America is a car culture. It was raised on the road, whether on family road trips to see relatives or through commerce that shuttled from city to city on trucks. The Car of the Week takes a look at one of those vehicles as a way to not only look back at automotive changes but the history that created them.
Published in the Tacoma Weekly
The year 1942 was pivotal in the auto-making business because America was at war on two fronts and much of its manufacturing might was shifted to making military vehicles instead of convertibles and coupes. The 1942 models of Chevrolet’s lines, the Master Deluxe, the Special Deluxe and the Fleetline, were a fraction of what they had been the year before. Only 258,795 of all Chevrolet models were built because of the shift to war production and scarce parts.
One of those models was the Blackout models, named thus because they lacked the chrome and polished stainless steel trim that had marked the models in the pre-war years. The grille, medallions and hubcaps, as well as all window and body trim, were painted metal instead of chrome.
Blackouts of any make are rare since they were only made during January 1942, when the Office of Production Management froze dealer inventories and halted all new car and truck sales pending a rationing program to be implemented in March. All passenger car production had ended by February. That left a single month to make cars before the ban took effect. Only 2,350 were built. The 1942 Chevrolets had a price starting at $799.
There were two designs on the basic model, the Master Deluxe and the Special Deluxe. The Special Deluxe added the Fleetline sub-series: a four-door notchback Sportmaster sedan, plus the two-door fastback Aerosedan. All 1942 Chevrolets had the same engine, a 216 cubic-inch, 90 horsepower engine and a three-speed column-shifted manual.
Some of Chevrolet’s color choices reflected the mood of the time: Volunteer Green, Ensign Blue, Torpedo Gray and Martial Maroon.
During the war, Chevrolet and GMC made military trucks and ambulances, armored artillery, shells, airplane engines and amphibious landing craft.
The war ended in 1945. Civilian auto production resumed. Local ration boards authorized each new car sales at government-controlled prices. Used car prices nearly doubled. New tires were not available; recaps were rationed. Gas was rationed. The national speed limit was reduced to 35 miles per hour as a way to control gas usage to use the fuel for war reconstruction.