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Historical Timeline 1940-1949

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Walter P. Chrysler, 65, dies on August 18.

New laboratories are built for Chrysler Engineering at the company’s Highland Park headquarters complex.

World War II forces closure of Chrysler assembly facilities in Antwerp, Belgium.

Chrysler receives a contract to build a plant in Warren, Michigan to assemble tanks for the U. S. Army.

New bodies are designed for the 1941 Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler product lines, but Plymouth continues to use the 1940 body.

“Highlander” plaid upholstery becomes available as an option on Chrysler Windsor and New Yorkers; it will become a familiar Chrysler feature for more than a decade.

The Jeep® Story, 1940-1970 (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– In 1940 the Army asked automakers for proposals for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” to replace its motorcycle fleet, starting a new era at Willys-Overland.


Fluid Drive becomes available on all Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler products.

New semi-automatic transmissions – the Simplimatic for DeSoto and the Vacumatic for Chrysler – are introduced.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Safety-Rim wheels (to keep tires from de-mounting during blow-outs.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Rotor-type oil pump.

Production begins on the wood-sided 1941 Chrysler Town & Country, the first steel-roofed station wagon and the prototype for all subsequent “luxury” wagons and, eventually, minivans; the model name would become one of the longest-lived in the industry.

Mass production of the Sherman M4 tank begins in Warren.

Plymouth production catches up with Dodge; each division produces its four-millionth car this year.

A Chrysler Newport Phaeton, driven by longtime Chrysler executive A. B. “Toby” Couture, leads the pack to start the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race; it will be the last such event until after World War II.

The Thunderbolt and Newport Show Cars (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– In 1941 Chrysler built two stylish concept cars that would add cutting-edge design to the company’s reputation for solid engineering.

Chrysler History (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -- Chrysler Goes to War


Soon after the year begins, auto production ceases and all automakers convert to production of war material for the duration of World War II.

The War Effort (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– From an interview with Douglas Fraser, retired president of the United Auto Workers.


Chrysler returns to automobile production.

Chrysler History (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -- Postwar Adjustments


Dodge begins assembling cars at the plant in San Leandro, California.

A revised semi-automatic transmission called the Tip-Toe Hydraulic Shift is introduced in DeSotos; Chrysler models have the Prestomatic.

Chrysler introduced the gas tank filter and dual-cylinder front-wheel brakes.

The highly-regarded Chrysler Town & Country “woodie” returns -- not as a station wagon but in convertible and sedan models.

The Plymouth-based DeSoto export line adopts the Diplomat name.

The Plymouth-based Dodge export line adopts the Kingsway name.

Lester L. Colbert is named President of the Dodge Division.

Working for Chrysler:  Like Joining a Family (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde -– From an interview with Bruce Thomas, retired Chrysler engineer.


Chrysler purchases the former Graham assembly plant on Warren Avenue in Detroit and makes it part of the DeSoto complex.

Chrysler’s model-year output rises from 580,000 units to 832,000.


The Nine Mile Road Press Plant in Warren and the Winfield Foundry in Detroit begin operations.

Assembly of DeSotos and Chrysler Royal and Windsor models begins at Los Angeles.

Charles Nash dies.

The five-millionth Plymouth is completed.


Plymouth assembly begins in San Leandro.

Dodge begins car assembly at Los Angeles.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Key-operated combination starter/ignition switch.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Cyclebond® brake linings.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Safety-padded dashboard.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Resistor spark plugs.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Splash-proof ignition system.

Plymouth introduces the Suburban, an all-steel station wagon.

New postwar bodies debut – a smaller one for Plymouth, larger ones for Dodge, DeSoto and Chrysler.

Self-energizing four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes are introduced on the Chrysler Crown Imperial.

Dodge introduces its version of the semi-automatic transmission, the Gyromatic.

Chrysler-brand cars are now equipped with padded dashboards and collapsible window regulator handles.

Key-start ignition is introduced on all Chrysler Corporation cars.

Designer Virgil Exner leaves Studebaker Corporation and accepts a position with Chrysler, where he will gain fame for the Forward Look designs of the mid-Fifties.

The five-millionth Dodge and the one-millionth DeSoto are produced.