Growing up with the post-war Mopars

In 1946, when I was two years old, my dad bought a 1946 Dodge Deluxe 4 door with a maroon exterior and gray interior. I was in love with it, and have loved cars ever since. By the age of three years old I could identify most of the American made cars and all Chrysler products.

The 1946 was a great car. My dad was in sales so drove a lot of miles and traded the 1946 with almost 100,000 miles for a 1948 Dodge four door that was blue. It wasn’t as pretty as the 1946 because of the color. It also wasn’t as good a car. Somehow from the factory they had installed the differential from a ½ ton pickup which was a much higher numerical ratio, so the engine turned a lot more RPMs at 70 mph and by 70,000 miles it was beginning to show.

The ’48 was traded on a maroon 1950 Desoto Deluxe. It was a great car but around 30,000 miles on a winter trip in Montana, my dad went to pass a car and hit black ice there was a car coming a ways away but on the ice he couldn’t slow fast or speed up, so to avoid a collision he drove into the ditch alongside the road. Soon a pickup came by and pulled us out and we went on our way. Unfortunately, after that, the car shimmied at about 60mph and the alignment shop could not get it fixed.

Because of the front end problem, it was traded on a 1951 Desoto Custom 4 door that was blue with a blue interior. It was a beautiful car and cruised down the highway at 75 to 80mph without effort. We lived in Montana so everybody drove fast. My maternal grandfather who owned a Buick was driving our Desoto and while driving was giving me a lecture about the importance of responsible driving. He was pointing out that we should never drive over 60mph. While he was talking I was watching the speed on the Desoto and it was creeping up without his knowledge. It hit 70 than 80 and he was still explaining that 60 was as fast as anyone needed to go. About that time I pointed out the speed he was traveling. All he said was boy the speed really creeps up on you in this Desoto. That by the way was the end of the lecture on speed.

In those days cars didn’t come with oil filters standard so my Dad bought a Fram filter that used what we called a sock filter element. It was mounted on the firewall. He would never run without an oil filter. We changed the oil every thousand miles and did a complete tune up every 10,000 miles which included plugs, points, condenser, set the timing and adjust the carburetor. Every second or third tune-up we set the tappets, they were in the side of the block just above the camshaft. It required removing the front tire and inner fender panel so you could access them with a feeler gauge.

The flat head six was a very durable engine. With full pressure oiling and running at fairly low RPMs they would go over 100,000 miles with nothing but tune ups and oil changes. The 1946 and 1948 Dodges had Fluid Drive with the three speed transmission and the two Desotos had the Semi Automatic with the four speed. I don’t remember ever having any problems with the transmissions.

My Dad always started in low with the four speeds and shifted once which put it in third then auto shifted into fourth. As I remember, you could also start in first, auto shift to second, then manually shift into fourth and of course what some did was start in third and auto shift to fourth. We really liked the transmissions for starting on snow and ice because with the fluid coupling and starting in third you could ease away without wheel spin.

When our ’51 Desoto had about 70,000 miles on it we were driving home from town about 10PM and my Dad felt a rod start knocking (he could feel them in the gas pedal before you could hear them). He looked at the oil pressure gauge and it showed no pressure. We stopped and raised the hood and an oil line from the filter to the engine had ruptured and pumped most of the oil out. The rest of the car was still in like new condition but my Dad decided to buy a new car and made the biggest mistake he ever made; he bought a 1955 Chevy V8. In two years and 40,000 miles we went through four automatic transmissions, three fuel pumps, and at 40,000 it needed a valve job. Needles to say he went back to Chrysler products and the only one he ever owned that wasn’t trouble free was the 1948 Dodge with the wrong differential from the factory.

We have been a Chrysler family since my granddad bought a 1917 Dodge. He never owned anything but Dodges, his last being a 1959. My Dad owned only Chrysler products except for the ’55 Chevy and a ’65 Oldsmobile.

My first car was a 1957 Plymouth and my current vehicle is a 2000 Chrysler LHS with 108,000 miles. It has never needed anything but maintenance items and still looks and drives like new. Since I always have several cars I have owned many brands but have almost always had at least one Chrysler product and I have never had a bad one.

Now the fourth generation (my kids) all have Chrysler products. Among my four kids there are two Dodge diesel pickups (a 2004 and a 2007), two Dodge Caravans (a 1996 with 186,000mi and 2007 with 42,000mi), and a Dodge Caliber. I am restoring a 1982 Dodge pickup that belonged to my Dad (it was his last pickup) and I have a 1963 Dart GT that is in great original condition with 90,000mi and a 1966 Dart GT that is in very nice condition. It has had a paint job and has a 1980 super six for its engine. My plan is to restore the 1966 and put a 360 V8 in it. The 1963 I will leave original as long as possible. I retire in 6 months and am looking forward to some quality time in my shop.

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