1941 Dodge Business Coupe: Giving America The Business

Note: Another article by Lee Wilcox! Enjoy. -TK

Even though I am retired, I frequently find myself crossing the state for non-income producing reasons.  Now I carry a camera.  I was minding my own business doing just that when I came across this little attention grabber.  These coupes have always been favorites of mine despite having too many wheels.  Just honest workhorses.

I know some of you will double check to see if it is a 1941.  I knew right away that it was most probably from 1941-1946.  The grill and the trim on the headlights make it a 1941.  It sort of feels like a copy of the Chevy.

Business coupes have been around at least since the Model A.  Most car companies produced them.  They were designed specifically for the salesman who had to go on the road.  Before the internet and before television, salesmen went on the road.  Still do actually but back then most of them did not fly.

Dodges were totally redone for 1939, the make’s 25th anniversary.  The usual full line of vehicles, including sedans, club coupes, a woodie station wagon-and of course, the business coupe-were available.  All models had an 87 horsepower L-head straight six engine with “Floating Power” – a fancy term for rubber engine mounts.

1941s were pretty much the same car, but they did get some new trim and a wider grille.

One interesting thing: the ’41 Dodge appears to be the first car with the headlights integrated into the grille, something that would be all the rage in 15-20 years.

Now that is a long rear deck.  When I was a boy these coupes were all over the place.  In Business Coupes, the manufacturer normally only installed one seat.  There might be a flat board behind the driver and some owners who needed it would install their own seats in the back.  Obviously no hassle with seat belts, etc.  The trunk was the distinguishing factor in my memory.

Just in case the size of the trunk didn’t come across.  Thanks again Google.  There are other types of coupes but the business coupe had a rear end that stuck out forever.  Like the Sedan Delivery, the early ones had a half ton frame.  It had to be heavy duty to tote that trunk when it was full.

One more look at the trunk, this time showing all that space.  Let us move away from the rear end.

I couldn’t get a good view of the dashboard or the interior.  It’s obvious that there is an absence of southern hospitality or that this owner has had his fill of curious miscreants.  Whatever the reason, the writing on the window meant I wasn’t going to try the handle.

One thing that the car tells you very clearly is that it has the Fluid Drive.

I did manage to find an image of the early Dodge Fluid Drive, as seen in the cutaway drawing below.

Even I can see some very basic differences between this and a TH 350 or another of a later era.  I will leave the explanation to commenters with more expertise than I.  Despite memories I have of having driven them, that would be most anyone.

At that point in time the available engine for this car was the “floating” flathead six.  Since I could not open the hood, this is (once again) courtesy of Google images.  I always get a kick out of these old things with the oil bath air cleaner etc.  This would have looked just as “at home” in the engine bay of the 1940 International half ton that I once owned.

I remember seeing one of these around town while I was growing up that had been converted into a pickup.  It was a natural.  By the time the shoebox Chevs came around the coupe was one of the lightest setups if you wanted to go drag racing.  In these earlier times the job of the business coupe was to keep America working, not win drag races.  Below is a sample of a Chevy with the pickup treatment.  It’s a factory treatment.  The bed was removable and you could replace it with a trunk lid.

What I didn’t know was that Dodge also did what you see below. Though not sold in the U.S., it was available Down Under. I am sure it preceded the Ranchero (1957).  I also remember seeing a Hudson that looked like this from the forties.  I don’t have a clue who was actually first.

I guess the SUV and the minivan, and ever increasingly, the crossover fill those needs today.  I can only think of one sedan delivery and no business coupes built since the early sixties for the American market.  Perhaps you can think of more.  The big question is whether either are needed and/or missed by anyone.

It’s your soapbox.

12 Replies to “1941 Dodge Business Coupe: Giving America The Business”

  1. AvatarNoID

    As someone who’s used multiple flavors of Challenger to deliver or receive auto parts*, as well as sampled them in rental fleets on business trips, I can say that it definitely carries on the spirit of the Business Coupe, though I doubt that’s intentional. Leg room for miles, a trunk large enough for a standard Catholic family (Latter Day Saints if you lay the seats down) and a perfect mix of giddy-up for city/rural driving and fuel economy for highway slogs, no matter which powertrain you choose. It even has AWD available for all-season mobility, which is crucial for some markets.

