At 10:51am on July 3, 1945, the first postwar vehicle, the 1946 Ford, was produced. The public wouldn’t get a glimpse of this new product until October 26, 1945. Demand would, of course, be astounding.
Photos by Tony Firpi
Typically, the launch of a new car is met with lukewarm anticipation from the public, but in 1946, things were much different. On July 1, 1945, just two months prior to the U.S. victory over Japan, the War Production Board gave a green light to all automobile manufactures to resume vehicle production for civilian consumption. Due to the war efforts, it was over three years since the public had the ability to buy a new vehicle. At 10:51am on July 3, 1945, the first postwar vehicle, the 1946 Ford, was produced. The public wouldn’t get a glimpse of this new product until October 26, 1945. Demand would, of course, be astounding.
Customers responded like bees to honey, with over 300,000 orders taken on the first day. By the end of the model year, 467,536 cars were sold. Ford, like the other domestic manufacturers, didn’t have time to develop a new postwar product, so the 1946 Ford was simply a slightly massaged 1942 Ford with only subtle changes. Outside, a new, more aggressive grille and revised hood provided a fresh look. In the rear, twin stainless steel trim spears were added to the deck lid. A new hood ornament finished off exterior changes.
Ford simplified things by dropping one model, the Special, from its lineup. Only the Deluxe and Super Deluxe remained. Customers could still order a coupe, two-door sedan, four-door sedan, woody convertible or woody station wagon within those two models. List prices increased three to four hundred dollars from 1942 based on the model ordered, but the public didn’t seem to care about it.
It was a fact that Henry Ford hated change. But his grandson, Henry II, was now the new President of Ford Motor Company, replacing his 80-year-old grandfather. It was, however, clear that the 1946 Ford was still all Henry’s doing. Its suspension was old school. Ford Motor Company was the only major manufacturer at the time to continue using transverse front and rear springs and a straight front axle. Other low-cost companies, including Chevrolet and Plymouth, had already moved to independent front suspensions and longitudinal rear springs for a more comfortable ride and improved handling.
Inside, much of the Ford was carryover, with the exception of several new seat materials. Customers could order mohair, broadcloth or imitation leather material for seat cover selection. The rest of the interior remained the same as the 1942 model.
Ford’s famous flathead V8 was known as a potential powerhouse for the masses. Displacement increased to 239 cubic-inches, and horsepower rose to 100. The dependable six-cylinder engine produced 90 horsepower and was considered nearly as fast as the V8 from the factory. Only a three-speed column shift manual transmission was available.
By the end of the model year, Ford managed to sell over 70,000 more vehicles than Chevrolet, yet posted an 8.1 million-dollar loss. Ford Motor Company, however, had put into place a new team to run the company. Henry Ford ll hired a group of ten army officers known as “The Whiz Kids”. The group included a man named Robert McNamara, who later went on to become a president of Ford Motor Company. While they had little to do with the 1946 Ford, the team would set the stage for the next generation of exciting Ford products.
Fuel for Thought
First manufacturer to produce cars in 1945
Increased displacement and horsepower on the V8|
Mostly a warmed over 1942 Ford
New interior colors
Number built – 467,536 units
Construction – Body-on-frame
Engine – 223-ci six-cylinder, 239-ci V8
Power/Torque – 90/180 (six-cylinder), 100/190 (V8)
Transmission – Three-speed manual
Suspension front – Transverse spring
Suspension rear – Transverse spring
Steering – Worm & roller
Brakes – 12-inch drums-front and rear
Length/width/height – 197.8/73.4/66.15 inches
Wheelbase – 114 inches
Weight – 3,190 lbs.
0-60mph/quarter mile – 21.5 seconds, 23 seconds at 63 mph (0-60 time from Mechanics IIlustrated, February 1946, quarter mile time est.)
Top speed – 84 mph (Mechanics Illustrated, February 1946)
MPG – 16-20 mpg est.
Price – MSRP $1303 (Super Deluxe Two-Door sedan) Today – $8,100-$17,700
Insurance cost is $130/year for a stock 1946 Ford Super Deluxe Sedan valued at $9,200. For a modified vehicle, insurance cost is $250/year. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance, www.heacockclassic.com
Engine – The flathead engine was updated with new aluminum pistons that featured four piston rings, replacing the three-ring iron piston. A larger oil pump improved lubrication. The ignition was now sealed to prevent water intrusion. While not a powerhouse directly from the factory, horsepower could be increased with a large number of aftermarket performance parts.
Handling – In one word, bad! Ford continued to use front and rear transverse leaf springs (buggy springs) while most other manufactures offered independent front suspension and longitudinal rear leaf springs. The transverse springs didn’t allow for any type of tight turn to be initiated without major vehicle roll.
1946 Plymouth Special Deluxe Two-Door sedan
Number built – 245,581 calendar year production
0-60/quarter mile – 22.0 seconds, 23.5 seconds at 62 mph est.
Top speed – 81 mph est.
Price – MSRP – $1,282; Today – $4,750-$10,350
1946 Chevrolet Fleetline Aero Two-door sedan
Number built – 65,433 units
0-60/quarter mile – 21.8 seconds, 22.7 seconds at 63 mph est.
Top speed – 84 mph est.
Price – MSRP – $1,249; Today – $5,450-$13,550
First year for a post-war car
Available performance parts for the flathead V8
Popular with hot rodders
Readily available today at a reasonable price
Some parts hard to come by
Many unrestored cars are rusty
Not considered stylish by some
Most 1946 Fords are hot rods and are driven on a semi-regular basis. They are used and enjoyed, as the value is not in the stratosphere of Cobra Jets and Boss Mustangs.
What to pay
1946 Ford Super Deluxe Two-Door Sedan
MSRP – $1,303
Low – $8,100
Average – $9,200
High – $17,700
*Based on prices from the Classic Cars and Parts Price Guide, fueled by NADA and available wherever Kustoms and Hot Rods magazines are sold.
Door bottom patch panel $195.00
Front door glass $75.00
Water pump $88.95
Steering wheel $155.00
Tail lamp assembly $34.75
Oil pump $135.00
*Based on information from Mac’s Antique Auto Parts,
Ford Postwar Flatheads 1946-1953 Photo Archive by James H. Moloney
Flathead Fever by M. Davidson
Refurbishing Manual for Early Ford V8 Cars by MotorBooks
Ford, Lincoln and Mercury Service Manual 1946 thru 1948 by MotorBooks
The 1946 Ford was essentially a pre-war car with some minor changes, but because the public would have purchased almost any new product at the time, it became a big success. With an antiquated suspension system and outdated flathead powertrain, the ride and performance was fair at best, yet Ford sold almost 500,000 cars that year.
1946 Ford Super Deluxe Two-Door Sedan
Owner: Chad Fisher
Member of the F-Bombs (Tampa)
The car is his daily driver.
43,000 original miles, modified with 12 volt, altimeter
PPG, Deltron paint in black, green, pearl white lace
Added temperature gauge
Dunby spots, skirts, visor, swamp cooler
Front suspension: 4 in. dropped axle, posi drop springs
Rear suspension: posi drop springs
Tires: Firestone, (F-670/15)(R-560-15)
Brand: Stock smooth
Model: Later Ford
Size: 15 in.