Business In The Back: 1952 Dodge Wayfarer

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One of the most unusual automobile designs to come along, at least from today’s perspective and looking back, is the Business Coupe such as this 1952 Dodge Wayfarer. Times have obviously changed, and as far as the need for a car like this, they changed a long time ago so I consider these to be curious finds these days. This example is located in Miami, Florida and is available, here on craigslist for $5,850.

Most domestic manufacturers offered a business coup in ’52 but the trend faded away by the end of the decade, these single bench seat models usually occupied the lowest rung trim level. That’s the case here as Dodge’s Wayfarer started the ball rolling, was one-upped by the Meadowbrook, and then topped out by the Coronet. Other Wayfayer body styles included a two-door sedan and total production equaled about 77K units in ’52. Of that total, however, only 6,700 were Business Coupes.

When I was just a kid, there was an older gentleman that lived near me and he collected cars from the twenties and thirties but the one that I was most intrigued with was a 1950 Plymouth Business Coupe – it had no back seat, and I was too young to grasp the real purpose of a car designed in this fashion. I don’t remember that Plymouth ever going anywhere, it mostly sat but he had many other old Dodges, Packards, and Chryslers that he drove with certain regularity. This example looks like a taxicab with its scruffy two-tone paint job. The body appears to be in fair shape, at least as far as completeness and panel damage are concerned. That said, the lower driver’s side quarter panel is looking shaky in the potential rot department.

Another cause for concern is under the hood where the 103 HP, 230 CI, in-line, flathead six-cylinder engine looks to be missing a few things. It is stated that this car has been sitting for a while and the engine’s appearance would bear out that sentiment. Whether it turns over is not stated but it’s logical to assume that this lump will be given the bum’s rush by the next owner. A three-speed manual transmission handles gear changes.

The interior is in better shape than the exterior, and based on what can be spied, it shows pretty well. The seat looks as if it has been reupholstered and the dash and instrument panel appear to be complete. I’d like to get a look at the inside of the business end of this coupe, but unfortunately, no images were provided.

OK, so it’s what to do with it time. Let’s face it, a hot rod is likely in this Dodge’s future (and no, don’t suggest, “Put an LS in it!”). There are plenty of Mopar possibilities such as a turnkey modern Hemi or even going old school with a LA small block. With the right stance and finish, this coupe could be built into one sinister-looking and driving throw-back, wouldn’t you agree?

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  1. Grog

    I might consider throwing in a newer 6 cylinder, turbocharger, automatic transmission, disc brake set up go with the Taxi theme.

    Like 9
  2. Mike

    Business coupes look best in black.

    Like 10
    • RallyeMember

      I think most were black. The paint scheme on this Dodge is probably the colors for some company/product. I’ve worked on and driven Ferrari, Lambo, vintage racecars and all sorts that I couldn’t afford to own or maintain.
      Now I’ll probably never buy another car but I lust after a customer 37 Plymouth business coupe. It’s black.

      Like 6
  3. Claudio

    Don’t buy a pickup
    Buy this thing , it has a built in tonneau cover!
    Man that trunk is bigger than most pu boxes …

    Like 14
    • Jakespeed

      About 10 years ago there was a light green one for sale in Iowa where the trunk had been removed and a stepside pickup bed had been inserted between the rear fenders. I didn’t have the money then, but it would’ve made a great cruiser/daily driver, especially if you used the pieces on Pete Anderson’s Blue Skies Racing 50 Plymouth sedan and a T-5 from an S-10.

      Like 0
  4. Dave

    Yes Jim, a modern Hemi is how I’d go. Lower makes them look longer and I think that makes the trunk even more visually attractive. But I would think a Taxi would be a 4 door.

    Like 0
  5. David Scully

    Single purpose transportation! A salesman’s delight – and a price break from a true commercial vehicle (lower license/insurance/maintenance/fuel costs, room for lots of product and fairly easy access from the flip-forward passenger seat of that large open trunk. We had a neighbor lady in San Diego who ran her Tupperware route using a beige ’52 Plymouth coupe like this well into the mid-1960s.

    Like 1
  6. deadmanrisingMember

    When I was a little kid, late 1950’s, a neighbor had a dark green ’52 Plymouth businessman coupe. When she & my mom went shopping, I would stand behind the seat between it and the rear window. There was a divider between the passenger area and the trunk, but I don’t know if it opened to the trunk. I spent a lot of time standing behind that seat. The neighbor eventually sold the Plymouth and bought a ’57 Cadillac Fleetwood. Big change.

    Like 2
  7. Joe Haska

    I have always loved 3-Window Coupes, just not a Dodge’s and maybe thirty years older or so.