    There’s a thought…the Challenger is already available in some models with a rear seat delete, maybe there’s a case for bring back the Business Coupe. I can’t see them offering it with a passenger seat delete, but maybe a new flat-folding passenger seat would suffice. Market it primarily to fleets but do make it available to retail customers.

    *797 horsepower hooks up really well with 300 pounds in the trunk.

    Reply
  2. AvatarNoID

    If the cut-away is accurate, it basically looks like a torque converter placed in front of a conventional manual transmission, very different from the “Hydra-Matic” TH350 and other true automatics, which used (and still use) planetary gearsets, bands, clutches, hydraulic pressure, and The Deep Magic of Narnia to function.

    Reply
  3. Avatar-Nate

    What a lovely car in spite of the rust .

    The Coupes with the slide in pickup bed were called ‘Coupe Express’ and of course, the Japanese Mechanic I know was _given_ one (1941 Chevy Coupe Express) by his uncle ~ he hated it naturally .

    The MoPar Fluid Drive was indeed simply a torque converter in front of a nomal three speed tranny .

    I had this in my 1949 Dodge B1B 1/2 ton pickup truck, I bought it well used from Barlow’s Hudson .

    I hope someone saves this neat, historic and rare car .

    -Nate

    Reply
  4. AvatarJohn C.

    It is interesting to think about road warriors making their rounds in cars like this. With the rudimentary oiling and cooling systems of the time, what was the drivetrain life, 40,000 miles? So a new car every 2 or 3 years.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      A valve job and new rings would have been a pretty common “maintenance” item at 30 to 50,000 miles, but the simple engines of the time were easy to disassemble and rebuild so any backyard mechanic or gas station attendant could do it for relatively little time and money. Check out any old issue of Popular Mechanics and replacement piston ring makers were big advertisers.

      Until the 1950s the mechanical bits wore out much faster than the thick metal bodies rusted, but as the mechanical bits got more durable (thanks in part to better motor oils) that body metal got thinner so the reverse became much more frequent by the 1960s when it became common to see mechanically sound cars with swiss cheese bodies in the rust belt.

      Reply
  5. Avatarstingray65

    I never understood this body style when a sedan delivery was also available with far more space and less awkward styling. Perhaps the salesmen of yesteryear were like the soccer moms of today in not wanting to be seen driving a “van” or “station wagon”, and instead preferred the image conveyed by a “sporty” coupe (yesteryear) or “rugged” SUV (today).

    One thing is for sure, however, the salesman who made rounds in this a machine was in no hurry as 87 gross horsepower and fluid drive would have made for one very slow vehicle – I’m guessing a 0-60 in about 30 seconds.

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      Name an alternative for something reasonable in price that was to be used as a tool for employment? 60 MPH, where? There was no interstate system to take advantage of the speed on a regular basis

      Chicago raised the in town speed limit from 35 to 45 in 1947.

      1950, Mass. raised the speed limit to 55 on divided highways and upto 45 on other roads. If there was no Mass. Pike I-90 today it would probably take 3 hours to go from Boston to the NY border. Most traffic would be on RT 2 or RT 20 with small town downtowns every 6 – 7 miles.

      Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        I believe that Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada (perhaps some others) did not have speed limits on the open road until the 1960s-70s, so there were a few places where a salesman might stretch the legs of his business coupe. As for the 0-60 run, Tom McCahill invented the metric testing cars for Mechanix Illustrated starting in the late 1940s.

        Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      These were salesmans cars, they really didn’t need something like a sedan delivery, which was more van like. These were usually used to carry large sample cases and the salesman’s luggage.

      Chevrolet still cataloged a basic business coupe until 1961, it was low production, in the 3 digits I think. The Corvair coupes could sort of had bee set up as business coupes too in a base 500 with the folding rear seat. The 1960 cars didn’t have the ducted heater so they had an even bigger rear well when the seat was folded down.

      Reply
  6. Avatar-Nate

    You young whippersnappers ! =8-) .

    It was normal to rattle & wheeze across America at 45 ~ 50 MPH when this was a current car .

    60 MPH would spin the rods out of it or any Chevrolet back then .

    If you needed to go 55 +, you bought an over drive unit or a vehicle so equipped .

    -Nate

    Reply

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