Three Star Survivor: 1941 Plymouth P11 Staff Car

1941-plymouth-p11-staff-car

I’m a bit of a history buff and always enjoy learning more about the vehicles and equipment that were built and used during WWII. I have to admit, I don’t know much about the Plymouth P11 staff car, so I’m quite excited to be learning more about these neat cars. This example could actually be a rather important part of history. These cars were typically used by high ranking officials, as they were one of the more comfortable staff cars. If you take a closer look at that front plate, it proudly wears 3 stars, the mark of a Lt. General. None of the car’s history is provided though, so it could have been added by a previous owner simply for show. It’s still in the barn, but you can find it here on eBay in Somerset, Pennsylvania with a BIN of $4,995.

1941-plymouth-p11-interior

The military isn’t known for being concerned with style, but that doesn’t mean generals and other high ranking officials don’t enjoy a few comforts. This Plymouth wasn’t the most luxurious vehicle out there, but it was quite comfortable to ride around in. It had ample leg room, plenty of space and a very smooth ride. The interior of this example has seen better days and is going to need a full restoration.

1941-plymouth-p11-engine

One of the other appealing features of the P11 was the durable straight 6 engine. It only put out 87 horsepower, but it ran forever and was incredibly smooth. The seller claims this one runs, but needs the new radiator installed. While it looks tired, I wouldn’t be surprised if it runs great, that’s how durable these engines are.

1941-plymouth-p11

I’ve always loved the strip down looks of military staff cars. The flat green paint isn’t the most attractive color, but you know exactly what purpose this car served. I just wonder what the story is behind it. Did it actually haul anyone of significance, did it see any time at the front lines, or is it a consumer version that someone painted to look like a staff car? Any thoughts?

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Comments

  1. WaltB31

    It would be interesting to see if the car # could be traced. Perhaps the General who owned this car could be determined!.
    Great find!

  2. Dutch 1960

    OK, here you go, a bit of Googling. 8th Army Air Force, the commanding officer was Carl Spaatz, with the rank of Major General in early 1942, when the 8th AAF was established. This was a “two star” rank. In March 1943, Spaatz was promoted to Lieutenant General, a “three star” rank. It looks like he split his time between England and the U.S., so if this is the real deal, it would be Carl Spaatz’s car.

    Later in the war, Spaatz became commander of the Strategic Air Command, directing all US air forces in the bombing of Germany. After V-E Day, he assumed command of the SAC in the Pacific, and directed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    If, if, this is the real deal, it is kind of a big deal in some circles.

    Like 1
    • WaltB31

      Spaatz was a big deal. Very interesting and historically valuable car if it is indeed his car!

  3. Bobby Member

    Car appears to be authentic. It has the blackout lights front and rear and a spotlight on the cowl. The firewall is olive drab green too, so it’s probably the original color.

    • Bobby Member

      Looks like a siren on the fender too.

      • Bobby Member

        The right side fender, that is.

  4. ccrvtt

    Very cool find. You could not restore it, just clean it up so you wouldn’t lose the stenciling – MIN. 70 OCTANE, WINTERIZED ’44, CHECK OIL & WATER DAILY. Definitely worth contacting General Spaatz’s descendants to see if they had any pictures of him with the car. (Great bit of research btw.)

  5. Bruce

    If this car can be traced to Mr. Spaatz it should probably be housed in a museum. I would also think the $5000.00 buy in price if it was indeed his would be chump change…

  6. Glen

    I agree with Bruce, this should be placed in a museum, and ccrvtt is also correct with his advice to not restore it.

  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    Most definitely a worthwhile car to own. Tracing the heritage of the vehicle is part of the hobby which is something that I really enjoy doing as much as working on the cars themselves. This one should be restored but to its original designation. A little olive drab green should always be welcome…

  8. Mike

    Carl Spaatz was not the only LT General during WW II, listed below are the rest!!!
    Frank Maxwell Andrews, U.S. Army Air Forces, commander of U.S. Forces in the European Theater, killed in an air crash
    Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commander of U.S. Tenth Army, posthumously promoted to General
    Jimmy Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Forces, leader of the Doolittle Raid on Japan in World War II and commander of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, Twelfth Air Force and Fifteenth Air Force, later promoted to General, U.S. Air Force, after retirement.
    Hugh Aloysius Drum, commander of U.S. First Army.
    Ira C. Eaker, U.S. Army Air Forces, commander of U.S. Eighth Air Force.
    Delos Carleton Emmons, commander of the Hawaiian Department
    Lloyd Fredendall, commander of U.S. Second Army
    Leslie Groves, who ran the Manhattan Project and oversaw The Pentagon design / construction.
    Millard Harmon, U.S. Army Air Forces, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific, lost during plane flight
    Thomas Holcomb, U.S. Marine Corps, Commandant of the Marine Corps during first half of World War II, later promoted to General on retirement
    William S. Knudsen, Director of Production, Office of the Under Secretary of War.
    First civilian to enter the Army at that rank.[13]
    Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces, later posthumously promoted to General
    Richard K. Sutherland, chief of staff to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, present on the USS Missouri (BB-63) for the Empire of Japan’s surrender signing.
    George S. Patton, commander of U.S. Third Army, later promoted to General

