After WW2, Detroit got back to making civilian cars instead of weapons, and most new American cars from 1946-1948 were slightly redesigned versions of prewar designs (because Americans wanted cars Now). 1949 was a big model year for American cars and truly made war a thing of the past. Ford went with an independent front suspension and sleeker lines, GM introduced a new line of overhead valve V8s and sleeker lines, and Chrysler… well, Chrysler has been using reliable but old-fashioned suspension and power Assembly hardware makes for a stuffy-looking machine. The new 1949 Dodge’s bodywork looked sleeker than the ’48’s, but the styling moved the metal back then, and sales weren’t as strong as Chrysler had hoped. Here’s one of those cars, a top-of-the-line Crown in a Northern California self-serve yard.
I stopped in this yard on my e-fuel drive from the San Francisco bay to the largest small city in the world because I saw this car in Row52’s online inventory and wanted to buy some windshields for my 1941 Plymouth project Glass wiper hardware. The wiper parts didn’t fit my car, but this Dodge turned out to be very solid and complete, well worth documenting for this series.
In Chrysler’s 1949 brand prestige scale, Dodge ranked above the entry-level Plymouth but below the DeSoto and Chrysler.
Introduced in 1949, the Coronet designation designates the highest trim level of that year’s Dodge vehicles (the last new Dodge in North America to bear the Coronet designation was the 1976 model).
The car is priced at $1,927, or about $23,904 in 2022 dollars. The cheapest 1949 Dodge sedan was the Meadowbrook at $1,848 ($22,924 today). Serious cheapskates can pick up the stripped-down ’49 Plymouth luxury sedan for just $1,492 (now $18,508).
Standard equipment on an affordable car in 1949 was very different from what it is today. For example, you have to pay extra for a heater in a 1949 Dodge. I should probably buy this “MoPar 70” badge while I’m there.
It’s what Dodge’s brochure writers describe as “living room comfort.”
This is what it looked like nearly three-quarters of a century ago.
The serial number (from which I removed the last two digits) shows that the car was built in California, although not at the Los Angeles factory. As it turns out, Chrysler has an assembly plant on Davis Street in San Leandro, Northern California, and that’s where this car was born. When looking for parts for my 1969 Toyota Corona sedan in the early ’80s, the first junkyard I visited was in Davis, just on the other side of Doolittle Drive where the factory is located. Chrysler closed its San Leandro plant in 1954, and it was later used by International Harvester and Caterpillar. Today, Drake’s Brewing Company brews beer at that location.
The engine was a Chrysler flat-six that was produced from the 1920s until the 1970s, a workhorse (later engines were used for stationary use in generators and irrigation pumps, as well as powering some military trucks). Chrysler didn’t join the overhead-valve straight-six craze until long after GM and Ford, with the Slant-6 engine first appearing in the 1960 model year. If you’re interested, the last new production car you could buy in the US with a flathead engine was the 1964 Checker Marathon.
If this was the engine installed in San Leandro when the car was built, it would be a 230 cubic inch (3.8 liter) engine rated at 102 horsepower. Those engines were replaced early on, though, often over decades, so it could be one of many different versions.
Transmission was one of the oddities of its day: Halfautomatic. Known as the Gyro-Matic (or Chrysler’s Presto-Matic and DeSotos’ Tip-Toe Shift) in the 1949 Dodge, this transmission used Chrysler’s fluid drive coupling instead of a flywheel, with two forward gears and an electric overdrive that results in four forward speeds. The basic transmission on the 1949 Dodge was a three-post shift manual with fluid actuation (it allows you to hold the car in gear while parked and start in any gear, but still requires the clutch to change gears), but Coronet buyers can opt for the Gyro-Matic.
You still have a clutch pedal with the Gyro-Matic, but the driver only uses it when moving between shift positions (neutral, reverse, low and high). Anyone who knows how to drive a normal trident will be driven mad by the Gyro-Matic because it looks exactly like the more mainstream setups. When driving, you depress the clutch, select a low gear (second gear is third gear) or a high gear (third gear is third gear), release the clutch and hit the accelerator. At that point, it drives like a normal automatic until you want to switch between low and high ranges.
Here’s a demonstration of the Gyro-Matic in action. The transmission’s last year was 1953, after which the conventional two-pedal automatic took over the North American Chrysler lineup.
I really like this clock, but didn’t buy it.
The car is free of rust, but the interior shows that it has been in its environment for decades. Restoring this mess will cost a lot.
Pick-n-Pull often tries to sell such cars as a “manufacturer” before placing them in the general available parts inventory, but at this price there are no buyers. I’ve found a lot of Chrysler products from this era in large self-service yards, so obviously there are far more of these cars than there are people willing and able to fix them.