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Warm Engine, Apply Cleaner, Let Soak Fifteen Minutes, Rinse

Apply Cleaner, Let Soak Fifteen Minutes, Rinse – is not what this photo was about, but since it is such a cleverly posed image we could not resist using the title. The picture was in a post-war French magazine which told of the price controls, first imposed in the US by the Office of Price Administration just before World War-II. The action was used to place price ceilings on most products and commodities, and also ration scarce supplies of gasoline, tires, and other items before, during and after the war. The controls would stay in in place until May 29, 1947.

  • 1941 Buick being water tested
  • The photo is courtesy of Jerry-Lee who resides in France via the H.A.M.B.

The photo caption with it roughly translates as follows: “Automobile constructors after the war were forced to adopt maximum figures for the sale prices of their standard models. But added improvements justify a higher price: On this Buick built by General Motors the waterproofed motor offers a selling novelty for the manufacturer whose models have hardly changed since 1941″.

The two young women are sitting on the roof of a 1941 Buick trying to drown its engine with a fire hose, and it is not a postwar model as the caption leads one to believe. We have the feeling that this may have been a promotional photo that originated from the automaker and served as a dramatic way to demonstrate a new waterproof ignition system. Since this image presents a good opportunity to explore them, some of the differences between the 1941, 1942 and 1946 Models are covered below.

  • 1941 Buick
  • The restyled 1941 Buick.

The 1941 through 1946 Buicks shown here are the end of the prewar turnaround by the Flint, Michigan automaker, which had suffered a large scale setback during the Great Depression. This effort was first started in 1934 by Harlow H. Curtice, who began by making improvements to the straight-eight engine, increased its horsepower, and put performance under the hood of the Buick. The high point of these changes was reached when the Fireball Straight-Eight with twin carburetors was introduced in 1941.

  • 1942 Buick Fireball Straight Eight
  •     The 1942 Buick chassis equipped with the optional “Fireball Straight Eight”

Curtice’s next move involving saving Buick was to challenge Harley Earl to “Design me a Buick you would like to own.” Earl’s Art and Colour Department in turn produced the popular new styling for the 1936 model which resulted in a production run of close to 175,000 units; this was an increase of over 125,000 cars from 1935. We recently took a look at the 1937 Buick that followed it and featured even more popular styling which was held over through the 1938 model run with some minor changes.

  • 1942 Buick
  • The restyled 1942 Buick with the “Fireball Straight-Eight”. 

The advertising illustrations here show the redesign that was implemented first with the 1942 Buick, just before the outbreak of the war. The new offering styled by Harley Earl’s Art and Colour Department introduced an entirely new look featuring fresh front end styling, wider and lower bodies and a few new mechanical changes. Only 16,600 of the new 1942 models were produced before the production line was shut down on February 2, 1942.

At the start of the war Buick’s production lines were quickly converted to build Red Cross ambulances, Hellcat Tank Destroyers, Pratt and Whitney aircraft engines and other products for the war effort. At the end of the hostilities, Buick like most automakers, dusted off its prewar tooling, made a few small trim changes and introduced the 1946 model. It in turn served as the basis of the 1947 and 1948 models that followed.

The advertising illustrations are courtesy of Alden Jewell. You can learn more about the history of the automaker at the Buick Heritage Alliance.

  • 1946 1947 1948 Buick
  • Minor changes on the postwar 1946 Buick Special.

10 responses to “Warm Engine, Apply Cleaner, Let Soak Fifteen Minutes, Rinse

  1. They’ll be lucky if that Buick ever runs again! I remember that Ford V-8 85s of that vintage, with the distributor right behind the fan would conk out if you went through a puddle! Given the nature of those distributors, it could take forever to dry it out!

    • Donald, It appears that “the waterproofed motor” in the caption of the photo may refer to a Buick innovation with a system that did away with this problem. Perhaps a Buick enthusiast of this period may know more?

  2. The title “Warm engine, Apply cleaner, Let soak fifteen minutes, Rinse” refers to a product that was popular in the fifties for cleaning auto engines and or other machinery that became coated with an oily grime. It worked pretty well but you had to protect the ignition and carburetor.

  3. This photo begs for a caption contest. Maybe, “The girls had a zero-tolerance policy for engine spiders.” Or, “They’d heard that if you run out of gas, prime the carburetor – FAIL!” Next caption anybody??

  4. If I recall correctly Buick had a metal cover that ran the length of the head that covered the spark plugs. The plug wires entered the cover at the center bottom of the cover. While being ‘splash proof” it was by no means “water proof” Just my opinion.

  5. Wayne is correct. The cover did a good job, but was not foolproof. Early in my driving days, I had a ’48 Super, and changed the spark plugs. I developed a minor miss, which was finally solved when I realized one plug wire was pinched by that cover instead of feeding through the small center flareout on the bottom side of the cover. So, you see, I was the fool who proved it!

  6. I don’t see Buick using that image for an advert. They wouldn’t have selected a vehicle with a dented right front wing, with a replacement spear. Looks more like a leftover that survived the Big Dub.

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