The Lowdown On 1942 Cars (Dec, 1941)

They sure liked the suffix -matic at the time. Liquamatic, Hydra-Matic, Turbo-matic, Electromatic, Simplimatic, and Vacamatic all appear in just this article.

The Lowdown On 1942 Cars

Exactly What Have War Conditions And Shortages Done To Your 1942 Car? Here’s Detroit’s Answer To The Challenge.

by Frederick C. Russell

CALL them the 1942 cars if you like, but the glittering dreams that are rolling off the Detroit assembly lines along with tanks, bomber engines and the exciting implements of this bewildering era are, in reality, the latest models of American ingenuity. In former years the new cars were taken for granted, but their appearance today has new meaning. Now we have definite assurance that nothing—not even war, restrictions or fear—can stifle progress.

There is no national automobile show this season but Detroit’s latest offerings are slowly but surely edging toward the limelight. It won’t be long before a million of them will be on the streets and highways serving the public with safer, more efficient transportation. Whether, with the drastic production cut now in effect, the second million will be reached depends on factors which would worry even a Philadelphia lawyer.

A hint of the impressive improvement in all makes for 1942 is seen in the obvious advance in styling, especially with regard to fender treatment, the flattering of the car body and new front-end designs to give each nameplate individuality. There is more trim than ever before, and a trend toward gaiety that was not supposed to be in the cards.

Don’t worry about substitution in materials. This has not yet appeared on the grand scale as best evidenced by the fact that plastics have made only a small gain in the number of applications. The real story in materials is the use of alternates, other materials long preferred by many engineers to more commonly used metals. This is particularly evident in the use of steel and iron alloys in place of aluminum for pistons. This change has been a boon to those companies which have believed all along that aluminum was not the material for such parts of the engine.

Power is still on the increase, proving again that engineers hold to the idea that a reserve of power is not wasteful.

You can take it for a fact that the 1942′s are not the 1941′s with a new coat of paint and a gadget or two.

This is best illustrated by the definite trend toward doing away with pedal clutching. Not only have the original Chrysler Fluid Drive and Olds Hydra-Matic been improved for 1942 use, but several new versions of power transmission have come into the picture. One of these is Liquamatic Drive offered as an extra cost option on 1942 Lincoln and Mercury cars. With this device the driver need not use shift lever or clutch for all-day normal driving once he has shifted into the forward driving range. Changes in gearing are made by positioning of the accelerator pedal. Merely by speeding up the engine he can hold the car on an upgrade, and compression braking can be used to keep down car speed on a downgrade.

This is made possible on Lincoln and Mercury with the aid of a fluid coupling and a special transmission which can be shifted manually to one of three positions; reverse, an emergency low and the normal forward driving range. Conventional use of a mechanical clutch is used for selection of one of these three gear positions.

In Lincoln cars for 1942 the Liquamatic Drive is combined with automatic overdrive which provides two extra speeds in the forward driving range. Top gear plus overdrive reduces engine speed, in its relation to road speed of the car, by approximately 30 per cent.

Studebaker has also joined the cars with fluid coupling. Its system is known as Turbo-matic Drive, consisting of a fluid coupling with an automatic overdrive transmission and an automatic clutch.

Dodge continues with the most simplified of all the Chrysler-engineered Fluid Drives. No automatic transmission or overdrive is used in this system, but by reason of a change in the gear ratios the car has faster getaway. Next comes De Soto with Fluid Drive and the Simplimatic transmission which provides four forward speeds with only two forward gearshift positions. Then we have Chrysler itself with the Vacamatic transmission in combination with Fluid Drive. Improvements have been made with a view to obtaining the best possible gear ratios for performance and economy, and the fluid coupling as used in the Sixes has been changed in detail to reduce slippage.

