The Year in Cars: 1952

1952 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Eight ConvertibleMac’s Motor City Garage presents another formative and challenging year for the American automobile industry: 1952. Here’s the full story for ’52, told with rare facts and seldom-seen photos. 

 

 

The 1952 model year featured mixed blessings for the Detroit auto industry. For multiple reasons beyond the industry’s control, production and sales fell significantly over the previous year. There was a national steel industry strike that lasted 53 days; shortages of key materials, including chromium and copper, due to the war in Korea; and stresses on the economy, also produced by the conflict in Asia. The U.S. defense budget was temporarily quadrupled, while wages and prices (including for new cars) were regulated by the federal government’s Office of Price Stability.

Once again Chevrolet led the field in 1952 with more than 818,000 vehicles produced, with Ford in second at nearly 672,000 units. (Both carmakers had exceeded one million units the previous year.) Chrysler’s Plymouth brand continued to hold down a distant third while the Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile divisions of General Motors hogged the fourth, fifth, and sixth slots respectively. The trend was clear: Surely and steadily, the independent automakers were being squeezed out. Nash managed only 154,000 units in 1952; Packard only 62,000. Crosley built a mere 6,614 vehicles for the year and on July 3, 1952, departed from the automobile business.

 

1952 Mercury Custom Sedan

 

With the imported car threat still a few years in the future, the automakers continued to tinker away at unlocking the small car market in America. The previous year, Nash had introduced the compact but fully equipped Rambler, while Kaiser Motors offered the bare-bones Henry J. For 1952, Kaiser partnered with Sears and Roebuck for a unique marketing exercise, the Allstate. A Henry J with Sears’ familiar Allstate badging, accessories, and tires added, the department-store car failed to thrive and was discontinued in 1953 with barely 2,300 units produced.

Another entry in the small car market, and the truly new vehicle for 1952, was the Aero Willys from Willys-Overland Motors. Built on a modern unitized body shell with a 108-inch wheelbase, the Aero was offered in Lark, Wing, Ace, and Eagle models—the Eagle was a stylish two-door pillarless hardtop. While it was applauded by critics for its nimble handling and novel engineering, the Aero would face an uphill battle competing with the Big Three with their vast economies of scale. Check out all the Motor City players for 1952 in the photo gallery below.

 

1952 Plymouth Belvedere Hardtop
1952 Ford Ranch Wagon
1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe
1952 Dodge Oscar Meyer Weinermobile
1952 Studebaker Regal Champion Coupe
1952 Cadillac 62 Convertible
1952 Packard Patrician 400 4-Door Sedan
1952 Ford Crestiline Victoria hardtop
1952 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
1952 Allstate
1952 Nash Rambler Country Club
1952 Mercury Monterey Station Wagon
1952 Kaiser Manhattan Sedan
1952 Cadillac 60 Special Gene Autry
1952 Chrysler Parade Phaeton
1952 Henry J Corsair
1952 Pontiac Chietain Six Station Wagon
1952 Willys Aero Wing
1952 International L100 Travelall
1952 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Eight Convertible
1952 Packard 250 Mayfair Hardtop
1952 International L110 Pickup Truck
1952 Plymouth Cranbrook
1952 Oldsmobile 98 4 Door Sedan
1952 Nash Healey Roadster
1952 Pontiac Catalina Super Deluxe Hardtop
1952 Hudson Pacemaker Club Coupe
1952 Studebaker Commander
1952 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery Time Lines
1952 Willys Station Wagon
1952 Hudson Hornet Coupe Herb Thomas
1952 Willys Eagle Hardtop
1952 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
1952 Buick Roadmaster Sedan
1952 Mercury Custom Sedan
1952 Chevrolet Model 3106 Pickup
1952 Hudson Wasp Sedan
1952 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe 4 Door Sedan
1952 Nash Ambassador Country Club Hardtop
1952 Dodge Coronet
1952 DeSoto S15 Deluxe
1952 Chrysler Saratoga Sedan
1952 Crosley Super Convertible

