1950 Dodge Wayfarer

For 1950, Dodge did what you or I would do in the face of success: They just kept buggering on with the 1950 Dodge Wayfarer. A modest front end lobotomy produced a new grille of horizontal bars encompassing the parking lights and placing the Dodge coat of arms on a square chrome plaque in the middle.

The three Wayfarer models came back, all now wearing the big fender-mounted taillights of the senior Dodge models and an extra chrome strip on their rear fenders. Since the roadster -- now dubbed the Sportabout -- had become a genuine roll-up-windows convertible in mid-1949 yet still cost only $1,727, it was now promoted as "the lowest-priced full-size completely convertible open car."

All 1950 Wayfarers, including this 1950 Dodge Wayfarer convertible, sported fender-mounted taillights.
All 1950 Wayfarers, including this 1950 Dodge
Wayfarer convertible, sported fender-mounted
taillights.

The revised Sportabout, "favorite of all youthful America," according to Dodge brochures, looked a better buy than ever. "Heed the call of the open road in the sportiest car on the highway," they coaxed. "The durable fabric top on its lightweight aluminum frame can be raised or lowered quickly and easily with one hand... [C]hrome-trimmed safety glass side windows that roll up completely with one-and-one half turns give a completely weatherproof car... You'll enjoy the relaxing comfort of the extra wide, soft-cushioned knee-level seat with legroom to spare... the festive playtime look of bright interior fittings and colorful [artificial] textile leather upholstery. Out on the road, you'll thrill to the eager responsiveness of the big 103 horsepower Dodge 'Get-Away' Engine..."

­No ad writer's perfect, but this excerpt from the special 1950 Wayfarer brochure shows what Dodge was selling, and, on paper, stood to sell well.

Dodge's marketing gurus called the 1950 Dodge Wayfarer
Dodge's marketing gurus called the 1950
Dodge Wayfarer "the sportiest car on the highway."

With 1950 model-year production of approximately 75,000, Wayfarer appeal was well up from 1949. But fewer than 3,000 of them were ragtops, and this needs explaining. The reason sales leveled off in 1950 must be laid at the door of an upstart newcomer, the Nash Rambler semi-convertible.

Although Rambler's ragtop cost about $80 more than the Sportabout, was even slower, and had ugly side window frames that stood bolt upright whether the top was folded or in place, there was a certain homely appeal to the thing, and it returned outstanding gas mileage. It debuted with a fanfare predicated precisely on its small size ("the first compact," they called it in retrospect). All this attracted people to Nash showrooms, and quite a few of them were hooked: Nash sold well over 9000 Rambler convertibles for 1950, an astonishing figure for a brand new model in its first year, and from an independent producer at that.

The Rambler outsold the Sportabout by an even wider margin in 1951, ironically the Sportabout's last and best incarnation. A chartreuse version was centerspread material in the Wayfarer brochure, and the pitch never varied: "Designed for the young in heart... [A]s gay as a circus poster and trim and nimble as a polo pony... There's an added thrill to any trip when it's made in this sleek, smart Sportabout.. it's your fondest dream come true of what a convertible should offer... yet the price is amazingly low!"

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