Before introducing the special controls used in Hudson and Packard just a word to emphasize the fact that the 1942 cars are not lacking in novelties. For example, headlights on the new De Soto disappear into the front fenders. When they pop out of their hiding place they are lighted and ready for business. Buick features what is known as a Step-On parking brake which bans the annoyance of leaning over to reach for the pistol grip of the conventional hand brake. The driver merely moves an easily reached control on the instrument panel and then steps on a new small pedal with his left foot. Cadillac features a special hand brake with a “T” handle. After the brake has been set you release it by twisting the handle. Another Cadillac touch this year is a three-way ignition switch which guards against accidental waste of current by the car’s accessories.

Packard cars for 1942 carry a protective device known as Ventalarm, an addition to the filler pipe of the gasoline tank which whistles when the tank is nearing the “full” mark. This saves fuel and prevents unsightly evidences of gas spilled over the rear of the car. On Nash you will find unique two-way roller steering for the “600″ Ambassador. This is accomplished by reason of the fact that the steering mechanism rides up and down on fixed king pins which are mounted inside the coil springs. Steering and springing mechanisms thus act as a unit and do not fight each other. One of the most interesting of the details seen on the new models is the increase in capacity of the Pontiac oil cleaner which is located inside the crankcase. The oil outlet is now concentric with the cleaner so that all the oil will travel the same distance and at the same velocity. This eliminates oil current eddies which could disturb the settling dirt particles.

Pontiac has an unusual lighting switch.

When the switch is pulled out, the road and instrument panel lights come on, while rotating the knob permits control of intensity of the instrument panel and clock lights. On Plymouth the tonneau light operates when the front door opens, and on De Soto there are locks on both front doors so that a driver can gain entrance to the car on either side. Willys Americar uses 29 pounds of sound-deadening, vibration-absorbing compound on the front floor panel, transmission cover, cowl top and sides, radiator air deflector, rear wheel house panels, fenders and toe boards.

Back to clutches and transmissions for the complete picture of this significant trend toward simplicity in control. When you have added Olds Hydra-matic and the Cadillac version of Hydra-matic Drive you have the complete picture of those controls using fluid. Hudson’s Drive-Master is composed of simple, proven units yet provides new ease of control. The operator has three options. He can run the car manually, semi-automatically or automatically. Clutch operation can be entirely eliminated.

Packard is again featuring Electromatic Drive, a system of automatic clutching combined with automatic overdrive and controlled by a number of solenoids which iron out all the wrinkles. Some recent detailed improvements have been added.

One of the amazing things about the 1942 models is that what we called fanciful cars last year have become realities. The new Chryslers are a close approximation of the “Thunderbolt” job which has toured the country to excite the motoring populace. Buick’s famous “Dream Car” is actually here with fenders which, on some models, sweep from front to rear clear across the doors. The 1941 Cadillac Special introduced front fenders that extended into the front doors. Then came Packard’s Clipper with the fender idea brought down into the popular priced class. Now we find this treatment even in the 1942 Chevrolet. Not to be outclassed Cadillac has lengthened the wheelbase of its famous Sixty Special so that the rear fenders have become a part of the rear doors. You can thus see 1943 styling even as you survey the 1942 lines.

Ford for 1942 is offered in two versions with choice of either the well-known V-8 engine or the new Ford “6″ powerplant. This year’s bodies have a flatter front with a radiator grille of extremely wide section made up of a number of thin vertical bars of rustless steel.

Mechanical improvements have to do with comfort and safety. The Mercury engine has been upped in power with the result that there is an increase in the ratio of power per pound of weight.

Lincoln’s front end differs somewhat from conventional styling because, in addition to the use of horizontal bars extending into the fenders, it is gracefully rounded and seems to be in two levels, with the lower skirt sloping forward. On the front of the hood nose is a coat – of – arms adapted from the crest once borne by the Lincolns of Old England. You have this same crest touch on the front of the 1942 Dodge.

