Saturday, March 1, 2014

1941 Plymouth Special DeLuxe 4-door Sedan



"It's a pleasure to remind you that this stunning new 1941 Plymouth — so beautiful, so long, wide, low-swung — is a low-priced car! Inside, you'll find glamorous new Fasion-Tone Interior — a miracle in color, fabric, appointments. And you'll discover a new delight in Plymouth's new 4-way Step-Up in  Performance  . . .  giving you new mastery of hills and traffic! And, for 1941, Plymouth announces Powermatic Shifting  . . .  a new Oil-Bath Air Cleaner that adds to engine life and economy  . . .  new Engine Bearings which are 2 to 3 times longer-lived  . . .  new Ignition Protection to assure fast, easy starts! See and drive this Big Beauty today at your nearby Plymouth dealer."

This 1941 Plymouth from Havana exudes the aura of a time when the shape of American automobiles gradually evolved from engineered machinery to highly stylized moving objects. By the 1930s, all American car manufacturers had realized the increasing importance of car styling as a decision factor for new car purchases. Until then, car styling had largely been the business of engineers, with freelance artists and coachbuilders infusing them styling themes. Thus, of course, many interesting ideas were overruled by the practical approach of engineering towards car design.

GM would set a new trend in 1927 with the creation of the first corporate "Art and Color Section", directed by Harley Earl. Slowly but surely, all other manufacturers followed suit. In 1930, Raymond H. Dietrich became the first head of the newly established Chrysler Styling department. 

While Harley Earl at GM quickly began trimming the whole company towards obeying the demands of the styling department, engineers remained dominant at Chrysler. Naturally, the new focus on car styling caused much friction and often open confrontation between the corporate departments. Over one of these fights, Ray Dietrich was ousted in 1940, and Robert Cadwallader, much less belligerent than Dietrich, inherited the chief designer's position, becoming responsible for the postwar Mopar lineup.

Yet, before leaving Chrysler, Dietrich had caused quite a sensation with the decent looking Plymouth for 1939. As one novelty, this car featured a front grille with a strong emphasis on horizontal lines. Plymouth should retain that treatment over the next ten years. Thus, our pictured 1941 Plymouth is the famous exception to the rule, as this year the "typical" Plymouth front look was abandoned for something much more fashionable: a new heart-shaped front grille and gimmicky "Speedlines" at the fenders should impart a certain feeling of motion. Suddenly, the rather sensible Plymouth looked almost better than a Buick or Chevrolet, which themselves were considered cutting-edge designs. Customers liked these details and honored the fresh design with a massive demand: the annual production jumped from around 430.000 to just over 522.000 cars.

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