There was a time when I didn’t care much about prewar cars. That time was most of my life. I’m not sure why the past few years have brought an appreciation for these cars’ design, but I’m glad for it. It’s opened a whole new-to-me era of cars to explore. And as I’ve explored, I’ve come to really enjoy the GM cars from just before the big war. I think they’re especially good looking and well proportioned. And I think Buick looked the best of these prewar GMs. So it was a great day when I came upon this for-sale Buick Special by the roadside.
My teenage sons and I were on our way home after a couple days away hiking in beautiful and hilly Brown County, Indiana. The boys are used to me pulling over to photograph old cars by now and even sometimes point one out that I might not have seen. I’m raising them up right! Anyway, this Buick came into view as the narrow highway curved into tiny Bean Blossom, famous for being the home of bluegrass legend Bill Monroe.
It’s not in Concours condition, given those gray, painted bumpers and some missing trim bits. But it looks like it’s got good bones. The body is straight and unblemished.
If you’re like I was until recently and can’t tell one 1930s car from another, let’s look for a minute at how Buick styling evolved through the 30s. Notice this 1934 Buick’s upright windshield and cabin that narrows sharply up front, for shoulder-to-shoulder, nose-to-windshield driving.
In 1936, GM introduced the first B and C platforms, which are held in some veneration here at Curbside Classic (reluctantly, for some of us). This resto-modded 1937 Special rides on it and shows how the styling was being modernized. The windshield has a rake. The cabin is wider up front, by about five inches. The fenders have pontooned and the grille is a little less prow-like.
That modernization continued right until war broke out. By 1940, the headlights were integrated into the fenders and the grille had moved down and across.
In 1941, those headlights migrated out to the front corners. This photo is of a C-bodied Super with a more formal roof, but the Special’s snout was much the same. In 1942, the front fenderline would finally flow back through the doors to the rear fenders, creating what arguably can be called a modern design. While still bulbous compared to what would come, the styling was more linked to the future than to the past, and defined Buick styling themes that carried into the 1950s.
Here’s a photo of the ’41 Super coupe, just because the coupe is so delightful. Yes, this is a gratuitous car shot.
But back to the car at hand. It saved Buick, whose sales volume had cratered in the Great Depression’s early years and was at risk of being shut down. GM installed wunderkind Harlow Curtice into the division president’s seat and charged him with turning Buick around. He immediately ordered that an entry-level Buick be built. It was first known as the Series 40, but was soon renamed the Special. It led Buick’s resurgence, and by 1941 Buick sat in fourth place behind “the low-priced three.”
On its introduction, the Series 40/Special rode on a shorter wheelbase than the upmarket Buicks. In 1940, that wheelbase spanned 123 inches, which is hardly short. But like all Buicks, the Special packed one of Buick’s straight eights. In 1940, that would have been a 100-horsepower, 248-cube version. Buick was justifiably proud of its eights. They earned a reputation for durability and low-end torque, which probably made Buicks fairly rewarding to drive.
Here’s what that badge looks like when all the parts are present.
This Special’s interior is in lovely condition, with gleaming faux-wood trim (nicely-done wood-grained painted steel).
Out back, there’s a bustleback trunk. This design element’s years were numbered.
Normally when I find a Curbside Classic close to home I shoot the same five shots and run. I’m always pressed for time, and I prefer to be left unaccosted by passersby and owners. But I was under no time pressure this day, and I was inclined to linger. I actually hoped someone would appear with knowledge about this car so I could hear some of its story. Alas, nary a soul stirred in Bean Blossom on this overcast summer day. That this car survived this long will have to be story enough.
Jim, your first four sentences echo my sentiments exactly. There is so much to learn from the pre-war years. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say there is more to learn as it was during this period the thinning of the herd was in full-swing, leading to the relative stability that existed after the war.
Buick has always been a favorite of mine and their styling was always first-rate, particularly pre-war. This is a very nice, unmolested example.
I’ve been a car fan for (I’m guessing) 55 years and I’m still not all that crazy about pre-war cars. I am interested in the designs but they all seem so much alike. For example, from the front this could just as easily be a Chevy as a Buick. And the interiors seem to feature instrument panels with 3 round gauges or a “collection” of rectangular boxes for gauges…set in steel painted to look like wood. The dash on the featured car somewhat resembles the dash on my old 49 Plymouth with the radio/radio speaker treatment being more….restrained (?)on this Buick.
