The 1946-48 Chevy Fleetmaster: The Calm Before the Storm
The aftermath of World War II did not immediately yield a period of prosperity. After all, while much had changed, the boom that is commonly associated with the post-war years had yet to fully take hold in the American marketplace. During the war, no civilian passenger cars were made, meaning that despite America's industrial progress, car buyers would need to wait until the '50s to witness the fruits that science and technology would bring to the automotive world.
Instead of returning to the drawing board, Detroit began releasing existing models to the public, which were met with strong sales due to pent up demand. But, slight changes were made. The Chevy Special DeLuxe, for instance, was renamed the Fleetmaster.
However, the car production came at a slow pace. In 1946, only around 160,000 Fleetmasters were produced, with this number rising to more than 250,000 by 1948, the year before many say the first "post-war cars" began to make their way to auto dealerships. (The 1949 models may be the most advanced of the bunch, sporting low-profile hoods, 216ci engines with overhead valves and three-speed manual transmissions.)
So, what's all the hubbub about the Chevy Fleetmaster? For one, the car retains a notable aesthetic that lends itself well to customization. With wide panels, gentle lines and a detailed grille, the car can be painted, modified and upholstered to the point where Hemmings indicates they now sell for more than $100,000.
That means, with the original models retailing for only $1,098 to $1,205, according to How Stuff Works, those who kept these cars, or were lucky enough to obtain one of the few remaining models, found themselves a true steal.
And while these cars may have been a stopgap, helping to get America back to work and into routine daily life, the Fleetmasters serve as a reminder of the period right before Detroit hit its stride, the work in progress that only serves to make the later accomplishments more impressive.