension. Gone too, was the two-speed rear axle and in its place optional overdrive. The engine was moved five inches forward to create a lower profile, yet provide greater internal space within a slightly shorter and narrower body. This allowed more leg room for the people in the front seat, and with the rear seat now positioned ahead of the rear axle (instead of between the wheels), an extra six inches of width for the passengers in the back. Advertising emphasized this additional comfort by describing the seats as "Sofa-Wide" and promoting the "Mid Ship Ride" and HydraCoil front springs. The new Ford design also created 57 more trunk space, now denoted as a "Deep Deck Luggage Locker". And if that wasn't enough, then surely the Magic Air temperature control system, Magic Action brakes or Picture Window visibility would do the trick? It's estimated that around 28 million people visited the dealers' showrooms in the first three days after the new models were announced. What drew them were attractive cars that had progressed from initial design to production in just 19 months (in those days, average lead times were about three years). Haste wasn't without its problems, of course, and the build quality on the first '49s wasn't as good as it might have been. Body rattles plagued early vehicles and a number of alterations were made to alleviate problems. This situation persisted throughout the '49 model run and wasn't fully resolved until the 1950 models came along. But it didn't stop the '49 Ford becoming a huge hit and the company out-sold Chevrolet by a large margin, with 1.1 million cars coming off the assembly lines. Indeed, the success of the 1949 models is often credited for saving Ford from oblivion - it really was that desperate. Whether an organization of such magnitude would have disappeared completely is open to conjecture but this automobile has war-ranted a special place in Ford's long and varied history. The genesis of such a ground-breaking model was not without complications and there have been many claims as to how the design came about. The first stage in the saga began when Ford's head designer, Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie showed his ideas to Ernest Breech in 1946. Breech liked the proposal, but felt it was too big to be mar-keted as a Ford, and in September '46 he pronounced that Gregorie's prototype would instead be used for the more upmar-ket Mercury range. This naturally left a big hole in the plan-ning process, and Gregorie immediately started work preparing an alternative design for the Ford. At the same time Breech contracted his friend George Walker (who operated a design consultancy that had done a lot of work for Nash) to come up with some ideas. On the staff were Elwood Engel, Joseph Oros, Richard Caleal, Holden Koto and Bob Bourke. When it came time to make the presentation, Gregorie submitted one clay model and the Walker studio put up three for consideration. Although there seems to have been very little to choose between them, Breech picked one of Walker's designs. Gregorie left Ford a short time later although they remained on friendly terms. Walker's team proceeded to develop the design and developed the spinner in the center of the grille. Precisely who thought up this idea is debatable. Until recently it was accepted that the front end of the '49 Ford was the work of Caleal, Bourke and Koto - the latter two either working directly for Walker, or moon-lighting from the Loewy studio (and the '50 Studebaker with its similar spinner was def-initely a Bourke creation for Loewy). However, Oros had stated emphatically that the spinner was his creation. Whatever the truth, it is apparent that there were many influences during what must have been a hectic period. George Walker took most of the credit at the time and used it to good effect to promote his agency, but it was Ernest Breech and Henry Ford II who had the final say on what went into production. Specification FORD CUSTOM CLUB COUPE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 239.4 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.19x3.75 ins. Horsepower 100 Body styles 2 door coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 2,948 lbs Price $1,511 Produced 150,254     Specification CADILLAC SERIES 62 CONVERTIBLE COUPE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 331 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.81 x3.63 ins. Horsepower 160 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 6 Weight (lbs) 4,218 Ibs Price $3,442 Produced 8,000     Specification PONTIAC CHIEFTAN EIGHT DELUXE CONVERTIBLE Engine Cast iron - 8 cylinders in line Displacement 248.9 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.25 x 3.75 ins. Horsepower 106 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 3,670 lbs Price $2,206 Produced 235,000 (All Chieftains)     Specification CADILLAC SERIES 62 COUPE DE YULE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 331 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.81 x 3.63 ins. Horsepower 160 Body styles Hardtop coupe No. of seats 6 Weight (lbs) 4,033 Ibs Price $3,497 Produced 2,150  
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