My cousin, on the other hand, seems to prefer pre-war cars, or enjoys them for their (supposed) better investment potential. His first collectible car was a late 20s or early 30s Buick. A large, black, 4 door sedan that looked like the ” typical” Buick of that period. That is, it looked like a bank president’s car, or a corporate lawyer’s car, or a funeral director’s back up limo. As far as I know, all the cars my cousin has collected are pre-war. The most current being a Model A Ford that was also offered to me…but I lacked the funds and the interest for it.
Maybe someday these cars will interest me. This car would interest me because it’s an older car that looks good (isn’t restored) and could possibly be driven every now and then without worrying over whether driving it will diminish any future value.
Taking your thought a step or two further brings up an interesting point: Who will care for these cars 20-30 years from now?
In 1968, when I was 18, and had my Buick I was an anomaly in the Flood City Region AACA: A teenager who was interested in collecting a car from his father’s generation (at that time, probably the only thing dad and I weren’t butting heads over). Everybody else in the chapter was dad’s age, and their cars were what you’d expect: T’s, A’s, a 1930 custom bodied Packard tourer, 1936 Chevrolet, 1936 Cord 810 2-seat cabriolet, etc. Tri-Fives, etc. were way too new to even be allowed on the show field. Resto-rods? Burn in hell, jackass!
Times move along, my generation mostly seems to be interested in redoing the cruise scenes from ‘American Graffiti’, and how much auto interest there will be from their kids is open to debate. Which makes me wonder if anyone younger than me is going to have an interest in keeping these pre- and just-post-WWII cars on the road in the future.
Or will they just be shoved in a museum’s stationary exhibit like you’d expect to see a 1903 Oldsmobile or Brush?
One of the big problems in that regard is parts. A major reason stuff like the Tri-Five Chevys and Camaro and Mustang remain so popular as collector cars is that their popularity (and the fact that so much was standard parts-bin stuff shared with many other cars) means parts are pretty abundant whether you want to keep the car stock or upgrade it. That’s not true of most prewar cars other than maybe the Model A and post-1932 V-8 Fords.
If you have a car that’s worth significant money (ye Duesenberg and Cord, etc.), you probably have the money to hunt down the parts and likely don’t drive the car much anyway, but it becomes a conundrum for cars that aren’t that valuable. So, we may end up seeing a lot of cases where cars like this are only really preserved if they’re in somebody’s family or if someone is a particularly dedicated fancier.
How much interest younger people have in collector cars other than as something pretty to see at a car show or in a music video will depend greatly on what happens economically. The Millennial generation is being crippled with so much student loan debt that it may be a long time before anybody but a handful of rich kids and Silicon Valley tech people can afford stuff like collector cars (or new cars, for that matter), so for the foreseeable future, the collector car market will probably come down to Gen X.
I’ll bet 60+% of this site’s readership is in the Gen X demo.
I’m 23 and love and adore most all cars, but especially pre-war cars. Buicks are some of my favorites. I intend to add one to my stable as soon as I can when I graduate college.
I worry about the same things as you guys, that no one of my generation will appreciate these cars and keep them on the road, but I’m sure gonna do my part!
Definitely the sort of old car I like. Nice enough to drive around, but not so nice you’re afraid to drive it around.
As to the idea that they all look similar:
1. With the possible exception of the late ’40s to the early ’60s mainstream cars have always had pretty similar shapes at any given point.
2. What sets the postwar cars (until recently) apart is the huge amount of trim all over that basic shape, and the fact that from the ’50s through the ’70s most of that trim changed every year. While there are exceptions, with the prewar cars, most of that is really just the grill and the sides of the hood.
3. Most of us are young enough that we are just a LOT more familiar with postwar cars. Between the depression, and WWII an awful lot of prewar cars were pretty well used up by the time the ’50s came along, and a lot of the ones that survived ended up as heavily modified hot rods. My observation is that these were never the most collectible cars either. As Syke points out, the early collectors were into Model T’s and Model A’s or the true Classics from the ’30s, and then the Baby Boomers wanted the cars of their childhoods, not their parent’s.
Agree, particularly with #1. A neighbor has the current Fusion and Sonata in his garage. Talk about the Bobbsey twins.
I agree with Jim on this as well. For me, many of the pre-war cars look so much alike that it is hard for me to distinguish among the brands. I can usually pick out the Fords without too much trouble but after that it is a guess. I am guessing that this comes down to the fact that, for most people, the cars that interest them the most are the ones built during the period they are 8 years old through their late teens/early twenties. That is certainly true in my case (this would encompass cars from roughly 1959-72), and is probably true in many cases. When I first started noticing cars the few cars from the thirties still on the road were just old used cars.
General Motors (and Chrysler) in the latter parts of the 30’s/early 40’s was really into homogonized design. Look at a 39-41 Pontiac/Oldsmobile/Buick from a distance (say 10 feet) and try to guess which is which. Usually the Pontiac had a cruder grille, and the Buick had the most elegant, otherwise you’re talking as alike across the line as current cars.
GM’s styling at this point was mundane as all get out. Bland, vanilla, conservative, safe, stylish for those not really into style. And it worked. By Pearl Harbor Day GM was far and away the company who had most completely come out of the Depression, and who’s sales were healthy. Buick as #4 is proof positive of that – you’d expect them to be 8-10 places further down the list just due to their class and pricing.
Like the Camry has proven over and over: Dull sells. And sells. And sells.
General Motors (and Chrysler) in the latter parts of the 30’s/early 40’s was really into homogonized design.
Because they were sharing bodies, something GM invented. It’s not unlike in the 80s/90s, when many GM cars were not easy to tell apart (A Bodies).
GM got more aggressive with differentiation in the post was era, since there was more scope (and money) to spend on very bold/unique front and rear end designs.
Have owned a ’37 Special – definitely NOT resto-modded! – and they are fascinating driving cars. They have the feel of a 60’s or 70’s panel van. Definitely not a car for the twisties or street drags. However, a wonderful definition of the term ‘cruiser’. Used to drive it to any and all vintage shows within 150 miles of home, and it was a pleasant ride, cruising at 50-55 down the state and US highways. As mine was original, unrestored condition, I wasn’t all that happy about taking it on the interstates.
Never could get turned on to the Buicks after the ’38 model year. I find that ’34 absolutely gorgeous despite the cramped cabin – which wasn’t all that cramped by modern standards. At least you didn’t have a18′ wide console splitting the seats. ’37 and ’38 were particularly nice, after which they got kinda mundane and blobby in my eyes. The 42’s were an improvement, carrying in to the 46-on fastbacks which were rather nice.
And the most fascinating, most easily recognizable car of this period? The Graham “Sharknose”. Gee, how well did it sell?
Interesting you mention the cramped cabin,cramped in the front only.In 1986 on Australia Day I was invited to a high Anglican church ceremony at a wealthy hills district area near a capital city.I was working for the Federal government in Aboriginal education at the time.A city planner friend had just leased a Ford Laser turbo,fast fun and remarkably unreliable and troublesome.We all arrive at the historic sandstone church and the car park is like a classic car show,4 seater Lagonda,MKV1 Bentley,Jaguar XK120,etc.After the church service we were invited to the historic sandstone home of the former head of General Motors for lunch,approx 20 people.My planner mate introduced me to the owner of the MKV1 Bentley who said I will take you for a brief drive in it,I liked that car.It rode and handled like a vintage truck but the thing I noticed most was how narrow and cramped it was in the front seats.My black 1954 Riley RME,the last real Riley,had the same problem,narrow.
The front compartment of most 30’s cars are very comparable to those of a VW Beetle in terms of interior dimensions. Which makes sense, considering that the Beetle was designed in the mid 30s, and to be an essentially “full size” car in the idiom of the times in Europe. The rear seat obviously not so much so, compared to longer big sedans.
Hey, I’m old enough to remember when the “prizes” in boxes of cereal were tiny model cars. My family ate a mountain of cereal called Rice Krinkles (Post’s version of Rice Krispies….but sugar coated) so that I could amass a collection of T Birds.
