How Dodge Works

1940, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946 Dodge Cars

Continuity was Dodge's hallmark in the '40s, the division retaining its essential 1939 bodyshells all the way through "first-series" 1949 models, though exterior sheet metal and some internal structure would change along the way. Standard wheel-base throughout was 119.5 inches. A long sedan and limousine returned for 1940 on a 139.5-inch chassis, which then shrunk a bit to 137.5. Styling was typical of Highland Park in this era: prominent fenders, increasingly gaudy grilles, and low rooflines with limited glass areas.

The 1940 line repeated '39 offerings: low-priced Special coupe and two- and four-door sedans; the same as DeLuxe’s plus convertible, five-seater coupe, and the aforementioned seven-place sedan and limousine (the last cost $1,170). The upper series accounted for some 120,000 units, about 60 ­percent of the model-year total -- though only 1,000 were long models. Running boards were on the way out, now a $10 linewide option. A new 1940 extra was two-tone paint, though with fenders, hood, and deck in the contrasting color, this conferred a taxicab air and was not popular.

A clean facelift livened up looks for '41, announced by parking lights combined with the headlamps in a more horizontal heart-shaped grille. Chrysler's Fluid Drive clutch became optional, and higher compression booted the old-soldier six to 91 bhp. Two-door sedans were now Broughams, DeLuxe designated the inexpensive three-model line, and the upper series was renamed Custom. Expanding the last was a handsome four-door Town Sedan with blank rear-roof quarters. It was a modest success, garnering 16,074 orders.

Long models continued selling in small numbers (just 654 this year). Total production divided between 106,000 DeLuxe’s and 131,000 Customs. Though Dodge had moved from ninth to sixth in the industry for 1940, it fell back a spot for '41. The following year, though, it reclaimed sixth from Oldsmobile.

With Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II, the government halted civilian production in February 1942. Dodges weren't as scarce as some other Detroit cars that year, though they're hard enough to come by now. Model-year production was about 68,500. Among standard-chassis models, the Custom convertible was rarest: just 1,185 built.

A heavy facelift made the '42 Dodges look good, if not quite as radical as that year's hidden-headlamp DeSotos. Front fenders were broadened to accommodate a more-horizontal grille with a distinct eggcrate texture and bulged center. Optional fender skirts returned from '41 with bright moldings to match rear-fender trim, and five-passenger coupes gained more rakishly angled B-posts. The only mechanical change involved stroking the old six to 230.2 cid and substituting a Carter carb for the previous Stromberg. Horsepower stood at 105.

Sporadic wartime design work in Highland Park produced several interesting prototypes for postwar Dodges. These involved the basic 1940-42 body updated with smoother grilles, wraparound bumpers, thinner door pillars, and fully integrated fenders. But all were rendered stillborn because '42 tooling was far from amortized. Dodge thus resumed civilian production with warmed-over prewar cars for 1946-48, as did most other American makes.

The division was especially slow to do so, building only 420 cars by the end of 1945. But output zoomed in calendar '46, and Dodge finished the model year in fourth (behind the low-priced three) with nearly 164,000. The tally was over 243,000 for '47, but Dodge fell to fifth behind an equally resurgent Buick. The make regained fourth the next year, again on slightly more than 243,000 cars.

For more on the all-American Dodge, see:

  • Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices