75 Years Ago (November 1938): National Auto Show Opens; First Yearbook Published; Sun Roof Bows

With the 1939 National Automobile Show opening in New York City on Nov. 11, 1938, Ward’s Automotive Reports, in a Nov. 5, story, says that despite earlier new-model introductions, “It appears that a good deal of buying has been delayed until prospects can see all the cars side by side, and the rising momentum of business generally is likely to bring out good crowds.” However, “the drift of developments in the industry is acting this year to cut down on the predominant importance of the New York show.” Major shows in Detroit and Chicago will begin simultaneously and will be looked at as “guideposts of the forthcoming year just as significant as the outline of things to come drawn at New York.”

In a Nov. 12 auto show follow-up story, it is noted that “Automobile shows in New York, Chicago and Detroit opened a few hours before Ward’s went to press. A telephonic and telegraphic survey found large crowds at New York particularly interested in Cadillac and Buick among General Motors products, along with Hupp Skylark, Studebaker and Graham among the independents. The separate Ford-Mercury-Zephyr exhibit (also) attracted considerable attention.” Satisfactory crowds and “good buying” were reported from Chicago, while Detroit attendees showed, “considerable interest and buying earlier than usual.”

The Nov.12 issue also informs readers that Ward's 1939 Automotive Year Book, the first annual effort of its kind, came off the presses this week and is being mailed gratis to all subscribers of Ward’s Automotive Reports.” Attached to the book is a stamped, self-addressed postcard to be returned on receipt of the book. The card also provides a way to order additional books at $2.50 each. “Subsequent yearly editions will constantly be made more complete as our facilities permit.”

A successful innovation in Europe, GM’s Fisher Body is introducing the “sunshine top,” featuring a mechanism in which “a section roof slides back to open the front compartment to the sky.” Some “specialty buying” will undoubtedly be in the market for this body type in ’39 and “more will be manifested as the idea becomes less revolutionary.” At the same time, WAR says “well-grounded” reports indicate “a vacuum-operated disappearing convertible top will go into production shortly” for Dodge and Plymouth cars. The mechanism, operated by a control mounted on the instrument panel, will “undoubtedly meet substantial response” from potential ragtop buyers put off by the difficulty of manually raising and lowering a convertible top.