Bill Watson's Chronological History of Chrysler Corporation, Including Dodge, DeSoto, and Plymouth:
Part IV - The 1940s: From Walter Chrysler to Virgil Exner
Chrysler History, Part 4: The Story So Far
The Dodge Brothers, who originally supplied Ford, have started their own company, building cars with a strong reputation for durability. Walter P. Chrysler, after rising in the railroads as an engineer and, later, as a manager, was put in charge of faltering Buick, with excellent results. Walter Chrysler left Buick to head Willys, and started working with the firm of Zeder-Skelton-Breer Engineering on the most advanced car ever produced. Both Dodge Brothers die and the business is placed in the hands of people somewhat less qualified to run it. Maxwell-Chalmers runs into trouble and hires Walter Chrysler, who first rescues and then takes over the company. The new Chrysler is produced with excellent reviews and results. Plymouth, Fargo, and DeSoto are started and Dodge is purchased, partly to gain manufacturing plants for Plymouth.
1940 - Walter Chrysler dies; tank production contract
- August 18 - Walter P. Chrysler dies.
- New Engineering Laboratories completed at Highland Park, MI.
- Assembly plant in Antwerp, Belgium closes due to war.
- August - Chrysler contracted to build $20,000,000 plant for production of tanks; the company would increasing its role in engineering the tanks as well, slashing costs.
- New bodies for 1940 line of Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler cars.
- Also see: Plymouths of 1940: the best new Plymouth ever? Advanced styling and engineering threatened Ford's #2 position.
1941 - Plymouth Truck ends, semi-automatic transmission
- Plymouth Truck dropped at end of 1941 model year.
- New bodies for 1941 line of Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler cars. Plymouth continues to use 1940 body.
- Fluid Drive available on all Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler models.
- New semi-automatic transmission - Simplimatic (DeSoto) and Vacamatic (Chrysler).
- Last year for the Plymouth 7-passenger, extended wheelbase sedan.
- Mass production of tanks begin in the fall.
- 4 millionth Plymouth
- 4 millionth Dodge car
- 1942: C.E.Bleicher named president of DeSoto Division, as Byron Foy resigns to accept commission in United States Army Air Corps.
- See this article on wartime cars
- 1943 :Herman L. Weckler named president of Dodge Division; Joseph E. Fields retires.
- 1945: Byron C. Foy discharged from the Armed Services, becomes vice-president Chrysler Corporation at New York office.
1946 - Gas filter, Diplomat, Kingsway, L.L. Colbert
- Dodge begins assembling cars at plant in San Leandro, CA.
- New revised semi-automatic transmission - Tip-Toe Hydraulic Shift (DeSoto) and Prestomatic (Chrysler).
- Chrysler firsts: gas tank filter, two-cylinder front wheel brakes.
- Kaiser starts building cars before the bigger companies can switch from war production; while their cars are well made and advanced, their main selling point is just having new cars to sell after years of wartime restrictions. The major companies also make cars, in limited numbers.
- Chrysler builds the first two door hardtop in the Town & Country line - 7 are built.
- Export Plymouth-based DeSoto line adopts Diplomat name.
- Export Plymouth-based Dodge line adopts Kingsway name.
- L.L.Colbert named president of Dodge Division.
- Byron C. Foy leaves Chrysler Corporation, to become chairman of the board, Jack and Heintz Precision Industries Inc.
- Chrysler 1946-48; Dodge cars of 1946; Plymouth 1946-1959: the full book
1947 - Graham plant
- Chrysler purchases former Graham assembly plant on Warren Avenue. Becomes part of the DeSoto complex.
- Chrysler family sells the Chrysler Building, named after Walter — not the corporation, which had never owned it.
- Also see: Chrysler 1946-48, Plymouth 1946-48
1948 - Nine Mile Press plant, Winfield Foundry
- Assembly of DeSoto and Chrysler Royal/Windsor begins at Los Angeles, CA
- Nine Mile Press plant in Warren, MI completed.
- Winfield Foundry in Detroit goes on line.
- 5 millionth Plymouth
- Also see: Chrysler 1946-48,Plymouth 1946-48
1949 - Virgil Exner joins Chrysler, starting the "Exner era"
- Plymouth assembly begins at San Leandro, CA.
- Dodge begins assembly of cars at Los Angeles, CA.
- Chrysler unveils the world’s first bonded brake linings under the Cycleweld name.
- Chrysler Crown Imperial brings the world’s first self-energizing four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes.
- Plymouth introduces the Suburban, an all-steel station wagon.
- Key-start ignition introduced on all Chrysler Corporation cars.
- New post-war bodies, one for Plymouth and a larger one for Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler.
- Dodge introduces its version of the semi-automatic transmission - Gyromatic.
- Chrysler cars have padded dashboards and collapsible window regulator handles for safety.
- Chrysler brochure shows Newport 2-door hardtop in Windsor, New Yorker and Town & Country series — it does not get into production until 1950, although one 1949 Town & Country hardtop was built.
- Virgil Exner leaves Studebaker Corporation and accepts position with Chrysler Corporation.
- 5 millionth Dodge car
- 1 millionth DeSoto
- Read more: Plymouths of 1949-1952 • Chrysler 1949-52 • Plymouths of 1949