    If you consider that 95% of the equipment sent over to England or Germany after we occupied that country, was left there after the war was over because of the US Troops that stayed there and the fact of the cost to bring it back to the US and by the time the War was coming to an end there was tons of equipment and cars and truck that was setting in equipment depots here in the US, why would they bring any of it back to US soil we even gave some of it away to other countries to use in their Army’s. This was most likely a US Based Staff car for any of the Generals that would have been back in the US for any reason. They simply changed the plate with the number of Stars on it or just removed it if a lower ranking officer used the car, because even Colonels and Majors that were of the higher ranking officers Staff had driver to take them to different locations when needed. How do I know this, during the Korean War my Father-n-Law was for a short time assigned as the Driver of Staff officers based in Tokyo, before he was assigned to sea duty with a Admiral as his aide.

    • Hector

      Most of these guys had nothing to do with the 8th Air Force.

  9. Davnkatz Taylor

    Interesting comments – however, something just doesn’t ring “true”.
    1. Of all the thousands of military vehicles I have ever seen (uin “person” or pix) I have never seen one with the bumpers (front and back) painted white. NOT ONE – until this one. Makes the car too visible.
    2. The location of rank on front plate is also suspect. For that time period small flags indicating rank were mounted on both front fenders – from the POTUS on down to full birds. TWO reasons for this. The small flags could easily be seen from both sides of the street AND the flags could be easily removed when the field grade passenger was not on board.
    I have no doubt about the car being a 41 Plymouth and probably WAS a military vehicle, I suspect the claim of it being Carl Spaatz connected.

    • Bill Lawrence

      I disagree with this comment. The white painted bumper tips would make the car more visible under black out conditions. wouldn’t want the General hurt in a traffic accident.

    • Hector

      No white tips. So what is this? Car is at Steamtown National Historic Site’s History Museum. Google images is your friend. I can show you a dozen other photos of different cars and Jeeps with the same. The white tips were added in the European theater for visibility under black out conditions, starting quite narrow, just a few inches and growing wider throughout the war. And any staff car with general flags was an affectation not covered by army regulations AR 850-5 The Markings of Clothing, Equipment, Vehicles and Property in either the August 1942 or February 1945 versions, which does regulate identification plates for general officers. Nevertheless, this is unlikely to have been Spaatz’ or any other 8th AAF commander’s personal car, rather just a HQ motor pool car. Also the bumper numbers are a little wonky, AAF is usually represented by a 3″ high five-point star early in the war, and a 3″ high propeller insignia in a circle late in the war, but individual commanders could vary the markings from regulation as long as they were not likely to be confused with any other unit’s.

  10. Dutch 1960

    I narrowed it down to Spaatz for two reasons, one is that the car is marked “8th A A F” on the front bumper, and only early in the war was the term “Army Air Force” used, later it was simply “8th Air Force”. Also, later in the war, the 8th AF was stationed in Europe, not in the U.S. During Spaatz’s command, the 8th AAF was stationed in Washington DC and Georgia.

    A couple of things bother me on this, the car has 95k miles, no 3 star general was driven around that much in a year or two. This car would have been part of the fleet, with no special distinction, for most of those miles. The 3 stars mounted on the front strikes me as something added on later. Also, the main headlamps look wrong to me, I would expect evidence of blackout shades having been mounted there, even if they had been removed later. So, I would still call it a big “if”.

    • Dave Wright

      The term AAF was used until 1947 when the USAF was founded……I spent a couple of years as the 15th AF Historian and Spaatz was an important guy off course. The white bumper markings look suspect to me and I would have expected removable or interchangeable rank insignia on the car. None the less……an interesting vehicle that probably was a staff car somewhere.

    • Davnkatz Taylor

      Dutch 1960 – – – a little closer exam and I DO see black-out lamps mounted on TOP of the fenders. Those particular items appear to be add-ons from a jeep or deuce-and-a-half.

      • Bill Lawrence

        Blackout lamps and other mil spec fittings were generic and not specific to any particular vehicle. If fitted they would be identical and interchangeable with any other fleet vehicle.

  11. Bernie H.

    All you guys forgot something IMPORTANT in your comments. All military equipment, including vehicles carry serial numbers and Federal Stock Numbers on a data tag afixed somewhere on the vehicle indicating mfg date, model number, and the manufaacturer. This tag(s), should be on the dash-right hand side, or on the firewall, set-in with rivets and NOT the “pop rivet type”. If these cant be found, then its an old “tribute” car that someone did an Earl Schieb job with flat OD paint. I spent years in Germany in the 60’s, vehicles like these were long gone by then, and the French had most of our leftover equipment, enough to last 50 years!!!!

    • Bill Lawrence

      Correct. If the car is authentic it will have a nomenclature plate containing the manufacturers data and specification information. The VID should match the ID numbers stenciled on the hood.

      • Dutch 1960

        Good point. If it is the plate like I see on old military Jeeps, it has some size and would be easily visible. Neither the engine room photo nor the interior photo show evidence of either a plate, or where the plate had been mounted.

