1946 Dodge Deluxe Fluid Drive

This 1946 Dodge Deluxe 4-Door Sedan Fluid Drive was a vehicle from Reed Brothers private collection of automobiles and was one of the first cars my father (Lee Gartner) sold as a salesman at Reed Brothers.  When the original owner (Lewis Bell) could no longer drive, my dad purchased it back from him. As the story goes, Mr Bell nicknamed the old car “Charity” because it was the only car he ever drove and it always got him where he wanted to go.

Being married to Lewis Reed’s daughter and next President of the dealership had its perks. My dad could have had his pick of any new car on the lot to drive as his personal company car, but what did he choose to drive around most of the time? You guessed it … “Charity”.

Depending on your age, there are any number of ways for a parent to embarrass their children, and one of the easiest ways was via the kind of vehicle they drove. When I was a kid, nothing screamed “uncool” louder than this old car. I remember when I was a teenager, my dad drove me to school one day in “Charity”. The good thing was that this car was so big that I had plenty of room to duck down below eye level and not be seen by the outside world.

The first car after World War II was the 1946 Dodge, which sold for about $800, but with many options (Fluid Drive, radio, heater, clock, cigar lighter, antenna, sun visor, turn signals and seat covers), it probably sold for a couple hundred dollars more.

The 1946 Dodge featured numerous improvements over pre-war cars; the big news, though, was the new “All Fluid Drive”. The fluid drive transmission could be driven like an automatic, but it was simpler, less expensive, more efficient and more reliable than the full automatics available in the late 1940s. The Dodge engine was a 3.8 liter flathead 6 with a manual transmission or optional fluid drive. A new starter was operated by a button on the dash.

Photo captions are some notes from the brochures.

The steering wheel got a new horn-blowing ring and center ornament and new plastic control buttons were centrally grouped. The optional turn signals were put in their current position to the left of the steering column. Other options included a clock, radio, heater, and backup lights.

A new optional electric clock put the setting button onto the clock instead of in the glove compartment.

New instrument panel with brighter, safer non-glare edge lighting, with sharpened contrast that makes dials easier to read.

Inside, plastic was used for door knobs and controls on the instrument panel. Rotary door latches allowed for closing doors lightly; spring tension kept the doors closed. Rotary door latches have a continuous “take up” to keep doors snug … door handles are safety-curved to prevent catching of clothing and prevent injury. Window and door moldings have a rich woodgrain finish.

Room Galore! Just look at that wide expanse of cushion … much like your Davenport at home. You’ll appreciate the additional comfort of these rear seats which are almost 8 inches wider. Front seats, too, are a full 6 inches wider. Dodge is in reality a “three-couple” car in which SIX BIG PEOPLE can ride in comfort.

While  taking pictures I caught part of my reflection in the chrome. I’m not all that great of a photographer and even trying to hide behind the trunk latch didn’t quite work out.

Super size trunk! Designed to add more usable space. Floor is level with opening – luggage slides right in.

Dodge branded hubcaps “set off” the appearance of the car.

Dodge ram hood ornament and crest. This one had separate horns, and was a popular aftermarket accessory for Dodge trucks well into the late 1960s.

Hood is stamped with the Dodge coat of arms and “DODGE”. Dodge used a crest (the Dodge family coat of arms), starting in 1941; the Dodge coat of arms referred to changed shape in 1955, 1956 and 1957 before fading away at some time after 1960.

Here is the1946 Dodge Deluxe parked on the street at the Kentland’s Mansion

To commemorate Mary Jane and Lee Gartner’s 50th wedding anniversary on April 10, 1998, the dealership spruced up the vintage ’46 Dodge. Richard, the eldest son of Lee and Mary Jane, chauffeured his parents to and from the Kentland’s Mansion in this car for their Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration.

Mary Jane (blue coat) & Lee Gartner (red tie)

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

11 responses to “1946 Dodge Deluxe Fluid Drive”

  1. greg ackerman says :

    Great history.love your blog….. I have a 46w32 rare..nice truck. Need OEM parts. Can’t find much….any suggestions?

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Thank you for reading and your very kind comment. I’m sorry I cannot be of any help with your OEM parts. Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!

    • chris Bassett says :

      A 1946 Dodge was my very first car. I was in High school and graduated in 1970. I fully enjoyed my Dodge although my friends with rich dads had GTO’s and Super Sports. Nonetheless, my Dodge was cool.

  2. Henry S. Partridge, MD says :

    I came across your blog by accident and thoroughly enjoyed it. Coincidentally I grew up in the fifties on Harrison St. just off Wisc. Ave and 3 blocks from the street car barn. I rescued my uncles ’48 Dodge and restored it. It looks like the twin of your ’46. My grandfather had a ’28 Victory Six which I drove many times in northern NY before I was 16. I was heartbroken when I found out he sold it for $8. My younger sister sometimes rode on the fender holding on to the headlight. That wouldn’t happen today. What a shame that Chrysler treated you so shabbily.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Hi Henry, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post your comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it!

  3. Joel Howard says :

    Very interesting articles and pictures. I am a lifetime Chrysler corp. man and currently own 5 Dodges and a Plymouth built years 1948, 51, 74, 79, 94, and 2008. I greatly enjoy reading the history of the old dealerships. It pains me the ones that are gone in the last 8 years or so. Our home town dealer and the two my father worked at years ago are gone in that time frame, all had long rich histories. Thanks

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Thanks for stopping by, Joel, and taking the time to leave your comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog. Happy holidays and best wishes to you and yours for the New Year!

      • Nick Conforti says :

        Hi fluid drive was great. my first was a 1950 Desoto when i was 16 I loved it. i wish i still had it . im now 63

      • Reed Brothers says :

        Hi Nick,

        I remember my father teaching me to drive a stick in this car back in the ’60s. He always said to me, “if you can drive a stick, you can drive anything”. He was right!

        Thanks for taking the time to visit and share your story.

        My Best Regards,

  4. Sid says :

    Thank you for this information, its a great read and provided information on the car that I didn’t know. I have a 1946 Dodge fluid drive in Australia. Bought it from my nan after my pop passed away when I was 19. Still have it 30 years later, still love it.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      You’re very welcome Sid, and thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave your comment. So happy you enjoyed reading about it!

      My Best Regards,
      Jeanne Gartner

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