Ford Sportsman, Henry Ford II Takes Over
A renowned pacifist during World War I, Henry Ford was in his late 70s when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But he realized that the Second World War was a very different situation, and had already geared his firm to war production.
Ford Motor Company duly turned out a variety of military vehicles including Jeeps (with American Bantam and Willys-Overland), and its new mile-long plant in Willow Run, Michigan, near Detroit, produced a variety of bombers through 1945.
Henry finally surrendered control of his company -- but not to Edsel, who died a broken man in 1943 at age 49. Despite the end of the war, the doddering mogul stubbornly continued to manage an increasingly troubled Ford Motor Company until his family insisted he step down. That came in 1945, when he handed the reins to grandson Henry Ford II, who would hold them for the next 33 years, most of them successful.
The great old man himself passed on in 1947. Unlike his grandfather, "HFII" consistently sought and encouraged talented managers. However, he just as consistently encouraged their retirement -- or fired them -- when they reached a certain level of power. Though the Ford family no longer owns a majority of common stock, Ford is still very much a family operation.
Young Henry quickly returned Ford Motor Company to civilian production after V-J day. Ford Division was again the industry's volume leader for model-year 1946, but Chevrolet would be back to full speed the following year and would remain "USA-1" through 1948.
Like most other makes, Ford returned to peacetime with restyled '42 cars, though it bored its V-8 out to 239.4 cid for an extra 10 horsepower. Also, the low-priced Special Sixes were eliminated, leaving six- and eight-cylinder DeLuxe and Super DeLuxe. And there was now a second V-8 convertible, a novel variation on the standard item called Sportsman.
Developed from Bob Gregorie's wartime sketches, the Sportsman featured white ash and mahogany trim over its doors, rear body panels, and deck, as on the Chrysler Town & Country. This was an easy way to give an old design new appeal, and it boosted floor traffic at Ford dealers. But a $500 price premium over the all-steel convertible limited sales to just 1209 for '46, 2250 for '47, and just 28 for '48 (the last actually reserialed '47s).
Appearance alterations for 1947 involved shuffled nameplates and lower-mounted round parking lights. No changes at all occurred for '48, but the six was rerated to 95 horsepower, up five. Postwar inflation had pushed up prices, the increases averaging about $100 for 1947.
But nothing really new was needed in the car-starved early-postwar market, and Ford output exceeded 429,000 units for 1947. The total was only 248,000 the following year, but that only reflected an early end to 1948 production. The reason was the first all-new postwar Fords that went on sale with great anticipation in June 1948.
For more on the amazing Ford, old and new, see:
- Ford New Car Reviews and Prices
- Ford Used Car Reviews and Prices