When I started building model cars, I (very) occasionally bought a pre-war car. When I did it was to build a “hot rod”…something I rarely did to my post-war models.
When I watch “vintage” movies on the classic movie channels I admire some of the more recognizable makes/models. While the “plain jane” models get none of my notice.
Another car modeller here. Mostly ’50s/’60s, but I’ve built some older ones too. I remember back around ’70 when I bought an AMT 1940 Ford, Dad (b.1910) asked me why I wanted to build a new car…..
I agree, I’m mentally waking up to pre-war cars. Nice to see one functioning in the wild. As storied as Buick has been at various times, I’m glad it is still around.
Most folks seem to prize different things as they get older. A 40 Buick would have been commonplace when I was growing up and I preferred the Ford. Possibly I just didn’t care for the Dynaflow which was everywhere starting shortly after the war.
I parked a perfectly good classic because of 13mpg with a slushbox. A really good reason when you have a 100 mile daily commute. Just made a couple purchases that will help me put it back in operating condition. I represents the car of my childhood (57 chev) just as you said. Being retired makes it desirable again.
In my memory is a 53 Buick of my brother. The real sticking point is not the straight eight which I loved. It is the mashed potato drive Dynaflow. I’m never sure if restoration is the best move. This car is probably too early for automatic and I think the stick is a much better idea. Rant over. Tks for the memory.
That is a manual transmission, which I think is the only transmission available on 1940 Buicks. The dynaflow was first available in 1949 I think. My grandmother’s 1950 Buick had the dynaflow, as well as the 248 CID engine. I drove this car to high school and then a couple years of collage before my parents got us a 63 Impala to drive, which was more reliable for my sister.
Dynaflow was first offered in the Roadmaster in ’48, and was a full option in ’49 (except in Specials, maybe?). But the ’50 Special was introduced way early, and had the Dynaflow option.
Finding parts for ’40s/’50s Buick manual transmissions is somewhat difficult, while finding Dynaflow parts is a breeze. I’m not a huge fan of the Dynaflow in my ’53, but at least I can find parts for it.
The 53 dynaflow should be the twin turbine with fix stator design I think. This was the first year for the V8.
It is…all ’53s were upgraded to the Twin-Turbine Dynaflow, even the straight-8s.
I never paid much attention to pre war cars either until a beautiful Art Deco Packard turned my head at a show a few years ago
This 40 model would have been a wartime model unseen in the UK like here. we got few cars after the outbreak of hostilities in 39 and certainly no luxury models.
The one that I liked was the Willys Coupe. I dreamed of getting the kit for a Beetle.
I made the Revell(I think) model drag racer when my brother lost interest in model making and started to get into girls,rugby and motorcycles
This gets to the root of what is a collectable car.
A car is collectable if it can find a collector. Cars of this age are collected by a generation that is now dying off. Understanding how a car fit into the life of its owner is also dying, right along with those collectors. What ends up happening is we begin to relate to old cars as we do with other museum pieces. As museum pieces, these cars have a different type of collector, who values these cars differently.
We fall in love with cars, but those emotions are not really tied to the car, but to the memories surrounding the car. While there are people who will buy, restore and maintain a car older than they, this market is smaller than the generation with living memories of the car when it was commonly found on our roads.
Pre-war cars are quickly moving into that “museum piece” market.
This will eventually happen as Boomers continue to die off as well. This means that not every collectable car hot today, will remain a hot commodity on the collector’s market tomorrow. Collectors with memories of 1950 and 1960 cars will continue to dwindle, leaving only future “museum pieces” as valuable to the next generation. The sheer size of the Boomer generation means that not only will Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros and a few other muscle cars retain their value, but it also means that most cars of those decades will not be collectable in the future, even if they are today.
Orphan brands will lose their connection to future collectors, driving their values down. Eventually car brands such as Edsel, Plymouth, Mercury, Imperial, Studebaker, AMC, and even Pontiac and Oldsmobile, will lose value as compared to brands still in production and still bonding with future collectors. There may very well be some collectors who value a Kaiser or a Hudson, but future collectors won’t be plentiful enough for these orphan brands to retain their values.
