Car History Year 1939
Date: Sunday, September 26 @ 23:31:49 UTC
As America celebrated the arrival of a new year on the eve of 1939, in Europe the ominous clouds of war were gathering. Later in the year, the storm would break: German Chancellor Adolf Hitler would send his troops into Czechoslovakia, then Poland, prompting Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany. This was the beginning of a terrible conflict that eventually would span continents and last for six long years.
Although the United states took a neutral stance at this stage of the war and would not take a belligerent role until after the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor in 1941, under President Roosevelt's guidance, she increasingly provided military aid of all kings to the Allies in particular the British. Without America's assistance in this way, the events of the early years of the war might have taken another direction altogether.
Helping to cement the special relationship between the US and Great Britain, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the United States in 1939. Although they would cross the Atlantic by ship, other travelers could take advantage of a more rapid means of travel, for that year saw the inauguration of Pan American's regular transatlantic air service, which made use of Boeing Clipper flying boats.
To escape the dreary news from Europe -and the stagnant economy at home -Americans could take in a movie; dark Gable in Gone With The Wind, or Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. Or they could visit the World's Fair in New York.
"Economy" was a word that also played a major part in some of Ford's advertising that year, although in a different context. In an attempt to compete with the top-of-the-range Oldsmobiles and Dodges, and lower-range Buicks and Chryslers, Ford had launched a completely new model range for 1939 under the Mercury name. The new cars - a convertible, a coupe, a 2-door sedan and a 4-door town sedan - fitted neatly between the standard Ford offerings and the much more luxurious and larger Lincoln Zephyrs. Their overall styling was similar to both the Lincoln Zephyr and the de luxe Fords, but at 116 inches, the wheelbase was 9 inches shorter than the former and 4 inches longer than the latter. Apart from the slightly larger size, the immediate identifying feature between the Mercury and Ford was that the Mercury had horizontal grille bars, while the de luxe Fords had vertical bars. The Mercury coupe also had a distinctive roofline and side glass both of which were quite different from those of the Ford.
Mechanically, the Mercury was similar in construction to the Ford, but from the outset it was fitted with Lockheed hydraulic brakes, whereas both the Ford and Lincoln Zephyr had only switched to hydraulics that year. It was powered by a 95 horsepower version of Ford's famous flathead V8, and it soon gained a reputation as being hot performer for a big car. Despite this, Ford emphasized the fuel economy of the Mercury, which they claimed could be as much as 20 miles to the gallon and which few cars of any size could match at the time.
Like most of Ford's products, the Mercury sold very well from the outset, establishing the Mercury name, which would continue in the company's line-up from then on. A slight increase in the size of the wheelbase, to 118 inches, would follow in 1940 and the cars would continue to sell well until all civilian automobile production was stopped at the beginning of 1942 to devote capacity to the war effort. Up to that time, the Mercury had always been regarded as an upmarket Ford. However, after the war was over, the parent company would form the Lincoln-Mercury division, and all future Mercurys would be offered as the less expensive versions of the company's luxury cars, rather than the more luxurious forms of their bread-and-butter automobile range. They were aimed squarely at middle-income, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road, Middle America.
Plymouth's tenth anniversary came around in 1938 and was celebrated, quietly, with a conservative styling overhaul. there were mechanical innovations, however: a high-compression head could be specified that increased the output from 82 to 86 horsepower, there was was also a "depression-sensitive" low-compression option that delivered a measly 65 horse-power but gave considerably improved economy. The Business Line became the Roadking and Plymouth added their first in-house station wagon - the Suburban - to the line. Plymouth station wagons had previously been produced by US Body & Forge of Tell City, Indiana and sold as the Westchester Suburban. The 4-door body was largely constructed of wood.
'39 heralded a new look, courtesy of Raymond Deitrich, and headed by the distinctive, sharp-pointed front end treat-ment, reminiscent of the Lincoln Zephyr. The new, rectangular-shaped headlamps were faired into the fenders but the wind-shield reverted from a single pane to a "V" two-piece design. Convertibles had power-operated tops for the first time. Inside, the gear shift moved from the floor to the steering column, in line with current fashion. Appearing in the range for the last time in '39 were a rumble-seat coupe and a four-door convertible. Plymouth sales had dropped off considerably in the recession, but bounced right back to above 400,000 for 1939.
Cast iron - 6 cylinders in line
164.3 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
3 x 3 7/8ins.
3 & 5 seat coupes; custom cruising sedan; Deluxe versions of all styles
No. of seats
2,260 - 2,375 lbs
$660 - $800
PLYMOUTH SERIES P8 DELUXE
6 Cylinders in line - cast iron block; aluminum head
Bore and stroke
3 1/8 x 4 3/8ins.
Business coupe; Rumble-seat coupe;2 & 4 door sedans; Panel truck; Station wagon; Limousine
No. of seats
2,789 - 3,374 lbs
This article comes from Free Vin Check, Get Vehicle History Report, Free Car History, Used Car History, Auto History, Free Vehicle History, VIN Number Check, Car History, Lemon, Check
The URL for this story is: