The second half of the 1940s was an interesting era for the American car. During World War II, car factories had been even busier than normal, but few of them had been building cars. Most were riveting together weapons, planes, and Jeeps instead. Automotive production and design came to a general standstill during those violent years.
So, in 1945, when the War finally ended, automakers picked up right where they left off, with the design and engineering of the 1930s. Even sport models were still tall, floaty land yachts with seemingly disproportionate power to weight ratios and enough metal to shame an Essex-class aircraft carrier.
But this is not to say they weren’t beautiful. In fact, they’re probably some of the most stunning cars in the American repertoire, the very perfection of the smooth, streamlined movement of the ‘30s, suicide doors and proto-fastbacks intact.
Then came the 50’s. In rushed the Space Age, along came television, and their child, Buck Rogers, ushered in a new era of science fiction fascination. Futurism sprouted fins, and cars got lower and longer. And they packed more heat. Highways were widening with the postwar boom, and Eisenhower’s Interstate Act of 1956 meant that every car needed to be able to mount an on-ramp with ease.
This leaves the late ‘40s as a unique sub-era of American automotive design. But we’ll always remember those gorgeous years, thanks to guys like Jeff.
See, Jeff needed a daily driver, so he started clicking around on Craigslist. Most of us, were we searching for a commuter carriage, would look for an Accord or a Camry–something boring and practical…but not Jeff. When his mouse alighted on a 1946 Plymouth Deluxe P-15, he had to have it.
Jeff loved the P-15 not for what it was, but for what it could be. After all, it lacked an engine and transmission, and needed considerable work before it was even road-worthy, much less presentable. Thankfully, though, Jeff isn’t a guy to do things half-way, so he and his brother spent the next three years giving the Deluxe a complete restoration.
He fixed the aforementioned power-to-weight ratio, too. The original Deluxe P-15 came with a 218 cid flathead six, which came trundling along with all of 95 horsepower. In truth, it wasn’t slow for its day. It could cruise at 55 without issues and could mount Eisenhower’s little on-ramps with ease. But, since this particular Deluxe wasn’t a numbers-matching effort, Jeff gave it the 218’s bigger scion, the Mopar 318 cid V8. That venerable block first showed up in 1968 with the Valiant, the Barracuda, and the Dodge Dart. And Chrysler liked it so much they put it in their Ram truck from 1967-1991.
Jeff and his brother didn’t just give the old Deluxe a new heart, either. They fully restored that voluptuous body, as well, giving it a sheen of white paint and polishing all the chrome, including that iconic three-bar grille.
The day Jeff finally finished the Deluxe, he fired it up and slid on down to the gas station. There he ran into an old friend from high-school, who invited him and the Plymouth to a car show the next day. Little did Jeff know then that he would soon be searching for a new daily driver, because he now had a show car. Today, Jeff and the Deluxe are members of Sno Valley Cruisers of Snoqualmie, Washington.
The late ‘40s were a bridging era for America cars, caught between the tall, nautical cruisers of the ‘30s and the low, highway-tuned space machines of the ‘50s. But thanks to guys like Jeff, who see something like a ’46 Plymouth Deluxe as a viable commuter car, we won’t have to forget that era.