75 Years Ago (January 1939): Production Off 47%; New Willys Chief; Buehrig Seeks Capital; New Accessories Unveiled

Despite a strong fourth-quarter performance, a lengthy recession trimmed 1938 car and truck output to 2,655,777 units, 47% below the 5,016,437 built in 1937, according to Ward’s Automotive Reports. Chevrolet was No.1 at 696,530 units, down from 1,183,180 cars and trucks in 1937. Combined output of Ford-brand vehicles and the new-for-’39 Mercury ran second at 632,364 compared with prior-year’s 1,156,456 units. Plymouth finished a distant 3rd with 326,700 cars built in 1938 vs. 537,850 in 1937. At 51,593 units, International Harvester was first among independent producers in 1938, up from third-place in 1937, with 100,700 completions.  Hudson’s 51,407 completions placed it second among independents in 1938, down from first place with 113,095 in 1937. Packard slipped to third, having built 50,260 cars in 1938 compared with 110,779 in 1937, when it ranked second.

Former Cord designer Gordon H. Buehrig is seeking capital to finance a new automotive venture he proposes to build in Corpus Christie, TX. Dubbed the Texas Ranger, plans call for the new model to be assembled from body parts made by Budd Mfg. and powered by a Lycoming engine.

Congress is considering legislation to limit transportation charges on automobiles to the actual amount instead of a flat price based on shipment from Detroit.

K.D. Lamp Co. of Cincinnati, OH, is offering its new “Sho-Turn” signaling device that indicates a driver’s intent to turn by operating lights on the front and rear of the vehicle. The device automatically switches off when the run is completed.

Former Chrysler V.P. Sales Joseph W. Frazer becomes president of Willys-Overland. Its “a definite forward step for that company,” opines WAR, adding “His sales and organizational talents should importantly improve Willys prospects.” The presence of a former Chrysler executive in the Willys organization, “gives rise to interesting speculation as to possible future relationships between the companies.” (Frazer remains head of Willys until 1944, when he assumes control of Graham-Paige. Following WWII, Frazer joins industrialist Henry J. Kaiser in launching a new automotive venture, Kaiser-Frazer from which Frazer retires in the early 1950s).

Hoof Products unveils a new hydraulic brake system featuring an instrument-panel light that illuminates when the system is working normally. In the event of a leak, the system seals off the affected line, allowing the rest of the brake system to function normally.