By on November 10, 2009


I have always had a soft spot for the post-war late 40s Detroit automobile look which looked eerily like the pre-war early 40s Detroit look. You can’t send Cadillacs into combat zones and DeSotos made poor amphibious assault vehicles, so Detroit became lead manufacturer for the war effort in 1941. Forget cars, the free world needed Sherman tanks until 1945. People just wanted cars in 1947 and supply fell well behind demand for the North American auto manufacturers. The 1947 market conditions must seem like a long lost beautiful dream for the former Big Three in 2009. But enough with the history lesson, I had a chance to test drive a very well preserved 1947 Dodge Regent with 38,000 original miles on it and I leapt at the opportunity. The car was a time capsule; complete with rear suicide doors, front and back vent windows instead of air conditioning, and human arms instead of signal lights.

47dodgecarbThe car was built before my time but I remember hand signals and used them on my test drive. However this is 2009, so most people thought I was waving to them- kind of a “friendly stranger in the black sedan” moment in heavy traffic. It did have a centrally located brake light so I didn’t have to confuse people with that hand signal.

The car had one feature found on many new cars- a push button start. I turned the key, pushed the button, and a mighty 100 hp flathead six cylinder beast of an engine roared to life. It had a smooth idle and it gave me a false sense of confidence about the road ahead of me.

The actual owner did everything right because he is in the automotive repair business and prides himself on quality service. He was very careful about the right method to start the Dodge because the car had been out of action for decades, so he resurrected it after a meticulous regime of fluid, brake and ignition component replacement.

It was a very hot afternoon when I took control of this senior citizen and headed out on the street. I left behind my cell phone and every care in the world as we headed down the road together. Though appropriate for the vintage experience, this proved to be a bad move. On the plus side, I did get a historically-accurate hike in that day.

I wheeled out into traffic and the first thing I noticed was the effortless shifts with the” 3 on the tree” manual transmission. At least as long as I was shifting up the gears. Downshifts 47dodgerearwere a little noisier: 3rd to 2nd needed a little finesse, and 2nd to 1st required a lot of double clutch.

I had a chance to test 40s era brakes when some idiot cut me off in traffic. The brakes worked great and so did the loud horn, as well as my middle finger traffic signal.

I ran the car at a steady 60-65 mph on the highway and it seemed OK with the concept. At least until the heat of the day wreaked havoc on the fuel system and vapor lock combined with minor grit in the carb landed us on the side of the road in dead silence. The Dodge was a radio delete model and for some reason I couldn’t think of any happy tunes to whistle at the time.

No cell phone meant a hike to a phone and the car came back on the end of a tow hook. Still, it was one of the greatest test drives that I’ve ever taken in my life. I stepped back in time and had an opportunity to drive a vehicle right out of a lost era of post-war optimism when everybody still loved the Big Three.

For more of Jim Sutherland’s work visit

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

22 Comments on “Capsule Review: 1947 Dodge Regent...”

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Vapor lock, fuel changing from a liquid to a gas before reaching the fuel pump and carburetor, was common in 1940s cars with flathead motors. Hot summer temperatures aggravated it. Routing fuel lines away from the exhaust manifold and insulating them helped.

  • avatar

    This was before my time, but I always understood that vapor lock was more of a problem in Ford V8s that had inherant cooling system issues.  I didn’t think that the Mopars were similarly bothered.  Methinks perhaps that the old Dodge has a radiator that isn’t what it was in 1947.  But anyway, I am sure it was a delightful experience.

  • avatar

    Oh, and it wasn’t a “radio delete” car.  Those old tube radios were expensive optional equipment back in the day, and were not universally equipped.

  • avatar

    A nostalgic look at WHY we don’t build them like we used to.  Nice car….but best kept for auto shows.

  • avatar

    Do I read correctly that this car is a true “survivor” rather than a resto? It has been very nicely kept, and looks wonderful. It’s nice to see an original car from the ’40s that hasn’t been turned into a hot rod.

