At last! Ford’s 1949 model year saw the glitzy launch of a whole new range of cars at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Hotel New York, effectively representing the company’s first serious step forward for nearly a decade and once again bringing Ford level with the competition.
This long-overdue move had been driven by Henry Ford II, who took over from his grandfather in 1945 and proceeded to modernize the somewhat hidebound giant – old Henry always having resisted change for far too long for Ford’s own good.
The 1949s made a major design statement that emphasized changing times at Ford (albeit with a little help from Studebaker employees doing some sly moonlighting on the side), seeing the ageing three-line Custom, DeLuxe and Super DeLuxe cars replaced by a single model with two trim levels, Standard and Custom. The Custom name was used by Ford in the early years to suggest hand-built quality and the 1949 incarnation reinvented the theme, with the Custom being markedly superior to the Standard with better trim and extra models to choose from.
The 1949 Custom came as a Tudor and Fordor sedan, club coupe, convertible and station wagon. There were two engines on offer – an improved version of Ford’s existing V8 engine and a cheaper six-cylinder motor. The coil-spring suspension was an advance on anything Ford done before, build quality was fairly solid (though there were some teething problems with early cars) and there was lots of eye-catching home at the front. They were great cars to drive and a big hit with the car-buying public, effectively rescuing Ford as a major player on the American market.
Despite its importance to Ford’s commercial survival, the plain old Custom had had a short life, becoming the (admittedly not-so-very-different) Custom Deluxe in 1950.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
3.7 (226 cid) Straight Six; 3.9 l (239 cid) V8
Top speed was around 90 mph (120 km/h) for the V8
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Today’s restore-and-drive enthusiasts generally feel that the 1949 Custom sedans are rather ordinary and much prefer the other body styles, which are highly sought after.