    Like 1
  8. Kenneth Carney

    A gentleman I knew had one of these
    for his daily driver in the early ’70s.
    His was a black ’50 Dodge like this one. I got to know him through a girl
    I was dating then. Alongside that old
    Dodge was a ’57 Pontiac Star Chief 4
    door hardtop that belonged to his late
    wife. The Pontiac was in much better
    shape than his coupe was, but he still
    wouldn’t part with it no matter much I
    asked him. Found out later that when
    his wife passed, he drove the car from the funeral home to his house,
    put it up on blocks, and never set foot
    in it again. That was 21/2 years before I bought the Star Chief for $500. He was glad to see it go and I
    felt really special because he sold it
    to me. Come to find out that the Pontiac was running a factory cammed up 347 V-8 with 3 deuces!
    Seems like wifey had a lead foot!
    As for Jonesy’s coupe, his kids sold
    it to a hot rodder who put a 440 police interceptor and 727 Torqueflite
    in it. RIP Jonesy, you were a good
    friend of mine.

    Like 6
  9. Duane Hayes

    Missing from the conversation is that the original 6 cylinder is dead reliable, doesn’t have all the problems that the “modern” hemi’s have, and will do most of what anyone would want to do with this car.

    Like 7
    • Jakespeed

      If you want to make a flathead REALLY RELIABLE, newer technology can help. 1st, modify the road draught tube to hold a PCV and Plumb it into the intake manifold (no dirt getting inti the oil, then get a Langdon’s Stove bolt Mini-HEI, and run it with a GM TBI (or 2) using Howell Fuel Injection (or an equivalent aftermarket kit – great spark and no washed rings). There was a picture of 57 Chevy with a Wayne Head and 2×1 Bbl. TBI on a 2×1 barrel intake I saw on the “Binder-Planet” site, a few years ago.

      Like 0
  10. Richard MartinMember

    Put the newest edition single turbo straight 6 in it!

    Like 0
  11. John L.

    Looks like one of those old cars seen cruising around in Cuba.

    Like 3
  12. charlieMember

    IF I were Jay Leno I would collect one of each of the Chrysler Corp’s business coupes, like the a late ’30’s, a late ’40’s, this one, and a few more, two doors but with the enormous trunk up to the late ’60’s, no longer a business coupe, just a two door hardtop. But all equally strange.

    Like 0
    • Ozzie ChryslerMember

      I owned a 69 Valiant Wayfarer,an Australian ute with a hemi.
      Great vehicle

      Like 2

    Little bit of useless information from the past. Plymouth made this same car on the same assembly line. But Plymouth made a convertible also. Oh I forgot to mention they also made 82 Roadsters with snap in side windows. I worked with a fellow in 1964 that had a Roadster and he knew the car was rare so he contacted the factory to find out how many were made. Not sure what year his car was or what happened to it. No information as if Dodge made these rare cars.

    Like 1
    • RallyeMember

      Plymouth and Dodge on the same assembly line?

      Like 1
      • Chuck Dickinson

        Of course, they were basically the same car. Many GM plants built a variety of GM models, same w/Ford. As long as right front clip arrived on the assy. line to match the body/chassis, all was good!

        Like 1
  14. CarbobMember

    As I’ve said before; I like business coupes. Especially Mopars from the late ‘40’s to early ‘50’s. Agreed that black is the best color. Agreed that the old flathead sixes are very reliable. Unfortunately this example needs lots of love. Agreed that if this old Dodge gets back on the road it’ll probably not be entirely stock. The right person could have fun with this. The ask is a bit optimistic but in today’s market; who knows.

    Like 0
  15. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    One of the drawbacks of older flathead engines is the ease of cylinder head removal. Engine has an ignition miss? Pull the head! Over and over again I’ve seen old vehicles with flathead engines that are either missing the head, or the head bolts/nuts have been removed. Many of them don’t appear to have burned valves or other mechanical problems that could be repaired by simply removing the head.

    Concerning the color scheme, if you look at the photo of the open driver’s door, it’s easy to spot yellow overspray on the edge of the dashboard. I’m betting that yellow is primer.

    There is an almost identical vehicle [but all gray] sitting in a fenced yard in Cambridge, MD, and I’ve been told it’s not for sale.

    Like 1
  16. 370zpp 370zppMember

    For “businessmen” back in the day, I wonder what sort of image driving one of these cars would project?..
    Would they be seen as successful since they drove a car made specifically for that purpose?
    Or would they be seen as up and coming or even not successful since this was all they could afford?

    Like 0
    • Kim in Lanark

      These were meant for traveling salesmen to carry their samples, etc. not “businessmen” as such. Actually Packard had business coupes in their prewar line and Chrysler even had New Yorker business coupes through 1948. After that business coupes were available using the standard coupe body with no rear seats and a trunk pass through until the late 1950s. In fact the tri year chevy business coupes were the way to go for factory hot rods. They typically came with a heavy duty drive train. Order a plain jane chevy 150 with the small block V 8 and you had one hot street racer.

      Like 0
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

      Prior to WW2, just having a car was considered a rung up the sales ladder, those salesmen just starting off would typically have to rely on public bus and taxi transportation and for longer trips they used trains to visit clients.

      “Over the road” salesmen often needed extra space for catalogs, product brochures, cut-away examples, and even samples. Plus room for suitcases on long trips. Some salesmen were expected to deliver products too. I can remember in the late 1950s when the Fuller Brush salesman picked up his sold products at the B&O railroad’s REA [Railway Express Agency] office, then delivered them to the housewives [and sometimes picking up the COD payments!]

      Until the early 1950s, Business coupes had 3 to 4 times the storage volume of the typical 2 or 4 door sedan, and when locked up, no one could look in thru a car window to see what was in the back seat area. And for guys who had to put on serious amounts of mileage due to a large sales territory, truck-based enclosed delivery vehicles were generally not used, as they were rougher to drive over long distances.

      Image was often important, with the Dodge coupe saying you were not on the bottom rung [Plymouth, Studebaker Champion, Willys, Chevy, & Ford] Some luxury or middle-class cars offered a business coupe, including Chrysler New Yorker and DeSoto 8 business coupes thru 1948, Buick offered one in 1941 [model W41], but what I seem to recall was Olds, Lasalle and Cadillac stopped offering a business coupe after 1940. Even Packard offered a business coupe until 1942, then again for 1951 [gone by 1952].

      As sedan trunk volumes steadily grew in the later 1950s, and other options surfaced like all steel 2-door station wagons and car-based sedan deliveries, Business coupe demand lessened.

      Like 1
      • 64 Bonneville

        bill you are correct about Olds, Buick, and LaSalle having a business coupe prior to WW II. I don’t ever remember seeing Cadillac offering one, unless maybe custom coach builder (think Briggs, Hess & Eisenhart) would do a conversion. Great memory, wish my 74 years was that sharp. I had to look in some of my literature.

        Like 0
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

        64 Bonneville,

        I have vivid memories of seeing 3 Cadillac V-16 cars at Ron Vangelderin’s home [Ron was a major collector of V-16 cars and past President of the Cad-Las Club I think] when dad & I went to see [and buy] a Packard from Ron in 1968. One of his cars was a bright Green 1940 Series 90 V-16 business coupe with both the huge trunk lid and a fold-down trunk rack with trunk.

        That huge V-16 coupe, with it’s incredibly long trunk [I think it was a Fleetwood body, but not 100% sure] and dual sidemounts, plus the trunk hanging off the back, required a special deep garage for that car.

        Ron told us the car was ordered by a “Pirate radio preacher” that sold unregulated medical quack cures thru a 50,000 watt radio station just over the border in Mexico, where the US government couldn’t reach him, and the car’s big trunk was used for high speed runs to deliver the medical prescription packages to the Mexican post office every day.

        I suspect that car may have been the last true 3-passenger business coupe built on a Cadillac chassis.

        Like 1
  17. Robt

    Nice Dodge. Not your average hot rod material but I can see it with modern suspension and brakes powered by Chrysler small block with a 4spd.

    I find it interesting to see early 50’s Chryslers and GM cars, as well as others, comparing them to what Ford did in 49. Ford got the jump on everybody.

    Like 0

    GM, Chrysler, Ford, Packard, all came out with a new body line in ’49. But what about Studebaker, getting the jump on everybody two years before that. What about that wraparound back glass that they had through ’52. How could Ford possibly get the jump on anybody? Anybody care to let me know about how Ford pulled this off.

    Like 2
  19. Paul

    IMHO, I think a B or an RB engine with a streetable roller cam, good heads and intake maybe converted to EFI would be the ticket. It already has the third pedal add an aftermarket 5 speed along with a Pro-Touring suspension and wheel/tire combo.

    Like 0
  20. FOG

    I like this project. The price is decent, too. My memory goes back to an older Gulf station mechanic that drove this same car daily. Agree with comments about paint this black or dark blue.

    Like 0
  21. 64 Bonneville

    Maybe $3000. I think just a little to high on the ask. Convert to 12 volts, go with a 273 and torque flight tranny. flat black primer buffed out, tube grill, nosed and decked, chrome reversed wheels with baby moons, and thin (1″) whitewalls. Put something in to play tunes from the late 50s’ and early 60s’ or some good rockabilly music. And enjoy the ride!

    Like 1
    • Jimmy Novak

      Thank you for reminding me why I don’t seek out cruise nights anymore.

      Like 1
      • RallyeMember

        Do you live in a bad neighborhood or area?
        Cruise nights and cars n coffee within 30 miles of me offer great variety. Last year I saw a GMC cracker box ALL polished, 53 Chrysler wagon with original hemi, modern exotics that I had to look up when I got home and a variety others.

        Like 0
      • 64 bonneville

        Mr. Novak, was just doing the stereotypical “cruise night’ crap. Seems like everyone think our cars back then had fuzzy dice, continental kits and fender skirts. As you said that is why I skip most cruise nights.

        Like 0

    64 bonneville,
    You left out the Dumb Axx sun visors.

    Like 1
    • 64 Bonneville

      you are correct. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Good to have sharp eyed friends on BF!

      Like 0

    i have a pretty fair looking 50 wayfarer . body is really good shape runs and drives if interested contact me i am in iowa

    Like 0

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