Collectable car values are dependent on the size of the market of collectors, and those collectors are dependent on their memories to part with their money and buying those collectable cars. As each generation dies, so does the market for those cars.
Pre-war cars are interesting to some of us out of sheer fascination about auto history. But to most car collectors right now, without their personal memories of the pre-war era, their emotional ties to these cars don’t exist, lessening their appeal. So pre-war cars look alike to a lot of people. They seem like a lot of work to maintain. They are interesting, but not interesting enough to want to really love and study.
What Boomers are coveting today, will not be coveted tomorrow by following generations.
As for me, I don’t find much attraction in cars built before 1975 and just can’t relate to muscle cars at all. While I know a lot about cars, I just cannot desire cars built before I began to desire cars.
I think that is normal, and what we are seeing today with these pre-war vehicles.
Am I an anomaly in that case? When I was growing up in the 80’s, I did desire the cars that were the supercars of the era, and I still rank the Ferrari F40 as one of my all-time favorites…but many of the posters on my walls and the matchbox cars in my collection were classics and hot rods. ’57 Chevys, first-generation Mustangs, C2 Corvettes…the usual suspects, sure, but still those were what held a good deal of my interest. And then I got into muscle cars, and then 60’s sports cars, and then 70’s luxury cars, and then… So I consider my automotive tastes pretty broad. I’ll agree that I don’t have as much knowledge or interest for prewar cars, but even they do hold my attention. Especially the high-end models of the 30’s which have a unique beauty that hasn’t really been seen since. I doubt I’ll ever own one, but saying I “don’t find much attraction” would be quite untrue. And I certainly hope to own other cars built “before I began to desire cars”, beyond the one that I have already…
Sure. It’s about memories, and it’s pretty hard to have memories of something that you’ve never experienced firsthand. But sometimes the memory of “experiencing” it in a different way is enough. Were it not for the fact that one of my favorite Matchbox cars was a Plymouth Gran Fury police car, I wouldn’t have the peculiar affection for the real thing that I do. The fact that I had a poster of a ’57 Bel Air on the wall of my bedroom for over ten years makes that car feel like an old friend, though I’ve never even sat in one. There are many ways to make a memory. And, though I have pretty serious doubts, maybe some of the online “experience” that today’s youth might find with old cars will translate into real world interest and ownership. Probably not…but you never know.
Great analysis on “experience.” I, too, suspect the wide availability of information on (and images of) rare autos could result in future fans who lack “real” exposure. And speaking of feeling like an anomaly, I was fascinated with pre-war cars as a small child (hmmm…Matchbox collection bias?). My fascination waned, however, and I now feel like an amnesiac on most pre-war automotive trivia. Is that a Buick? Olds…wait…I know it’s something GM…
I grew up in the 90s and I pretty much have no interest for most cars built AFTER 1975, the exceptions being anything V8 powered and RWD, so maybe I’m an anomaly too.
I think it’s a very broad stroke to say that the cars have rigid generational ties, I collected 1:18 muscle cars my Dad would buy me for Birthdays and holidays, I watched old car chase movies and such and even played video games that exposed me to all of it. In fact, you know where I learned to appreciate prewar/immediate postwar cars? L.A. Noire! I had virtually zero interest, let alone knowledge of those cars but I ended up immersing myself in them all because of a video game made only 3 years ago.
No doubt values will rapidly fluctuate when the big spenders inevitably die off but to say the only place for them is a museum is absurd. This is the internet age, people can discover and admire a great many things much older than themselves and seek them out. Cars are no exception, and when the values do come down from the hyperinflated nostalgia levels regular younger people will be able to afford them and cherish them as well.
You have to wonder what would happen to pre 1955 cars if they started showing up more on tv and in movies? Perhaps a sort of Fast and Furious pre-prequel?
Yeah, ridiculous idea.
The Slow And Annoyed
I’m interested in any car with a straight 8. I find their smooth torque-y-ness intriguing.
And the sound…..
Sadly, what you are saying is easily observed by going to our local “Cars And Coffee” event. It’s a large event – usually about 500 cars, and more than that being turned away for lack of space. It is a purely “
RunShow whatcha brung event” where there are no classes and no prizes; just car guys admiring each other’s toys.
