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best american car 1938-41


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You are going to get a variety of answers to that one. Everyone who replies should offer a reason for their choice so perhaps we can all learn something. My choice would be the 1941 Clipper . It didn't have the new for 1940 356 engine until 1942 but it did have the longer hood on the 127"wheelbase. It was ahead of it's time with that Darrin inspired styling which combined with Packard quality was probably the most beautiful and finest American built car of the period.

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Best for what?

Best 4 door sedan to own going into WW2, 1941 Willys Americar (4 cyl 30MPG) with an extra set of tires.

Best at having lots of cylinders, Cadillac V16

Best low priced performance car, 1939 Ford V8 85HP

Best value for money luxury car, Chrysler New Yorker

Best value for money family car, Nash 600

Snazziest medium price car, 1939 Graham supercharged shark nose sedan

Best swan song, 1938 Pierce Arrow V12 with matching Travelodge trailer

Best car that didn't make production, Rust Heinz' Phantom Corsair

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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1941 Cadillac, with a fully Automatic transmission, Air Conditioning, and the availability ( 2nd year ) of a steel sliding sunroof, a new eggcrate grille that would be a Cadillac trademark for years, encorporating the new styling trend of front fenders flowing into the doors (60 special) and a gas cap hidden under the left taillight. All this before WW2.

Don

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You are going to get a variety of answers to that one. Everyone who replies should offer a reason for their choice so perhaps we can all learn something.

For looks, value, and engineering: 1940 LaSalle. It's been at or near the top of my wish list for 30 years, and will probably stay there forever.:cool:

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You must remember that the very last Duesenberg, a Rollston bodied SJ to order, was built in 1938. You also need remember that the wide angle side valve Cadillac V16 was built throughout the specified period; and though many might consider it less appealing and desirable than the ohv 452, it was substantially improved in many respects for someone who wanted to buy a car to drive long distances very fast in safety and without fatigue.

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1941 Chrysler / De Soto / Dodge - new bodies (longer, lower, wider), new revised front suspension, semi-auto matic transmikssion available, first use of "Air-Foam" seat padding (in up-scale models). Full-pressure oiling (since 1924), and insert bearings.

Comfortable, reliable cars. Still very driveable today.

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We have a '40 Plymouth, Chrysler and Dodge. Out of those three cars, I think the Dodge is the nicest because of of the amound of chrome on the front of it.

.....But then I love the sounds of those flathead V8's when they're running.

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This is a very tough question as that time period was a high point for lots of cars IMO.

My first thought was a Packard 120, my second a 1940-41 Buick. The above argument for a 1941 Cadillac could easily pursuade me too.

Todd

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I've been under my share of hoods, Packards, Rolls, Caddies, Fords, Dodges, and Chevys just to name the common stuff. It is in my opinion that one of the finest manufactured automobiles I have ever worked on is a Pierce. A well engineered and designed automobile. If I had only one to chose, this would be it. Dandy Dave!

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A tough call, indeed; it's kind of like asking, "Who is the most beautiful actress of 1938-41?"

With the broad (no pun intended ;)) range of models to choose from at all price-points,

you'd have to break it down to one within each bracket.

For pure visual delight, I'd pick the sleek, trend-setting '41 Packard Clipper.

For drop-dead reliability, the '40-'41 Chevrolet.

Most beautiful actress; Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind (1939),

That Hamilton Woman (1940). and Waterloo Bridge (1941).

See, it's all so bloody subjective!

TG

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"For drop-dead reliability, the '40-'41 Chevrolet."

I'd put MoPar up against Chevy for reliability. The stovebolt was fine as long as the babbit held-out.

That's always struck me as a strange paradox - Buick and Chevrolet both had one of the most advanced and best performing engine designs of that era, and yet they both stubbornly clung to poured bearings, into the 1950's.

Also the conspiuous lack of an overdrive tranny...

Chrysler may have had "asthmatic" flatheads, but they switched to insert bearings in 1934-'35, and never looked back.

If the Stovebolt and Buick Eight had been built with insert bearings, you would have had unbeatable engines.

