In 1949, Ford introduced its first completely redesigned line of cars since the end of WWII, beating the other major automakers to the punch. The Custom nameplate sat at the top of the trim levels, and for 1950, the Standard trim would be renamed Deluxe, with Custom becoming the Custom Deluxe. Over $72 million were spent in the development of the new line of cars, which were an immediate hit, selling well over a million copies the first year. In the first three days alone after the newly design cars were introduced, over 28 million folks (hungry for new cars after the war) crowded into Ford dealers for a look-see. By the end of the first year, Ford had racked up a $177 million profit off of their investment.
Engine options were either the tried-and-true 95hp 226 cu. in. (3.7l) L-head six or the 100hp 239 cu. in. (3.9l) flathead V8. Given the dual Lake Pipes on this car, I’d say the flathead provides motivation. It’s interesting to note that the six actually had more torque than the eight, and would probably be the better engine choice. The transmission was a manual, with an overdrive as an option.
1950 would be the second and last year for the single bullet nose (which has been shaved from this car – to spite its face, perhaps?), and in fact, only very minor changes were made from the ’49 model. In researching the ’49-50 Custom, I learned that the design of the car was derived from concepts out of the offices of George Walker, an independent car stylist of the day. He had first shopped the design to George Mason at Nash-Kelvinator, where it was received with excitement, but due to a communications lapse, no deal was ever signed with Walker. After not hearing anything for some time, Walker took the design to Ford, where it was chosen over a competing design by in-house stylist Bob Gregorie. Mason was furious, and immediately established an in-house design department at Nash to prevent this happening again.
A new 1950 Custom Deluxe Tudor Sedan cost $1,511 (about $14,645 in 2013 dollars). While looking much trimmer on the outside, the interior was actually very roomy, in part because the engine position in the chassis was pushed a full 5″ forward from the previous pre-war designs. Despite having a lower roofline, a man could still safely wear his fedora inside.
The ’49s were not without teething troubles, including handling issues and a noisy ride. Ford advertising for the 1950 models touted “50 Ways New, 50 Ways Finer” in an effort to reassure folks that they had indeed corrected the problems. Sales still fell off quite a bit though, to the tune of around 100,000 fewer 1950 models moving out the dealer doors, 35,000 of those missing sales being Tudor Sedans.
Sock hops were still a few years away when this car rolled off the assembly lines, but I think it does capture the essence of early post-war America with its clean styling, minimal ornamentation and tentative optimism. Aviation and military influences are evident, and would become even more pronounced as the Fifties progressed, to the point of excess on top of exaggeration. If you wanted an honest, simple car from the 1950s, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one.