  • avatar

    Upon first read, I took the title to say “Dodge Rodent”.  I don’t care about the car…well, I think it’s ugly, but I’m not strongly opinionated about it.  Well not as long as it’s not parked in front of my house or on my lawn, that is. 

    I just thought that my misreading was funny.

  • avatar

    Vapor Lock? A roll of “Tin Foil” and you’re good to go. I’ll bet it never has EMI problems.

  • avatar

    My only experience with vapor lock was when I was a little kid in the jump seat of my uncle’s 1937 LaSalle, which died from that malady on the Highway 99 bridge over the Columbia River in evening rush hour. I never had any of my flathead Fords do that.
    The Dodge Regent was kind of an oddball in itself, a Canadian Plymouth with a Dodge front clip. I had a US-type Dodge that looked just like that but only drove it once. Someone abandoned it on my father’s property, I hot-wired it and discovered it had a rod about to go out, and gave it to someone I knew; I don’t even remember who.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Nice test! Brings back memories of when I was a boy – my parent’s neighbors (and my mom’s best friend) had a 2nd car, an early 1950’s Plymouth. (Second cars were very rare in the early 1960’s). Later they got a new Volkswagen Beetle – they were really showing off then! A NEW 2nd car!!! (Our second car was a $65, seven year old Studebaker with house paint).

    Modern ethanol-gasoline mixes don’t work well in old car engines and the vapor lock problem simply is worse on this fuel compared to old 100% gasoline.  Put a little aluminum foil around the fuel line and make a small 1″ fin vertically, as well as routing the fuel line as far away from heat as possible.

    One of the interesting things about these Canadian Chrysler products, was that the actual six cylinder engine for Canada was based upon the physically longer, larger, Chrysler and DeSoto engine block, manufactured in four sizes for Canada (with different bore & stroke on Plymoth & Dodge compared to US engines).  In the US, Plymouth and Dodge shared a smaller, physically shorter engine block, whereas DeSoto and Chrysler shared the big one.  It was due to the fact that Canada’s population was about 10% of America’s, and the fact that it saved money to only manufacture one basic engine instead of two. 

    Conversely, there weren’t any Canadian Ford sixes at all until about 1960, whereas in the US, I think the Ford six came out in 1939 or 1940, and when the Ford V8 got “modern” and went OHV in 1954 in the USA, Canada ended up building flathead V8’s until 1955. 

    The US/Canadian Auto Pact came into play in January 1965, the same month that US auto buyers no longer had to pay 10% Federal Excise Tax on new car purchases. 

  • avatar

    The memories!  I was run over by a ’47 Dodge when I was three. I was running across the street behind a big kid (he was six), and luckily the sailor saw him and braked hard. I remember getting knocked over and the car passing over me, and when the left front wheel passed me – the car was still moving – I expertly timed a roll out from under the car before the left rear tire came to a stop right alongside me.  I was shaken but unhurt. It was another three years before I was allowed to cross the street by myself, but eventually I owned a Dodge Dart and served in the Navy, so there were no hard feelings.

  • avatar

    We need more reviews on cars like this; I’d even take them deeper.  How did the guy come by a car this old with only 38,000 miles?  What kind of mileage does it get?  How hard to maintain?  I think I’m an antique in a young body but give me the details, gory and all, about old stuff and I soak it up.

    I’m curious though, why the tow back if it was vapor lock, why not wait it out on the side of the road?

  • avatar

    The car was properly stored by a farm family that basically retired it from active service in the 60s. Mileage was around 20 mpg highway on an optimistic day, but it is the journey in these old classics and not the mpg that will make it all worthwhile for a lucky driver. I was pretty stupid about the vapor lock and managed to get it running long enough to get a few miles away from where the tow truck driver thought I would be -based upon my pay phone instructions. Nobody was really happy with that development but I was near another phone. Remember that I left without my cell phone and inadvertently made this a true car adventure. I loved this car for many reasons,including the fact that my late father had one before my time. Jump at any opportunity to drive or own any original 40s car.