( Perhaps the Buick Eights held-up better, but most Chevy 216's that have crossed my path have rightfully earned the name "Babbit-pounder"... )

Both were very attractive cars !

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I think Helfen had it right, the 1941 Cadillac Series 60. Remember The Standard of the World". That car is still capable of doing today's traffic

in comfort & style. I like the other suggestions too, but my vote is the

Cadillac.

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Boy, that's a loaded question. Just goes to show, if you ask 100 people a question, you'll get 100 different answers. I wouldn't even try to answer, because I'd just bring my own bias to the table.

Rog

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They had to save money someplace. The OHV engine cost more than a flathead so they shaved a little cost by using poured bearings, cast iron pistons, and in the case of the Chev, splash oiling.

The result was an engine that was less durable but produced no more power. Compare the HP per Cu In of flathead and OHV engines of the prewar period and you wonder why they bothered.

I think I know the answer. The flathead was not perfected until 1921 or 22 with the introduction of the Ricardo head. After that, practically everyone switched to flatheads. The only exception were diehards who had pinned their faith to the OHV before 1921, like Chev and Buick.

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I'm shocked more Packard fans haven't checked in on this. No doubt Packard had the reputation for building the best quality automobiles at that time and that reputation says a lot. I'd go with a '38-39 Twelve if it was available; otherwise a Super 8 from the same years. They were a much classier looking car than the ones made in the '40's.

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My first choice for build quality and engineering, along with luxury and sheer fun of driving would be the Packard 12 closed cars of 1938 and 1939. They are wonderful cars to drive, and make you smile everytime you take them out. They have lots of power and massive torque, the best balance and handling of all the Packard 12s, plus all the burl wood and wonderfully comfortable interiors, you can drive them all day and still feel like getting back in the car. They are reliable and quiet and very low maintenance. They are the last of the era of "overbuilt" cars - heavier and more rugged with higher quality than necessary, and not built to a budget on an high output assembly line. My second choice would be the 1941 Packard 180 LeBaron Sport Brougham with air conditioning. I love the styling and they too are great cars to drive.

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The thin-wall direct babbit bearings of 40's Chev and Hudson were a very different prospect to the early heavy section bearings. Duesenbergs discovered independantly in the early 20's (if they were not the first) that the secret of durable bearings was a very thin layer of tin alloythat would still embed foreign particles. I know my father thought he was doing very well if he got 80,000 miles out of a V8 engine in his Ford Freighter utes in the 40's; and I remember one that coughed a rod at well under that mileage. Now in the mid 1970's I had a business carting and spreading farm pasture fertilizer, and there was a 4wd Chev Blitz which was good for small orders close to the rail yard. This was one of the small ones specified as 15cwt. The original 16"wheels had been replaced by 20"; and apart from the mass of the actual spreader, it carried a load of 3ton of superphosphate or 3.5 ton of super/potash. That splash feed Chev engine worked very hard for about 5 years before the rest of the truck became too rough. Paddocks were often steep and uneven, and empty on the road home it would wind up to 50mph or more on those big 20" tyres. Eventually I gave the engine to a friend who was restoring one of the handful of MacArthur's soft-top Chev staff cars that came to Melbourne. If you need replacement big end bearings today it can be expensive unless you can do them yourself; but in the 1960's in Melbourne changeover remetalled and bored Chev conrods cost $5 each.

Certainly lined conrods were not industry practice in the end, but if you ran into problems it was likely to be caused by faulty serviceing. And if I remember correctly what I have read, among the cars Fangio built and raced in Sth America some may have had Chev engines before he went to Europe to drive Alfa Romeos and Ferraris.

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I am prejudiced because of owning one, but 1940 Buick Roadmaster is my pick. It had great styling with its torpedo body. It had good power with its 320 cu. in. OHV Straight eight and was an excellent car on the open road. It was a good value for the price.

I also admire 40-41 Cadillacs and Packards.