1952 Plymouth Belvedere Hardtop

1952 Ford Ranch Wagon

1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe

1952 Dodge Oscar Meyer Weinermobile

1952 Studebaker Regal Champion Coupe

1952 Cadillac 62 Convertible

1952 Packard Patrician 400 4-Door Sedan

1952 Ford Crestiline Victoria hardtop

1952 Buick Roadmaster Convertible

1952 Allstate

1952 Nash Rambler Country Club

1952 Mercury Monterey Station Wagon

1952 Kaiser Manhattan Sedan

1952 Cadillac 60 Special Gene Autry

1952 Chrysler Parade Phaeton

1952 Henry J Corsair

1952 Pontiac Chietain Six Station Wagon

1952 Willys Aero Wing

1952 International L100 Travelall

1952 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe Eight Convertible

1952 Packard 250 Mayfair Hardtop

1952 International L110 Pickup Truck

1952 Plymouth Cranbrook

1952 Oldsmobile 98 4 Door Sedan

1952 Nash Healey Roadster

1952 Pontiac Catalina Super Deluxe Hardtop

1952 Hudson Pacemaker Club Coupe

1952 Studebaker Commander

1952 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery Time Lines

1952 Willys Station Wagon

1952 Hudson Hornet Coupe Herb Thomas

1952 Willys Eagle Hardtop

1952 Buick Roadmaster Convertible

1952 Buick Roadmaster Sedan

1952 Mercury Custom Sedan

1952 Chevrolet Model 3106 Pickup

1952 Hudson Wasp Sedan

1952 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe 4 Door Sedan

1952 Nash Ambassador Country Club Hardtop

1952 Dodge Coronet

1952 DeSoto S15 Deluxe

1952 Chrysler Saratoga Sedan

1952 Crosley Super Convertible

7 thoughts on “The Year in Cars: 1952

  1. While these vehicles look “stodgy” and out of date, you have to admit, there was a style for every type of consumer out there, and someone, somewhere liked them. Unlike today’s generic, one-style-fits-all types. Funny, you hear million units here, 800K there, EVERY YEAR, where did they all go? Thanks, MCG.

  2. While the catalog illustrations always made them look sleek, this is my least favorite period for automobile styling. From about 1938 until 1955 the cars seem overly large and bloated to me. I don’t know why it all changed in 1955, but within four years almost everyone had attractive cars again (Studebaker peaked earlier). Bill Mitchell’s ascendancy seems as good a reason as any other.

  3. Once again, you’ve taken us on an enjoyable journey in your time machine. It’s always fun to ride along! This time you have accomplished something unusual, however. In an apparent attempt to convince us of life after death, you have included a photo which is allegedly a ’52 Frazer Vagabond. As much as I like the Travelers and Vagabonds of K-F, rumor has it that the Frazer actually died in 1951. Ironically, you also predicted the future by including a photo of a ’52 Willys Aero hardtop, which Willys didn’t offer to the public until 1953.
    I’m confident you were just testing us to see if we fell asleep during the presentation. 🙂
    Keep up the good work! Your endeavors are appreciated.

    • Thanks for the kind words. You give me far too much credit. The Frazer was simply a gaffe — I knew Frazer ended in 1951 but that doesn’t mean I can’t forget at any moment. The Willys hardtop is based on a source (Krause) rather than my original research, so I truly don’t know — feel free to school me on the matter. They claim it was body style 685 and that W-O built 2,364 of them.

  4. The potato car era. Not many desirable cars from that period is one reason you seldom see any of them anymore. The Fords and Mercurys are probably loved more than the GM offerings of that era, and most of the smaller guys were just going through the motions. There were brief flashes of brilliance like the Lowey coupes introduced by Studebaker in 53, but most of the others styling left a lot to be desired.

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