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Updated – Mystery Car: Late-1930s American-Made Automobile

Updated – One look at this unique photo is all it took to know that this sedan buried under five or six feet of snow would be the perfect basis for a mystery car quiz. As the title for this post states, this automobile was produced in the US which at least narrows down your quest to both identify the automaker that built this car, and for how many years this model was marketed.

To give all regular readers an equal chance, you have until noontime on Thursday when this post will be updated, and at that time, the names of who was able to correctly identify the maker of this car will be announced. In the meantime happy hunting.

Update – Amazingly thirty-two readers were able to identify the Mystery Car as a Willys. The experts were able to narrow it down to a 1937 Willys sedan. The most definitive answer was posted by Jon Lee:

“I think this is a 1937 Willys sedan. What looks, at first glance, to be the gas filler is the left tail light. This upright style was used for a couple of years. In 1938 the drip rail came almost to the corner of the deck lid and this car does not have that feature. The bumper guard that is partially visible curls over at the top, another Willys feature for several years. The license plate moved to the center of the deck lid in ’39.”

A number of readers correctly identified it as the Model 37. Read the comments to learn more about about the Willys 37.

  • The photo above courtesy of Alden Jewell is of the pickup truck version of the Willys and shows the front end sheet metal used only on the 1937 and ’38 cars and trucks.

47 responses to “Updated – Mystery Car: Late-1930s American-Made Automobile

  1. Okay, I’m stumped. It’s a 1937 slantback sedan with a non-split rear window. Not a Pontiac because there’s no stripe on the trunk lid. Not a Studebaker because the gas filler pipe is in the wrong place.

    I look forward to hearing from people who know this stuff better than I do.

    • Well, could be earlier than ’37, though the back fenders look kind of rounded to be much earlier. But I searched back to ’35 and still couldn’t find anything. No beading on the body, either.

      Yup, she’s a stumper.

  2. I think this is a 1937 Willys sedan. What looks, at first glance, to be the gas filler is the left tail light. This upright style was used for a couple of years. In 1938 the drip rail came almost to the corner of the deck lid and this car does not have that feature. The bumper guard that is partially visible curls over at the top, another Willys feature for several years. The license plate moved to the center of the deck lid in ’39.
    I’m guessing that the prize for the correct answer is the opportunity to finish shoveling the car out of the snow drift.

  3. 1937 Michigan plate apparently.

    Also the shovel operator either lives in a snowbelt or works out of doors- those boots will help git-r-dun in comfort.

    • The M on the 1937 license plate indicates it was issued by a county which begins with the letter M. The plates were issued to the counties in blocks, but it is unknown to me if this was done with correspondence to alphabetical order.

      List of Michigan counties beginning with “M” (83 counties total)

      Mackinac
      Macomb
      Manistee
      Marquette
      Mason
      Mecosta
      Menominee
      Midland
      Missaukee
      Monroe
      Montcalm
      Montmorency
      Muskegon

  4. I am leaning to 1937-38 Willys sedan. Shape of trunk, taillights and lack of split in window lead me to think this is the one.

  5. I think it is a 1937 Willys? What appears to be the fuel filler is the left rear tail light, you can see evidence of the over riders on the bumper and the tail light on the right side and fuel filler cap above that.

  6. It’s a 1937-’39 Willys, one of a model 37, 38 or 48. Being smaller than the full-sized Chevy-Ford-Plymouth trio, it would be easy to bury in deep snow.

  7. Sorry, I didn’t take the time yesterday, but I have to give credit to my spouse. Yesterday ,she took a quick look and said ..how about Willys..I didn’t spend any time with it until this AM. After a little research I said you are right ! Her father had one for his commuter car to the LIRR where he was a trainman…….later conductor. So, Judith Koerner is the one who got it.

    • Jack, if you have a wife who would have “Willys” enter her thought pattern, you’ve got a “keeper”. Congrats, Judith.

  8. Man, this was an elusive vehicle to track down. None of the usual suspects have that unique sharp corner at the top of the trunk lid though, which also identifies this as being a 1937 Willys Model 37.

    • I should also say that what was thought to be the gas filler pipe is actually one of the rear brake lights. If you look closely, you can see the other side protruding through the partially cleared snow. Interesting, pending 40’s rounded look that was probably ahead of its time.

  9. Driving impression: a ’30’s Willys ( pronouced “willis”) sedan, coupe, or truck use a Four– Banger that vibrates and makes more noise than any Model ‘A”Ford — in any gear! They get to where they’re goin’, — but bring your ear plugs! (not so bad , — in Willys open Jeeps!) Edwin W.

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