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1937-1938 Ford

1937 Ford Design

Credit for the 1937 Ford design has often been assigned to Ford stylist Bob Gregorie, but Gregorie himself disclaimed responsibility, noting that he was busy at that time preparing the 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr. Apparently it was the Briggs Manufacturing Company staff that did the job. Working under the leadership of John Tjaarda, the Briggs crew included Alex Tremulis, Bob Koto, and Phil Wright -- all of whom were stylists of considerable stature.

Even the 1937 Ford Model 78 station wagon carried the year's design theme.
Even the 1937 Ford Model 78 station wagon carried
on the year's design theme.

Possibly it was a case of too many cooks stirring the broth. In any case, although Ford historians David L. Lewis, Mike McCarville, and Lorin Sorensen have referred to the 1937 Ford as "one of the handsomest cars of the decade," other observers have paired it with the 1938 line, calling them "the ugliest Fords ever built."

This much we know: Henry Ford, who was never one to leave his subordinates alone, personally ordered that the car's overall length be reduced from 182.75 inches to 179.5. The difference may not sound like very much, but it was enough to spoil the proportions envisioned by the stylists, and the cars -- especially the flatback sedans -- looked stubby.

The late, great Gordon Buehrig, chief stylist at Duesenberg during that marque's golden years, once commented that "good design is largely a matter of proportion."

The badly battered American economy had made a rather substantial, though incomplete, recovery during 1936. a trend that continued well into 1937. By (calendar) year's end, Ford had built almost 57,000, or 7.2 percent, more cars than it had produced during 1936.

The difference was not to be seen on the bottom line, however, for, ironically, profits of $6.76 million were scarcely more than one-third the previous year's figure. There were a number of reasons for this. Tooling for the seamless steel top, the 60-horsepower engine, and other innovations was reflected in the high cost of bringing the 1937 Ford into production.

The 1937 Ford Model 74 station wagon also boasted interior comfort features.
The 1937 Ford Model 74 station wagon also
boasted interior comfort features.

And there were other expenses. A dynamometer room was established for the first time, an axle-testing machine was purchased, and the wind tunnel, built just the previous year, was provided with hot and cold capacities for 1937.

Meanwhile, surprisingly, Chevrolet production dropped about 11 percent for the year, with the result that Ford came within 20,000 units of matching Chevy. Parenthetically, it's interesting to note that 1937's big gainers were medium-priced cars such as Buick (up 26 percent), Pontiac (up 32 percent), Chrysler (up 51 percent), and Nash (up 62 percent).

But late that summer, shortly before the introduction of the 1938 models, the nation began to slip into a sharp recession, and automobile sales tumbled dramatically. Compounding the problem, as far as dealers were concerned, was a huge inventory of used cars, taken in trade during the spring.

Continue on to the next page to learn about the 1937 Ford DeLuxes.

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