Gear Head Tuesday – 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe

Gear Head

Home Town Cars Series

48 Plymouth-f

This 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe is a “resident” of Dixon, CA and owned by “Larry P.”. This “survivor” only has a little over 70,000 miles on the odometer. Its history is known from new.

In February, 1948, Mr. Albert Ross of San Mateo, CA bought his wife, Melissa, this Plymouth new. She drove the car until she died in 1979. Mr. Ross survived his wife and sold her car to a friend, Marshall Agee, in Fresno, CA. In 1981, Mr. Agee spent over $10,000 (1981 dollars!) doing the car over. The restoration included new lacquer paint, new upholstery and headliner and re-doing the woodgrain instrument panel and window frames. Later, the suspension was refreshed with new bushings. All the rubber seals in the car were replaced. Mr. Agee kept his “Mayflower” covered in a heated garage.

Mr. Agee last drove the car in 2013. With his health failing, he sold the car – and “Larry P.” of Dixon is now the proud owner.

48 Plymouth-rs

Ignore the “For Sale” sign in the window – it’s NOT for sale now.

The Plymouth is powered by the venerable Mopar 217 cubic inch side valve 6. It only develops 97 horsepower, but because of the long piston stroke, makes an impressive 202 ft/lbs of torque. Chrysler was the first to use rubber motor mounts to reduce vibration and noise, and this Plymouth is so equipped. Chrysler called it “Floating Power”.

1948 Plymouth Ad

Seldom remembered today is that for many years, Chrysler was a larger company than Ford. In 1948, Plymouth built 419,587 cars against “only” 247,772 Ford passenger cars, both 6 cylinder and V-8 models, and 715,992 Chevrolet passenger cars. (The numbers for Ford and Chevrolet exclude their truck production.)

Plymouth competed with Ford and Chevrolet in what was called “the low price three” market. These were basic cars, intended to provide economical transportation to young families. The interior floors were not carpeted but covered with a rubber mat. Radios were optional. Heaters were optional. For many years, turn signals were optional. These cars were built to a price. Studebaker put a contender into this market with their Champion, launched in 1939. In the postwar sellers market, Studebaker built 99,282 Champions for 1948; that figure does not include Commander or Land Cruiser production.

Studebaker was the first of the car makers to launch an all-new car after the war. 1948 was the second year of this ground breaking design. Plymouth, Ford and Chevrolet, like most of the rest of the car builders, were still selling warmed-over prewar designs in 1948.

It is interesting to note that the styling of the Plymouth harks back to Chrysler’s 1934 Airflow. While the Airflow was too advanced for its time and thus largely a failure in the market, it was a most influential design – and 14 years later, Chrysler products were still using styling cues introduced with the Airflow.

1948 Studebaker Champion

Above: 1948 Studebaker Champion

1948 Ford

Above: 1948 Ford

1948 Chevrolet

Above: 1948 Chevrolet

Compared to the engines in the Chevrolets and Fords, Plymouth’s six (and Chrysler engines generally) were “bullet proof”. Chevy’s “Stovebolt Sixes” often suffered from catastrophic engine failure in no small measure because of the splash lubrication system used. Ford’s “flathead V-8” was notorious for overheating and vapor lock. In contrast, Plymouth’s engine had full-pressure lubrication at 40 psi which lubricated the rods and the fully-inserted main and camshaft bearings. These rugged, dependable engines made Chrysler products THE prime choice for many big city taxi fleets.

48 Plymouth-r

Note the high, center mounted brake light.
All Chrysler products in the 1940s had this safety feature.

My family had one of these 1948 Plymouths, a navy blue one, that replaced the 1949 Packard that was wrecked. My mother drove that car until it was replaced by another Plymouth, a burgundy 1952 Cranbrook.

“Larry P.’s” 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe represents an era now lost in our country. The simple, honest values of this Plymouth represent the simple, honest values most Americans held at the time.

Plymouth Mayflower hood ornament


Courtesy of “Chris-to-Fear” we continue with photos of old gas stations at
Curbside Classic. Can you identify the cars in this photo?

Ashland Oil


Add yours →

  1. Mom and Dad always had one of these Plymouths. They were great cars. You could speed shift the 3 speed on the column very easy. Always wanted a 54 2 door coupe with a 350 chevy to blow people away. HAHA
    Great story.
    Unkle Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I remember that Grandad often bought Plymouths. I remember the 2 tone-tone tan and metallic brown ’53 (’54?) 4 door he had. The Sarchet side of the family, Donald in particular, has long favored the Mopars. I learned to drive a stick shift in a ’49 Plymouth.

      … hee hee … A ’54 with a 350 Chevy would indeed surprise a lot of people! 🙂


  2. Okay, in the area I definitely remember the car. Knew folk that owned one. It wouldn’t be my pick to invest in, but as an antique, I love it. I did not know it was the first for the rubber motor mounts. I know that was not the major point, but when you have had broken motor mounts you remember.
    I would have sworn that my ’48 Chevy had steel molded with rubber between.
    Again, thanks for some real history with GREAT pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack – your ’48 Chevy very likely did have the motor mounts you remember. Chrysler had introduced the rubber motor mounts several years earlier – I didn’t specify that in the blog post. The other manufacturers followed Chrysler’s lead on this.


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