There are approximately ZERO cars from before 1955 at these events, except, perhaps, for one or two customs based on old shells. Here in rust-free country, there are plenty of pre-war restorables available for people but there’s no interest. The most common ‘old’ cars now are 80’s and 90’s Mustangs and Camaros, to the point where unrestored models of these cars are turned away or there would be 500 of them and no space for anything else.
In any case, the popularity curve you describe is plain to see. Only the most special of the 20’s,30’s, 40’s and 50’s cars survive, and the thinning of the 60’s and 70’s cars is already showing. In 15 years, they will be really scarce, and the show will be flooded with 2010 Camaros and Mustangs.
More old stuff for me! Even if I can manage to kick around for another 35 years (I’m 37), that’s a lot of old stuff to cover… 🙂
It’s strange to see how different things are in Old Europe.
When we congregate for a week-end in France (there is a week-end in September that is very suitable for this), the variety of cars is quite amazing. In the Grenoble region, where my brother lives, you would find pre and post war cars of all shapes and sizes, French or foreign.
The oldest one I remember seeing at one of these meets was a 1906 Renault (admittedly, there are very few pre-WW1 cars anywhere). But otherwise, aside from the obligatory Citroen Tractions and DS, I recall seeing various prewar lovelies such as a Mathis, RWD Citroens, Delahaye, Amilcar, etc., as well as 50s/60s classics e.g. Mustang, Jaguar, Panhard, Opel, Alfa-Romeo, Porsche, Corvette, MG, Matra, etc.
I’d love to see a US car meet, but if there are no pre-55 cars there any longer, I think I would feel a bit disappointed.
Looking at the bumpers of this car, I wonder if it was due to the restrictions on chrome that were introduced just about the time this car was built, as chromium was was considered a strategic material for war use.
I am not all that fond of late 1930’s cars as I seem them as all fender and no cabin. They are very cramped inside compared to their overall dimensions. This was largely rectified by 1940. The cars also drove a lot better due to the independent front suspension on the cars, the infamous “knee-action” was gone by this time and much more reliable.
“Safe and conservative” is what sold cars then and is still what sells cars today. A new car is a pretty big chunk of money for most of us, and few are willing to take risks with the sweat of their brown. I know I am not.
I thought about that, about the painted bumpers. But my memory is that dechromed cars happened in 1942, and maaaaaaaybe 1941 at the earliest.
I don’t know what the story is on the bumpers, but I doubt it was any government restrictions. I think the 1940 cars were still too early for that. My guess is that maybe this car’s bumpers had some issues with the plating and at some point the owner decided to strip them so they’d at least look uniform. The owner might also be planning to have the bumpers re-plated and just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.
The “Blackout Specials” were built between Jan. 1, 1942 and when passenger car production ended, almost without exception in early February of the same year.
That’s just a common homebrew fix for deteriorating chrome – paint the metal silver and hold the rust back. Very common on older cars back in the 60’s and 70’s.
I like the way cars of this era seem to stand up in a tall, proud stance. They appear to be built as strong as a bank vault. Almost no plastic, and the rear seat room in many of them is huge. And I always have like the painted metal wood effect. Simple and honest to work on. As far as all looking the same, each generation seems to copy designs that are the trend of the day. I think today’s cars all look the same, with a few exceptions. I hope enough people continue to care for 30’s and 40’s cars for a long time. Many of them do seem to be priced quite a bit lower then 50’s and 60’s cars, though as has been pointed out parts are an issue. As long as a good running complete example is purchased and well cared for, the occasional search and price penalty for parts shouldn’t be too bad.
My favourite pre-WWII Buicks are the 1934-35 Buick, the 1938 Buick, the 1942 Buick.
I really like the ’41 models, I wish I could get a Century from that year. I more often see ’40 models. There’s a white ’40 Buick large series (probably a Roadmaster) that had been displayed for years in a parking lot in my hometown. It’s visible in the parking in the link below:
A very nice old Buick , I love the pre war cars & trucks .
I really like the ’30s cars — of course, I was born in ’39 and the first car I really remember was my dad’s ’41 Super. I believe there were many great-looking cars made from about 1935 on, when streamlining was becoming in vogue and all-steel bodies more common.