But let us lift the hood and see what they have done to the engines. Plymouth’s power plant is up to 95 h.p. at 3,400 r.p.m., which is at a slower speed than used for rating most car engines. This is largely the result of increasing compression ratio to 6.80 to 1. Chrysler superfinishing is now extended to Plymouth motor parts. Used also is a heavier counterweight crankshaft equipped with a vibration damper. Plymouth pistons are now of lightweight cast iron with chilled iron ribs reinforcing the walls. Added economy is obtained through use of a lower rear axle ratio (3.9) so that the engine makes fewer revolutions per mile. It will surprise many motorists to learn that Packard is still using aluminium pistons. In Tact, the company assures purchasers that pistons of this metal will be used throughout the 1942 model year for the Super-Eight engine. All of the Packard power plants have been stepped up 5 h.p. through an increase to compression ratio of 6.85 to 1. When it becomes necessary Packard engineers will swing over to special cast-iron pistons. Only other change in Packard engines is adoption of heavy-duty, thin alloy bearings.

An improvement in the Willys Americar is re-design of the heat control mechanism on the manifold. This permits what is called “all-speed, all-temperature” peak power. An added advantage . is opportunity for more efficient adjustment for summer and winter fuel mixtures. Willys pistons are of molybdenum iron alloy, oval ground for elasticity and plated with tin.

Oldsmobile is offered in Sixes and Eights with, as in the case of Pontiac, only a small differential in price between engines. This year Hydra-matic Drive is being featured more than ever because it has been found to contribute much to engine efficiency.

Pontiac’s Torpedo is on a 119-inch wheelbase with choice of the 90 h.p. Six or the 103 h.p. Eight engine. Streamliner and Streamliner-Chieftain models are on a wheelbase of 122 inches with same choice of engines. After sixteen years of continuous use the electro-plated iron alloy pistons seem quite at home. Continued is the Scotch-mist manifold. Starting has been simplified by making the initial idling speed faster for cold starting. An ingenious feature is the use of a link between the float valve pin and the float valve lever of the carburetor so that the pin won’t stick when the float lowers. The link simply pulls the pin down. Pontiac’s engineers have also increased timing chain life by changing the pressure angle of the teeth from 17 to 22 degrees.

Special interest is shown in the Nash Ambassador “600″ engine because it is designed to give from 25 to 30 miles to the gallon. Its Flying Scot engine develops 75 h.p., has fewer parts than conventional motors since the inlet manifolding is sealed within the engine block. Nash continues to have two larger cars in its 1942 line. Both the Six and the Eight are built on the same wheel-base, and powered by engines of valve-in-head design. These motors also have sealed-in manifolds. The Six develops 105 h.p., while the Eight develops 115 h.p. Steel strut aluminium pistons are used.

A feature of the Nash Ambassador “600,” like Oldsmobile and Buick, is use of coil springs for all four wheels. Nash continues with its air conditioning system controlled by a “Weather Eye.”

This brings into the picture the marked trend toward elimination of the cowl ventilator. In Cadillac and Buick this is supplanted by a new system of ventilation which is built into all models. In Pontiac the underseat heater picks up fresh air blown to it by a sirocco blower placed just below the left headlamp and back of the radiator grille. Absence of the cowl ventilator results in a longer sweep of the hood.

Back to engines again we find that the 1942 Buicks are built on six chassis varying in wheel-base from 118 inches to 139 inches. Two valve-in-head straight eight engines power the Buick line, power ranging from 110 to 165 h.p. The wide variation is due not merely to the two sizes in engines but to the use of compound carburetion as standard on all but the lowest rated engine. Pistons are of iron alloy with cam ground turbulator top providing high compression pressures without pinging. Main changes in the engine concern increased bearing life due to use of new materials, the new shot blast connecting rods and the oil-cushioned finish of the crank pin journals.

The eleven models in the Dodge line are powered by a new 105 h.p. engine, a rise from 91 h.p. of last year’s power plant. The extra power is obtained without increase in its r.p.m. speed. Torque has been increased from 170 foot pounds to 185 so that the increased performance is noticed through the normal driving range rather than at high speed.