        It looks like there are active 8th Air Force historical groups out there, who would probably be very knowledgeable about this. Given that the BIN price is cheap if the car is real, that they have not jumped in on the discussion, and that there is no evidence of a government data plate ever having been on the car, I think I will vote “thumbs down”.

        Also, Dave Wright, you are right and I am wrong, AAF was used throughout the war. Though it looks like the 8th was often informally called the “8th Air Force” even early on, in any official setting, it was the “8th Army Air Force” throughout the period.

  12. chad

    getting closer and closer…I think as a team y’all might get there in a few more posts.
    AAC vet frm the “over the hump” crowd (I wuz 92 y/o last May).

    • Ol' Bugger Member

      Thanks for your service, and congratulations !

    • Greg fBodys

      Thank you for our freedom, sir. My grandpa was AAC in ww2 I wish I knew more info about what he did, other than saying he flew planes and “dropped bombs on the japs” he also had some awesome cars from 64 1/2 mustangs to multiple different Lincolns and everything in between.

      • chad

        i’m a ford guy too. Got a ’66 bronk (a 4WD ‘stang).
        Sounds like (bombed the Japs) he might have been in the ‘over the hump’ gang too. Hit me up @ chrlsful@aol.com 4 more info…

  13. Roselandpete

    Wasn’t DDE’s staff car a Cadillac?

  14. Peter

    Over here in Australia, the bumpers had to be painted white plus there was a thin white line all around the outer extremities that is, along the running boards and outer edge of the mudguards.

    • Tony C. Oz.

      Peter you’re right about the white lines, also if you watch British movies of the 40’s all police cars, (usually black Wolsleys, Prefects, etc), also had the white lines painted along the running boards and over the wheel arches, not sure if this applied to overseas forces vehicles though which would have been an olive drab color similar to the Plymouth, not sure about the white bumpers though.

  15. Jim Benjaminson

    Plymouth built two batches of “government issue” P11 Plymouths before we got involved in the war. These cars have a certain sequence of serial numbers which would prove if its really an original military vehicle or a clone. To date, I am only aware of one surviving military issue P11 – in another part of the country from where the license plates are issued from. After our engagement in the war, a lot of vehicles were taken from dealers lots or government storage for use by the military – so there’s a slim chance if the serial number doesn’t match it could have been a military vehicle. Without the serial number I’m betting its a clone. The Plymouth Bulletin did an in-depth article about the “real things” some years back but I don’t have a copy with me to re-check certain details that this vehicle may or may not be equipped with.

  16. chad

    Enjoyin this all but:
    sorry lads. when I wuz there we called it the army air corps – Y I wrote AAC…

    Like 1
  17. Jim H

    It’s too close to the real thing, if not the real thing, to not hope for the best for this car. Since the 8th Air Force has apparently been suggested as part of the car’s history, I thought it worth posting the wiki. That says the 8th AF was established on 22 February 1944. I hope we hear this barn find is bought, restored, and makes it to a museum. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eighth_Air_Force

    • Jim H

      Sorry, it was late and somehow the last edit I made was a goof. I really want to see this restored.

  18. Wagonmaster

    It looks like someone thought it was worth the BIN price – the car has been sold!

    I really do enjoy the Barn Finds website immensely, especially when you feature a vehicle with so much history. After looking at the pictures of the vehicle on eBay, and the great comments from fellow readers a few things stood out for me about this staff car, so doing a little research of my own, I had a few new ideas. The white bumper tips don’t seem period correct, at least to 1941, but it’s something the Army is still doing, although it’s now desert-tan with black numerals on dark-green bumpers. One thing that looks out of place to me is the “th” after the number 8, which doesn’t follow marking regulations in force at that time. The AAF markings are also incorrect, at least per reg, so the bumper should be marked with a number 8 followed by a 3-inch five pointed star, to designate the 8th Air Force. I’m sure this vehicle was modified sometime before it was “retired” to the barn!

    Two other interesting things that I’ve come up with as well. Military vehicles have both serial numbers AND administrative numbers, as well as their bumper numbers. It’s iamazing that the USA-numbers for this vehicle are 1 digit off from the vehicle whose picture Hector shared! And I should also mention that this vehicle’s serial number shows that it’s actually a “P12” Deluxe Sedan, probably more fit for a vehicle dedicated to LTGEN!

    I hope the new owner makes a parade vehicle out of it, instead of a museum display. Old work-horses need to be exercised on occasion! HOOAAH!!

  19. Pete

    I agree on the DATA plate comments, If it is not there or no holes for where it should have been then this is probably a Movie car made to look like a staff car. Hollywood would do a pretty good job of creating what they needed for a film. Painting up a Plymouth would be far less expensive than trying to get their hands on a real one. Also a few years ago I saw 2 or 3 different staff cars go up on ebay some were chevy’s however this one looks familiar just in a different setting. Like they found a barn to take pics again. LOL

  20. Jim Benjaminson

    Greg – to find out more about your grandfathers service record, contact your local Veterans Service Office. They should be able to get more details for you. There was a fire in one of their records depots and a lot of stuff was lost – hopefully not what you are looking for.

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