Welcome back to the Dodge Heritage Series, a 10-part exploration of Dodge brand history. This is Part 3 in the series.
The Dodge brand entered the 1940s in the same way as the rest of America: with a new sense of confidence and optimism. Slowly but surely, the country was lifting itself out of the Great Depression. Dodge produced over 225, 000 vehicles in 1940, marking its eighth consecutive year as one of the top five selling cars in the USA.
But after December 7, 1941, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, the optimism was replaced by total resolve. When America entered World War II, the entire auto industry was converted seemingly overnight to military production. At the giant Dodge Main factory in central Detroit, the ranks swelled to over 40, 000 workers as the assembly lines turned out military cars and trucks, as well as artillery guns and shells, radar components and sub-assemblies for B-26 bomber aircraft. Dodge was a major part of of the industrial miracle that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy.”
Dodge was also chosen by the U.S. government to build and operate the largest factory in the world at the time, the mammoth Dodge Chicago plant. Here, the mighty 18-cylinder, 2, 500 horsepower engines were built for the B-29 Superfortress, America’s largest and most powerful bomber in WWII. The B-29 played a critical role in ending the war and returning the United States to peace once again.
With the war won, Dodge returned to civilian vehicle production with attractive, exciting cars like the 1949 Dodge Wayfarer (top). Because it used snap-in side curtains for weather protection rather than roll-up door windows, automotive historians regard this sporty two-seater as the last true roadster of the era. Only 5, 240 Wayfarer roadsters were built, and they are highly coveted by collectors today. Dodge would not offer another roadster until 1992, when the legendary Dodge Viper sports car was introduced.
Read Part 2 of the Heritage Series for more Dodge history. Also, be sure to visit the Heritage Wall section of the Dodge Power Rallye Tour, a traveling Dodge-based experience showcasing the best in performance vehicles. You can find the schedule of Tour events here.