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Great thread from daytona and great suggestion from Clipper47 that reasons accompany votes. That said, "best" is open to some interpretation. I am saying the Packard (ok biased but have had many cars) line up was best because:

A full range of cars to suit almost all the different price levels from one independent.

Brought legendary Packard quality, reliability, and resale value to a much larger group of people by the late 30s with the introduction of the Jr. line up.

Still maintained #1 luxury car position with Sr. line up which between the years mentioned brought us the last of the great 12 cylinder Classic Packards and the ground breaking Clipper.

Could still be custom bodied. Dietrich factory semi-customs and the Packard Darrin cars.

Subjective, but best overall styling IMO throughout the price points.

So, I think one could argue Packard is tough to beat in the markets they competed in at the time.

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Ok guys, we have a contest here where techincal advancements make a good argument for the Packard and the Buick, I agree.

However the talent portion of the contest is only part of the pagent. We should include swim suit and evening dress before selecting the winner.

For this reason I think the Cadillac Series 60 Fleetwwod is still the prettiest contestant and had this judges highest overall score.

It's not often that the talent winner gets the crown. Best has to include outright beauty too.

OK, lets hear it from the guys who like strong, fat & ugly.

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Ok guys, we have a contest here where techincal advancements make a good argument for the Packard and the Buick, I agree.

However the talent portion of the contest is only part of the pagent. We should include swim suit and evening dress before selecting the winner.

For this reason I think the Cadillac Series 60 Fleetwwod is still the prettiest contestant and had this judges highest overall score.

It's not often that the talent winner gets the crown. Best has to include outright beauty too.

OK, lets hear it from the guys who like strong, fat & ugly.

Like I said before, 41 Cadillac BECAUSE of the techincal advancements especially in the transmission area. The Cad and Olds are the only cars with a fully automatic transmission and that first design lasted from 1940-1956 in some GM cars and in some trucks into mid. sixties. Plus A/C, and what other car besides Cadillac that has a steel sliding sunroof in 41? Plus Cadillac styling with fenders extending into the doors, which many makes won't get until after the war.

D.

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  • 1 year later...

Just stumbled upon this thread. Great discussion and would have to agree that for the money the '41 Cadillac 62 torpedo sedan or the '38 or '41 60 Special were the cars to beat. If cost were no object would go custom-bodied Packard all the way. The '41 LeBaron Sport Brougham is tops as a semi-custom, the '40 Darrin sport sedan as a one-off. The '38-'39 Twelve had great potential. This photo alt of a '38 Brunn would be my choice if the money and derelict chassis were there.

post-64521-14313853566_thumb.jpg

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Great suggestions all. Forgot to mention the '40 Cadillac Sixteen Town Sedan (apparently only one was made).

Someone earlier mentioned Buick. Excellent, the '40 Roadmaster torpedo sedan is one of my favorites. Olds and LaSalle versions are nice too. Only issue with all those cars and the Clipper is the short plump bodies. Need a wheelbase pushing 140 inches to make the torpedo style really flow. '38 Pierce and '38-'39 Packard Twelve had the length but were a bit tall. Packard Darrin sport sedan has the proportions but you sit on the floor. Lincoln never made a Conti sport sedan on the 138" limo chassis. The car I want doesn't exist!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Styling-wise...1940/1 Lincoln Continental, hands down (IMO). Nothing else comes close...

However, mechanically, maybe not so much. For familiarity's sake, I'll take a 1941 Buick Limited as best overall vehicle.

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I would go with the 39 Ford Deluxe,mainly because I'm a Ford lover and that's my favorite of 38-41. Most people would choose the 40 Ford which is also a gorgeous car. Ford was second to Chevy in sales through most years but as far as the popular choice for retention through

the years, I don't think you can argue that Ford isn't king.

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My vote would be for the 1940 Ford Deluxe. It is hard to beat from a styling point of view and the low priced V8 power didn't hurt either. It was also the first Ford to use a 3-speed column mounted shifter.

This is like trying to decide whether Ali or Marciano was the greatest heavyweight of all time. We'll never resolve it, but the discussion is sure fun.

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