Chrysler’s line consists of six models and a total of 31 body styles. First there is the Royal of 121-1/2 inch wheelbase. Then the Windsor of same wheelbase but with different trim and equipment, plus a six-passenger convertible club coupe. Third is the Saratoga on a 127-1/2 inch wheelbase. Fourth the New Yorker of same wheelbase as the Saratoga but with different equipment. Finally the Crown Imperial of 1451/2-inch wheelbase and the Town and County (a new name for station wagon) which is on the Windsor chassis with Fluid Drive and Vacamatic transmission standard. The Royal and Windsor models carry a still more powerful six-cylinder engine developing 120 h.p. with torque of 200 foot pounds. Horsepower of the eight is 140 with a compression ratio of 6.8 to 1. An important change in the Chrysler engine is use of larger exhaust piping and improved mufflers.

Buick is introducing the much-discussed wide base rims. One of the advantages of this type of rim is the greater stability of the tire and the car when rounding a curve. There is naturally less bulge to the tire.

Noteworthy is Plymouth’s convenience offered by having the car flooring flush with the running boards which, of course, are of the concealed type. There is nothing to trip over in getting into or out of the car, and it gives the car an added trim.

It must be apparent that the reason General Motors cars are making full use of fenders continued through the doors is to provide for wider concealed running boards.

Chevrolet is using hard alloy cast-iron pistons for the 1942 engines. Important changes have been made in Chevrolet bearings to take care of the switch from aluminium alloy to cast iron.

Cadillac’s 150 h.p. V-8 engine will run cooler this year because of a 10 per cent increase in the car’s frontal ventilation area. Functional design again to the fore! These cars are wider than they are high, measurements being 81 and 63 inches respectively.

In its lowest priced field Hudson offers a 116-inch wheelbase job with a 92 h.p. six-cylinder engine. There is also a still lower priced model known as the Hudson Six but with same power and wheelbase. Then comes the Super-Six with 121-inch wheelbase and a 102 h.p. motor. Then there are the Commodore Six and Eight models with 102 and 128 h.p. engines on 121-inch wheel-base, plus a Custom Eight on a wheelbase of 128 inches. Hudson continues to accent its feature of a mechanical braking system to back the hydraulic system, and its patented Auto-Poise front wheel control which helps keep the car to a straight course even in a heavy side wind.

Studebaker’s line starts with the Champion, a Six with 80 h.p. engine. Hill holder is available at slight extra cost. The car weighs around 2,500 pounds and has an overall length of 193 inches. It is also prepared at the factory for installation of Studebaker’s “Thermo-Control” Climatizer, an unusually complete car heating and ventilating system.

Commanders and Presidents complete the Studebaker offerings for 1942. Engine for the former deliver 94 h.p., while the motor for the latter is a 117 h.p. power plant. A new development is the use of light-weight Parco Lubrized iron alloy pistons. These do not scuff or score because of the thin protective coating.

Outstanding in 1942 car developments is the use of rear quarter windows for convertible coupes. This eliminates the blind spots which have been an objection to this type of car ever since the rumble seat was put inside under cover.

There is the picture. And what a picture of progress it is!

3 comments
  1. Toronto says: December 27, 20128:10 pm

    Was that Pontiac the first car with the long-classic GM “Pull and Twist” lighting switch? (I miss that thing – it made so much sense.)

  2. Stephen says: December 28, 20122:50 am

    I think the shift from aluminium to iron and steel mentioned in the article may have had more to do with aluminium being declared a “strategic material” during the war, needed for aircraft.

  3. GeorgeT says: December 31, 20128:03 am

    I always thought running boards were something for Keystone Kops to ride on when all the seats were full. But reading the article I see a couple references to hidden running boards — must be structural part of the frame?

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