1940’s Automobile Production

By February of 1942, all of the major automobile makers had their production lines shut down as a result of a production freeze on their 1940’s automobiles. All existing stock of unsold cars were managed by our government for the war effort. These cars were the leftover 1941 and 1942 models, and were rationed out on an as-needed basis for civilian and military use.

In general terms, no 1940’s automobiles were produced in 1943 or 1944. With that said, the auto industry claims there were 139 cars built in 1943 and 610 built in 1944. It could very well be that they used up the existing stock of vehicles and made more, but they were probably assembled from spare parts left over after the assembly lines shut down.

It gets a little complicated getting an accurate count, for a few reasons:

1. Some of the 1941 and 1942 models that were left over before the freeze were taken by our military for staff cars, and were titled as 1943, 1944, and 1945 models.

2. War Department document TM-9-2800 from 1943 authorized building certain light and heavy cars for staff use, the light ones were Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth, while the heavy ones were Packard and Buick. Again, these were either leftover vehicles repainted for military use, or built with leftover parts.

3. Fred Crismon’s book U.S. Military Wheeled Vehicles (Crestline Series) says that Packard was building blackout versions of the Clipper “as late as 1943” for the U.S. Army.

Production started up again in 1945, although these automobiles were built for the 1946 model year. Most makes that were built were warmed over 1942 models for 1946, 1947 and 1948. For example, General Motors first postwar redesign was their 1949 line of automobiles.

During the production freeze, automakers became around the clock defense contractors.

Long before the United States entered World War II, automobile manufacturers began devoting ever greater amounts of production time to defense work, for export to Britain as well as for the United States. The Chrysler Corporation was one of the car makers most active in defense work. As the involvement of the United States in the war became imminent, the automobile industry played a more important role than ever in the rearmament of the country.

Ford built airplane engines for the British government. B-24 Liberator and gliders bombers for the U.S. Military. Ford also turned out tanks, armored cars, jeeps and engines for robot bombs. Ford’s plants in Great Britain and Canada had joined the production efforts of the United States and produced everything from mobile canteens to four-wheel-drive trucks and autos, grenades, bombs and engine-powered landing craft.

General Motors converted all of its production to the war effort and delivered more than $12 billion worth of goods, ranging from airplanes to tanks, marine diesel engines, trucks, machine guns, and shells. No other manufacturer delivered as much material to the Allied forces.

Chrysler made everything from fuse bomb noses, forging and machining shells, cartridge cases, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, aircraft engines, and they played a major role in the B-29 bomber. They also made assorted military vehicles such as command cars, ambulances, trucks, and weapons carriers.

At its vast Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the Ford Motor Company performed something of a miracle 24-hours a day. The average Ford car had some 15,000 parts. The B-24 Liberator long-range bomber had 1,550,000. One of the B-24s came off the line every 63 minutes.

America launched more vessels in 1941 than Japan did in the entire war. By the end of the war, more than half of all industrial production in the world would take place in the United States.

Without the massive amounts of equipment produced by millions of  men and women on the homefront for use by the 11+% of the population in the uniforms of the Armed Forces, the results of the war would have been quite different.


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