The Ford car was thoroughly updated in 1941, in preparation for a time of unpredictability surrounding World War II.
The 1941 design would continue in an aborted 1942 model year and would be restarted in 1946 and produced until the more modern 1949 Fords were ready. During the initial year of this car, it evolved considerably. The front fenders came in three pieces, the theory being that small damage could be replaced easily. During the year, it evolved into 2 pieces with the lower front and back sections being joined. The hood risers changed, the early ones being the same as 1940 Fords, changing during the year to the better later version.
In the 1941 Convertible, there were no rear side windows, the only side windows being in the doors, in 1942, quarter windows were added so the rear occupants could see out. There were five different coil/distributor arrangements during 1941, causing confusion for mechanics. Other variations were: two different positions for the generator, and three for the cooling fan — front of the crankshaft, front of the generator (rare) and on a bracket. This is thought to be the first Ford to offer an oil filter. There were two interior heaters: a "Southwind" gasoline burner, which had the advantage of keeping you warm in winter at drive-in movies (provided you added a small electric fuel pump), and a more ordinary hot-water type. Both had window defrosters. It had an excellent radio, which could consume the battery in about 2 hours. Electric windshield wipers were available in addition to the vacuum-powered wipers. There were three different convertible power top mechanisms (vacuum, electric screw, and hydraulic), and two different header bar latching systems. Rear suspensions sometimes had a sway bar, most did not. It had excellent brakes for the era, and the best handling of an ordinary car at the time. It was a very transitional car.
The two previous Ford car lines, standard and De Luxe, had blossomed into three, Special, De Luxe, and Super De Luxe. This time, the entry-level 136 CID (2.2 L) V8 was deleted in favor of a new 226 CID (3.7 L) L-head straight-6, the first Ford six since the failed 1906 Model K. The popular 221 CID (3.6 L) V8 remained as the top-line engine and was standard in De Luxe models. Both engines were rated at 90 hp. The 239 CID engine, introduced in 1939 for Mercury and Trucks, was continued in the Mercury Models. The chassis was longer, with a 114 in (2896 mm) wheelbase.
The "ignition key" for these cars was actually used to operate a bolt lock which, on one end, unlocked the steering column (a feature destined to return, mandated, decades later), and on the other end unblocked the ignition switch, allowing it to be operated. Starting the car was then accomplished by pressing a pushbutton on the dashboard, another feature destined to return with the advent of "smart keys."
Although starting cranks had been replaced by electric starters for decades, Ford cars included a manual starting feature until 1948 as an antidote to dead-battery syndrome. The wheel-lug wrench served as a handle (also for the jack) and the jack shaft with bayonet-coupling pins could be inserted through a small hole in the grille to engage a bayonet socket on the forward end of the engine crankshaft. A quick-and-easy twist of the handle was sufficient to start the flat head V8, and the bayonet coupling was self-disengaging for safety.
Fords for 1941 were much more modern with a wide body that nearly covered the running boards. The front and rear fenders were still pronounced, but were now integrated more into the body and the headlights were pushed all the way up and out over the front wheels. The 1941 grille was a three-part affair with a tall center section bookended by twin kidneys low on the fenders and vertical bars all around. The 1941 was a bigger car with a 194.3 in (4935 mm) overall length. Body styles included Tudor and Fordor sedans , a sedan coupe, a business coupe and convertible coupe, sedan delivery wagon, and woody station wagon. The pickup truck continued with the 1940 standard Ford styling.