Sunday, September 22, 2013

1938 De Luxe Ford V-8 Fordor Sedan

"The 1938 De Luxe car is entirely new in appearance. It looks big and is big – with more room in the closed sedans, more comfort for passengers and much larger luggage space. The front end is refreshingly new and modern with longer hood. Rich interior appointments match its outward beauty. Fine Mohair or Broadcloth upholstery. Big arm rests in rear, each with ash tray. Handsome new instrument panel, finished in walnut, with ivory plastic fittings. Styled for good taste, good service and comfort. By its advanced streamlined design and brilliant 85-horsepower V-8 engine, this new De Luxe Ford lifts low-price motoring to new levels of luxury."

About a decade after the "Black Friday", the shockwaves of the Great Depression were already fading away, when another economic downturn hit the U.S. hard in late 1937 and for most of 1938. Unemployment rose to the level of 1934, and customers wouldn't spend a dime on a new automobile. These were the circumstances when Ford launched the "new-for-1938" lineup in November 1937. Not surprisingly, Ford should end up producing just half as many cars as in the year before. Today, one of them is still going strong in Havana. Finding a 1938 Ford in such a nice original condition more than 75 years later is a truly rare encounter. Even more so in Cuba, where a lack of original spare parts is usually the death of "original".

Ford's marketing followed a rather strange strategy between 1938 and 1941: in an urge to "expand" the product range, Ford offered "Standard" and "De Luxe" models, both based on the same 112-inch chassis, but dissimilar in body dimensions and styling. Better appointed De Luxe Fords sported a distinctive front grille and fenders. Ford's Standard models, instead, looked like De Luxe models of the year before but weren't technically identical with them. The biggest difference between both versions was under the hood: a flathead V-8 engine with 85hp propelled the De Luxe Ford, while the owners of Standard Fords had to live with just 60hp, unless they payed a premium for the optional bigger 85hp engine. Because the better appointed De Luxe Ford did cost just $60 more, it easily outsold the Standard models by a margin of three to one.

When it came to car styling, Ford traditionally never had been an industry leader. Henry Ford himself was contemptuous of car styling. Instead, his company excelled in another field: delivering very good quality at very low prices. That said, the 30s were a surprisingly creative period at Ford. Read more about it here.

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