  • avatar

    I think that there’s no syncromesh on 1st gear. You might want to wait until you stop before selecting 1st. And the old fix for vapor lock is a clothespin on the fuel line. It keeps the liquid from becoming vapor by adding pressure, just like a radiator cap.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the  memories!  When I was a little boy, these were the oldest cars I’d typically see on the road.  They’re not very pretty, but I’ve always had a fascination with them.  My uncle had a ’48 Dodge similar to this one, which he bought used.  The amount of room inside is amazing.
    Even today, while I no longer see them on the road, I’ve spotted several of these Mopars and their immediate successors, the ’49s to ’52s, sitting in a field or next to old buildings with surprisingly little rust considering their age.

  • avatar

    I swear to God that my Dad’s first car was a ’50 or ’51 Dodge Regent, but I’ve never been able to find any info on this model prior to this story. His had a flat 6, 3 on the tree, armstrong steering and 4-50 air (4 windows down, 50 MPH). Tubed tires and a trunk you could stuff a small elephant into. Anyone ever seen one of these?

  • avatar

    Best appreciated at the show is a good comment.  Maybe an interesting topic here would be “what’s the oldest car you’ve used as a daily driver?”  I drove ’65 and ‘ 66 Mustangs through the late 90’s, but at some point the manual drum brakes and lap belts really start have you questioning your judgement.  Or maybe it was the near-perfect red ’66 I was scavenging parts off of in the junkyard.  Perfect except for the driver’s front where it impacted a tree or other immovable object.   It didn’t look that bad inside or out, until you noticed the driver’s seat broken loose from the floor and the steering wheel was now about even with the door latch…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been driving a ’66 Chryslers to work this week.  If the weather is nice, I’ll take one of my Chryslers whenever possible.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove a ’71 Mercedes “pagoda top” nearly every day from 1996-2004. Great little car. It only left me in the lurch once, but dramatically, when the fuel pump died on a freeway off-ramp during rush hour when I was on my way to a job interview.
      I still see a lot of Volvo P1800’s driving around Portland Oregon.

  • avatar

    My father bought a 1947 Plymouth new, quite similar to the Dodge. Notable was the amount of chrome trim on the metal dashboard…war surplus metal?… and outside-mounted sunshades for the windshield. My dad took a technical leap by having an aftermarket turn signal system installed.

  • avatar

    There is an old lady in our neighborhood who drives a 1953 Chevrolet. It’s her only car. It’s never been restored. The paint is a little thin on the roof, but other than that, it’s in good condition. It’s amazing, especially in San Jose, that there are still people driving around in cars they bought 56 years ago. It’s not Pasadena, but she’s a genuine “little old lady.”

    • 0 avatar

      When I lived in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1962 some little old lady who lived in a big house that took up about half the block had a pristine 1935 Ford coupe, black with green striping, that sounded like a new car as it drove by.
      It was about that same time that my grandfather in southern California quit driving the ’39 Chevy half-ton pickup that was his only vehicle since it was new. When my uncle tried driving it he said that the transmission was totally balky, almost impossible to shift. I wish I’d had a chance to look at it then because it went to the wrecking yard right after that.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Fred Oxner, the patriarch of  the Marshfield Centre  Garage, had a pair   of  47 Dodges , a sedan and  a  business coupe. Both had  fluid drive and  were  used  to push   dead cars  to  the  garage  for  repair. In  the  mid  80s,  I was commuting  in  a 58  VW bug.  My  present  fleet  is  a  pair  of 88 BMW  528 es

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Inside Looking Out: Yeah, probably front end design and black color make it to look small. It looks more delicate...
  • jkross22: Someone needs to call the suits at TTAC’s corporate overlord(s). It appears someone has spoofed TTAC...
  • Inside Looking Out: I would not take whatever Russian officials say seriously. They have no idea what they are...
  • Jeff S: Just like the abusive husband doesn’t want to be intimated by the ex buying a gun to protect herself...
  • jpolicke: Russia conveniently forgets that if not for their past bad behavior there would be no need for NATO to...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber