Fluid Driving: 1947 Dodge Deluxe Sedan

The Chrysler Corporation had a reputation for engineering excellence that started at the company’s birth.  This reputation reached its zenith with the innovative Airflow, but the car’s unusual look drove many potential customers away.  This aversion to radical styling haunted the company despite the advanced design’s advantages.  For decades thereafter, cars from the Chrysler Corporation thus built another reputation for having dull styling.  Regardless, the company’s cars from this era still provide impressive reliability and a great value to today’s antique car lovers.  This 1947 Dodge Deluxe Sedan being sold on craigslist for an asking price of just $4,000 is a perfect example.  Found in Hopatcong, New Jersey, it also has a neat engineering feature for you to try.  Have you ever driven a car with Fluid Drive?  Thanks to reader Ikey H., that experience may be in your future!

Walter P. Chrysler made the great decision of hiring three very intelligent engineers when he started his company: Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton, and Carl Breer. These gentlemen made Chrysler a success when so many other companies failed.  They did so by designing and building solid cars with innovative features. The engineering culture left behind by these men continued to blossom for many years to come. One such innovation was Fluid Drive.  Fluid Drive basically replaced the flywheel with a type of torque converter that allowed you to skip pushing in the clutch and shifting when you stopped the car.  You simply hit the brake when you wanted to stop, and pulled off by applying the gas while the car was still in whatever gear you had previously selected (allpar.com goes into more detail).  Acceleration was glacial, but the job got done.

If you look carefully at the glove box door on this 1947 Dodge, you see the Fluid Drive logo.  This is the only tip-off that the car is equipped with this feature.  Otherwise, the typical column shifter and clutch pedal make you think the car has a typical manual transmission.  Looking elsewhere, it seems that the interior is original but worn.  Sadly we cannot see the condition of the driver’s seat.  The Wal Mart cover needs to be replaced with some of those blankets you used to see in Stuckeys at the very least (I miss those toffee peanuts…).  Other than that and the missing arm rest, the interior is in relatively good condition.  Useable at the least.  The brightwork and the wood graining are in remarkably good shape compared to the rest of the interior.

Under the hood is the usual Dodge flathead six-cylinder engine.  Shared with Plymouth, this engine is known for having a lot of torque at low RPMs.  Saying that it would need all that torque to take off from third gear with the Fluid Drive would be a massive understatement.  Displacing 230 cubic inches and putting out 102 horsepower, this engine moved these heavy cars along at a respectable pace.  There are speed parts out there if you yearn for more horsepower.  Offenhauser makes a dual carburetor intake manifold, Fenton and others fashion exhaust headers, and Mopar Montana produces high compression finned aluminum heads that will bolt right on.  With these modifications and a more aggressive camshaft, a flathead six Mopar can put out a respectable 140-150 horsepower.  An engine so equipped will also draw a crowd at a car show too.

There is a lot going for this car, but few can see its hidden beauty.  As previously stated, these cars are rather overbuilt and pack a lot of solid engineering in their design.  The styling and size to tend to make folks look elsewhere.  That is a shame.  Where else are you going to get a car in this condition that runs and drives for less?


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  1. canadainmarkseh Member

    First of all I’ll bet that the drivers door is swinging to far out and rubbing on the fender to cause the paint to be damaged, this should be an easy fix. What’s not to like here suicide back door good condition and low price I’d take this car in a minute if I could. The one think I’d do though is get rid of that fluid drive in favor of a straight manual transmission. It would be fun to add the performance parts too.

    • Howard A

      Sure seems like a lot of these older Mopars lately. I wonder if the elderly owners are passing, and the younger crowd has no interest in them. There was a time, when car shows were full of these, they were a perfect entry level classic 30 years ago. Now they are showing up here, ready for another refurbishing, but I don’t see it happening today. Sadly, I think in 10 years, there will be a glut of these cars nobody wants.

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        I gotta agree Howard. Thursdays I go to the Saloon to watch the car auctions. It is amazing what 10K or less will get you now.

      • canadainmarkseh Member

        Every thing passes away eventually. And so will these. Once there is a glut of these siting around with no owners the crusher will get them. It happened up here in Calgary a few years back there were a few of these for sale at a wrecking yard in driver condition that wouldn’t sell at any price. So after about a year they crushed them. This is why I’m in favor of resto mods they get upgraded and used a second time. They can handle modern traffic and are more marketable then the old originals. Most of these cars are three on the tree and 80% of the population doesn’t know how to drive them, that factors into who will be interested in buying them. Stick in a modern motor. auto transmission. Modern brakes, ps, AC, a stereo with MP3 capacity, and gps, and it now has some appeal. This isn’t going to happen with most of these car. JMHO.

      • grant

        I think you’re probably right Howard. Personally, I like these and if I could right now I would. Just like with Model A’s, their decline in popularity is a good thing for the guy with an average paycheck who likes old cars.

      • Fordguy1972

        I started attending car shows in the mid-’70s with my uncle and all you saw were pre-war cars and pretty much every one was either original or restored to original. Go to a show today and apart from modified examples, you probably won’t see an original pre-war car. Makes you wonder what happened to them as it seems nobody wants them anymore. I’d hate to think of how many were just crushed.

        Enjoy your cars while you can, guys. One day your Torino GT Cobra or Nova SS may be crushed from lack of interest. Then the scrap metal will be shipped to China and made into some cheap piece of crap sold at the dollar store. I’m be glad I’ll be gone by then.

  2. daveshoe Member

    I was born in 1953. This is the make and model car my parents brought me home from the hospital. They kept it until 1957, and traded it in for one of those new popular German imports, the VW Beetle. I remember both cars fondly, and wish I had them both now. Ah, but the circumstances of life and age…

  3. Kenneth Carney

    Howard, if your prediction is true, I’ll be able to afford one of these before I get
    too old to enjoy owning at least one more
    classic car before I die. Make mine a ’46
    to ’48 Plymouth if you please, they’re a bit
    more attractive than a Dodge of the same
    year. That’s just my opinion as I owned a
    ’46 Plymouth and really enjoyed it. Sure
    wouldn’t turn this one down if the price were right. Sure, it’s got some faults, but
    none that can’t be fixed while you drive
    this old gal and show her off. Just stopped by to see what was on the site
    before turning in for the night. I got a
    real treat last night as I got to putt around
    my workshop for the first time in over a
    year. With everything going on around
    here, I really didn’t have the time to spend
    there. It felt mighty good to pick up the
    pens and make some artwork–even though it was handmade signs for my
    MIL’s upcoming yard sale! I just turned
    on the tunes and started working away.
    Just shut it down for the night, time for

  4. Charles Gaffen

    This is the exact car we had, color, fading, fluid drive, everything ( no dents). My mother learned to drive on our ‘39 Plymouth, and then we got this one. Had loads of room, but I remember it being a bit troublesome, but I was about 6 or 7 when we got rid of it. I’d love to have it now. I’ve never done extensive engine work but I bet I could do all the mods listed above, and then a cosmetic fix up.

  5. SalGal

    When I was in high school and was driving my Tahiti Coral 59 Studebaker Lark with a V-8 engine, one of my girlfriends was driving her father’s old 1948(?) Dodge with fluid drive. One night we crammed 10 kids into that car and took it to the quarter mile outside of town to see what it would do. We got it up to 45 mph! Another night I raced a guy whose Dad had just bought him a 66 Dodge Charger. His Dad wisely got it with only 6 cylinders and he was humbled by my old Lark, and a girl driving it no less. I’m still looking for another Tahiti Coral Lark.

    • Charles Gaffen

      FWIW I see Larks on BringaTrailer.com often enough for you to keep an eye out if you really want one, including some with the ‘sporty’ equipment. Never a Coral one though!

  6. Vince H

    I don’t think that fluid drive as being innovated. Chrysler used them because they did not have an automatic,

  7. stillrunners


  8. Del

    Be lucky to get 500

  9. Streamliner

    Seems we’re all in agreement. Many fair comments here. A reality check. I’ve owned 3 of these. Two 1947-48 Plymouth 4-drs, and one 1948 Dodge 2-dr. coupe. Unrestored but in working-running condition, you’re lucky if you can get $3,500. for the 4-drs now. Maybe $3,500. – $4,500. for the 2-dr. Sadly, I scrapped one of my 1948 4-drs. Still have another and it’s for sale. Restoration is 33% done. The math just doesn’t add up any more. Agreed, in 10 yrs, no one will want these. There’s a nice original 1948 Plymouth 2-dr business coupe near here for sale. Seller’s asking $10,000. unrestored. Been for sale for 8+ mnths. Doubt it would sell for half that now.

  10. Charles Gaffen

    I think what is an additional shame is the lack of interest in these cars. I would love to have an old car to fool with and because of what I’m willing to spend, I would gladly have one of these in what seems like decent running condition, which is more than half the battle. I can’t entertain anything because I have no garage for any of my cars.

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