When Ford introduced its new model for 1949, the car represented the Blue Oval's first clean-sheet design since World War II. In fact, it was the first postwar sheet metal shown by any of the Big Three. Everything about the 1949 Ford was new, except for the wheelbase and the powertrain.
For the new car, Ford utilized a ladder-type frame and front independent suspension via coil springs and A-arms, and a Hotchkiss rear end with live axle and leaf springs. Power came from two tried and true engines: the 226-c.i. L-head straight-six or the 239-c.i. Flathead V-8, which produced 100 hp. All cars carried three-speed manual transmissions with optional overdrive, as Ford lacked an automatic of its own.
Two trim levels were offered: Standard and Custom. Both were offered with the L-head or optionally with the V-8. Six-cylinder Standards included Tudor and Fordor sedans, along with business and club coupes, while Customs eliminated the business coupe but added a two-door convertible, as well as a two-door wood-bodied wagon.
From a styling standpoint, the new Ford’s adopted slab sides, wrap-around bumpers, minimal trim, and bullet-adorned grille set it apart from most other cars on the road.
Despite a relatively hastened period of design and development, along with teething issues associated with such an abbreviated process, the new Fords were a hit, with 1.1 million units sold.
For 1950, Ford worked out many of the noise and handling issues found in the first-year cars. Trims were renamed Deluxe and Custom Deluxe. The club coupe was dropped from the Deluxe series, and the convertible was now offered only in V-8 Custom Deluxe spec. New to the lineup was the Crestliner, a Custom Deluxe Tudor that added special elements above and beyond the regular model, including two-tone paint and a unique canvas-covered roof.
The cars received a slight restyle in 1951, including a new grille, as well as revised dashboards. The two-door wagon was renamed the Country Squire, and a hardtop coupe joined the lineup as the Custom Deluxe Victoria. Perhaps most importantly, Ford offered its first automatic transmission—the three-speed Ford-O-Matic.
By 1952, Ford gave its cars a more squared off look, along with an ever-increasing list of refinements. But the first new batch of postwar cars, known as “shoebox Fords,” did an excellent job to keep the company at the top of the sales charts alongside Chevrolet, and today remain iconic classics.