The August 2012 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine includes a cover article entitled "America's 'Low-Priced Three' of 1949." What makes it especially interesting is the reminder of just how different the auto world was in the early years after WW2. While the initial rush for new vehicles had slowed there was still plenty of demand; meanwhile manufacturers were hurrying to be first with new designs for a modern era.
Much of the action was, as always, at the low-price end of the market. Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth would be the protaganists and each trotted out all-new styles for 1949. Ford, however, was clearly the winner. As the company boasted in its colorful magazine ad spreads, it was "the one and only new car in its field." One glance would be enough to confirm that claim. Chevrolet and Plymouth both carried remnants of pre-war design, in particular separate rear fenders and hoods that rose above the fenderline, while Ford featured envelope bodies and a look that spoke to the future.
There were major technical changes, too. Gone were the transverse springs that Henry Ford had insisted on for so many years, to be replaced by coil springs on an independent front suspension, with longitudinal rear springs. The famous flathead V-8 was still there, offering 100 bhp, but an inline six was available with 95 bhp. Buyers could order a 2-door (Tudor) sedan, a 6-passenger club coupe, a 4-door sedan, a convertible, and an all-steel station wagon with wood exterior panels.
Incidentally none of the three competitors could be had with an automatic transmission, although Ford offered a factory overdrive as an option. Nor were there power assists or long lists of trim options, other than AM radios and heaters. Those goodies were reserved for the upmarket models. Not surprisingly Ford finished the 1949 model year in first place, slightly ahead of Chevrolet and way ahead of the boxy Plymouths. The real winner was the North American consumer, literally back in the driver's seat.