Fate of the 1946 Beechcraft Plainsman Concept Car
The fate of the 1946 Beechcraft Plainsman concept car wasn't a sad one, not for Beech, at least.
Beech did go so far as to set a price for a production version of the 1946 Beechcraft Plainsman: $4,000-$5,000. That was lofty for 1946, and would surely have meant few sales. That kind of money bought a Cadillac limousine in 1946, but the sum might have come down to more realistic levels with really high-volume production, which Beech certainly could have managed.
Postwar upstart Kaiser-Frazer may have grabbed the world's largest factory when it leased the wartime Ford bomber plant in Willow Run, Michigan, but the Beech complex in Wichita wasn't much smaller at almost a million square feet total, with about three-fourths of it dedicated solely to manufacturing.
Ultimately, of course, Beech had no need to build the Plainsman or any other automobile. By late 1947 it was flying high again on $22.5 million in new government orders prompted by the onset of the Cold War and political crises in Berlin, Palestine, India, and China.
With that, Beech abandoned its automaking ambitions and apparently never looked back. It was just as well. Within three years the Tucker was a bad dream, Kaiser-Frazer was struggling to recover from management blunders, and even established independents were showing signs of distress.
In the end, Beech was lucky that events turned as they did. Innovative though it was, the 1946 Beechcraft Plainsman concept car might have developed into a major corporate headache had it gone into production. After all, the aircraft business involves war only part of the time, while the car business is almost always hell on wheels. Just ask your friendly local Edsel dealer.