1942 Plymouth, One of the Last New Cars Built Before War Broke Out

While Donald Wilson was home in November 1941, AWOL, his family traded off their “old smoking Buick” for a brand-new gray, 1942 Plymouth four-door, 95-horsepower, Special Deluxe sedan with concealed running boards. 

They had no idea that it would be one of the last new cars sold because WWII broke out early the next month. List price $935.

1942 Plymouth Ad-04 (1)

According to the ad, Plymouth was Chrysler Corporations No. 1 car, with 10 percent more power, extra gas mileage, and long engine life.

“Plymouth’s Finest is long, wide and roomy. And the smart, low-to-the-road design that gives it its sleek, dashing appearance also contributes wonderful new smoothness and steadiness to Plymouth’s ride!”

It also featured what became known as “suicide doors.”


This best-engineered low-riced car sponsored Major Bowe’s Amateur Hour on CBS Radio on Thursdays.

Donald Wilson rode in the Plymouth to Des Moines to return to the Navy. After war was declared, Delbert was next. One by one, the younger three brothers drove to Des Moines in the Plymouth to serve in the Army Air Force.

Before Junior Wilson left, he made sure his dad could drive it. Clabe had never had to learn because one of his sons always wanted to drive. (Same with the John Deere A tractor. Clabe always worked with horses until all his sons left.)


The Plymouth had a large enough trunk to carry a crate of chickens to their new place near Perry.

I had many rides in that car! Mom and I lived with my grandparents at Minburn after I was born in June until Dad could fetch us from Texas, 1944. Then the spring of 1945, he was sent to pilot B-17s, then to command the B-29, training was speeded up. Families couldn’t go along, so we Mom and her toddler moved in with Clabe and Leora at their acreage at Perry. Mom even got her first driver’s license with this car.

After Clabe Wilson’s death in October 1946, I don’t know what happened to the Plymouth, as Leora never learned to drive.

 Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook, also as an audiobook, narrated by Paul Berge.

It’s also the story behind the Wilson brothers featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa. All five served. Only two came home.


  1. My grandfather bought a 1941 Plymouth that looks exactly the same, although knowing him, it wasn’t the “Deluxe” model. He later bought a new 1955 model Plymouth and his next and last car was a 1968 Plymouth Valiant. I have a photo, but can’t find a way to attach it here.

    • Robert, I’m at joynealkidney@gmail.com. I’d love to see photos. I’ve also done a blog post about my dad’s cars, and another about ours. Clabe had an old Model T in the 1920s. Just posted the truck he had in 1934 on Facebook asking what it was. 1922-1925 Model T truck, it looks like. He didn’t have another vehicle until after 1939, when he took as job managing a farm near Minburn, a 1938 Buick, with income from three of his sons. By the time they bought the Plymouth, all four sons were being paid for their farmwork. Donald was home from the Navy when they bought this one, so he may have chipped in on it too!

    • Probably 2/3 of the original book got deleted at some point. So thankful to have a way to share rabbit trails. My research into what happened to Dale, Danny, and Junior couldn’t be part of it either, but I’m working on those. Have some scheduled.

      • Oh good! The book is the perfect amount of “wait! I want to know so much more!” Always good to leave the reader hungry.

  2. […] When Clabe took off the top of the truck that fall, they called it their roadster. One of the photos is on the cover of Leora’s Dexter Stories. Junior is looking at their pet squirrel Rusty on the fender. In this one, Dale is in the driver’s seat, Junior on the hood, and Dale is eyeing Rusty who is perched on the windshield. By the end of 1934, Clabe needed to sell the roadster. He never had another vehicle until after finding work as a tenant farmer, about 1940. (They had a “smoking Buick” for a while, then were able to pool their money to buy that brand new 1942 Plymouth.) […]

  3. I enjoyed the detail and the photo with open doors. I probably saw the car as a toddler, but too young to remember. My first car, bought in 1961/62 was a 1949 Mercury, $260.00. Many miles on dusty roads.

  4. Oh, I forgot to mention, the ‘49 Mercury also had suicide doors. The only ones at Earlham Community High School (Iowa), as I recall

    • I don’t remember ever hearing the term, until I started learning more about this car. Dad’s first car had a city horn and a country horn–the button to switch was on the dash!

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