Thank you, Jim. I certainly lack knowledge about pre-war cars. I always wondered what was so special about the Buick Special. You helped me figure it out. It is pretty much like the chef’s special on the menu: a square meal for a special price.
I like the shots showing the sequence of design changes.
I never really appreciated this era of American cars until recently. Yes, within a model year or three, they all looked basically alike, but that happened since the early 1970’s as well. It was the fairly rapid advances in engineering that I like. In spite of Chrysler’s claims, GM was the engineering company of the 1930’s. Ford may have had some of the prettiest cars, but crudest as well. Who had the first mass produced OHV engines, automatic transmission, IFS, coil springs? I think Chrysler did pioneer hydraulic brakes. Hypoid gears also appeared on GM and Chrylser products at about the same time, ’37?. Ford waited until the 1950’s.
My love for old VW’s is not only boomer nostalgia, but unique engineering under 1930’s style. I found our 1965 Chevy had not advanced in any truly significant way from my ’57. They just looked different.
Nice write-up. Gratuitous Super coupe shot worth keeping in. wow.
What you folks mention is true regarding the future of car collectors. The other factor which could consign most pre 1950’s-1960’s to the scrap yard or a museum that nobody has mentioned yet is the ability of current or next generation to know how to drive a manual transmission. In these days of digital technology the ability to drive manual transmission car is a dying art in the USA. Pre WWII and early post WWII cars were all manuals and most were column shifters to boot. (due to the thought (at that time)a column shifter was more modern then a floor mounted shifter)
With Column mounted manual transmission shifters being thought of as stodgy and started being phased out in the late 1960’s(the last time a column shifting manual trans was offered it was in 1987 in a chevy truck) several generations have grown up not driving a car with one and thus would not know how to drive one unless they learned how to drive it(but how many would be willing to learn?) I look at the Model T, most folks in the 1920’s-1950’s knew how to drive a T as most families had them but to somebody like me driving a Model T looks daunting as nothing corresponds to a modern car (for instance the accelerator is on the steering column and not the floor) in time i could learn how to drive it but i am not so sure the future generations would be willing to learn how to drive a stick so i have the feeling there will be a lot of 1960’s 1970’s cars with auto transmissions in future car shows.
True, very very true. Manual transmission must be mastered for any attempt at driving a pre-war to 1950s car.
Column shifters did not replace floor shifters until the very eve of the war (circa 1939-1940). Not that they change much if you don’t know how to use a clutch in the 1sr place! A friend of mine recently remarked that he “didn’t understand” how column shifters could work (he’s a Brit and knows how to drive stick, but has never seen a column shift in operation).
Outside the US, manual column shifters probably lasted longest in Toyota Crown taxis. When I went to Hong Kong back in 1999, I remember the Crowns had those so two passengers could sit on the front bench seat. I don’t know when Toyota stopped making these, but it must have been in the late 90s.
I am a late baby boomer who was always fascinated by old cars, which meant stuff from the 50s back to the brass era. These late prewar cars always intrigued me, but most everything I learned about them was either “book learnin” or stuff I soaked up from old timers’ recollections. Hardly any of it from personal experiences, sad to say.
A 40 Buick was one of the few I actually got my young hands on. A friend in my neighborhood brought me over one day to show me the 40 Buick that his father had dragged home. It was fairly rough but I found it cool as anything. I guess there is something about prewar industrial design in general that just sucks me in. Anyhow, I never saw the Buick move, but I didn’t care.
Styling between 1938 and 1942 made a tremendous leap, and a controversial one. But it is easy to miss it when you have never really been exposed.
To a lot of folks, even car guys, these prewar cars are disassociated from any kind of frame of reference. Like some folks are with jazz and like I am with wine. Liking some of it but knowing nothing about it can be offputting. I guess you just have to jump in somewhere. Like with Count Basie and King Estate pinot noir, nowhere better than a 40 Buick.
As far as people forgetting these, there are parts of California where a car like this is very popular among the younger folk. Sure, the cars might get lowered and smaller whitewalls might be installed, but for the most part the interiors and engines are left alone. Just a slightly different form of preservation!