Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ford's 1946 Facelift of Its 1942 Model

Most American 1942 model year cars were introduced in the fall of 1941.  The federal government ordered production ended during February 1942 in reaction to the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the country's World War 2 entry.

When the war ended in 1945, many Americans had both money and an old car that needed replacement.  So there was a pent-up demand for new cars, a demand that took about three years to dissipate.

Car makers were supposed to focus on war production during the war and not work on postwar automobile development.  Although some some development work was probably done, the sudden surrender of Japan in August left little time to do more than rush 1946 models into production.

Given that buyers were happy to get almost anything on wheels, there was little need to do much in the way of new features for '46.  So all companies that made 1942 models released 1946 models that were facelifted '42s and not total redesigns.  As for Ford, the only noteworthy new styling feature was a redesigned grille.

When I last visited the LeMay America's Car Museum in Tacoma, I discovered that the staff had thoughtfully placed an example of a 1942 Ford next to a 1946 Ford.  This allowed me to take the following comparative photos (click to enlarge):

The 1942 Ford is gray and the '46 is maroon.  The '42 has a stamped panel that surrounds the grille opening and rises in the upper center to meet the hood cut.  This same stamping is on the '46 Ford, but more difficult to see because the ends of the horizontal grille bars hide its sides.
This is a clever facelift because the 1942 Ford had thin, vertical grille bars and the 1946 has thick horizontal ones -- a strong visual change.  Yet almost every other bit of the front end, including that stamping, was already on the 1942 model.

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