Dodge produced some 186,000 new cars in 1939. Volume was the goal, without a lot of attention paid to individuality. Fortunately, hot rodders have a way of rectifying such a situation. We can say confidently that you’ll probably never find another 1939 Dodge Series D11 “Luxury Liner” four-door sedan quite like this one. In classic hot rod fashion, a Chevrolet small-block V-8 long ago supplanted the factory 217.8-cu.in. L-head straight-six. The seller acquired the car when it was partially completed, and has done a strong measure of work to make it both more livable and driveable, such as adding air conditioning and replacing the wiring. It’s not a concours car, and has some issues, but the right amount of effort could make it into a show-quality street rod with unusually sourced material. All of the badges, brightwork and baubles that proclaim its identity are still in their proper places.
The current powertrain was in this Dodge when the seller first acquired it. He believes that the 305-cu.in. small-block V-8 underwent a mechanical rebuild at some time in the past. Among the engine modifications are aftermarket carburetion on a JEGS aluminum intake manifold, with an Edelbrock air-filter housing on top. The seller replaced the fuel pump, installed all new wiring including a Speedmaster ignition system, and added an electric fan. Other dress-up extras include chrome valve covers. The engine now shares space in the bay with a huge pair of trumpet air horns, which the seller says he’s never tested. A new custom exhaust system has also been installed. The engine has a manual choke, starts fine and doesn’t leak, according to the seller. The GM Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 three-speed transmission shifts with no problems, and spins a GM rear end.
The 1939 Dodge models were longer and wider than their 1938 predecessors, which may have been one reason Chrysler Corporation dubbed them the “Luxury Liners.” This example, though far from perfect, sports a well-preserved body that maintains its distinct Dodge identity, despite liberties taken during the hot-rodding process. Some of the side strakes, grille slats and moldings have been finished in a shade of fuchsia, but every piece of the exterior trim appears to be in place and in presentably good condition, including the headlamp and taillamp bezels. There is no rust on the car, and no evidence of water leaks, according to the seller, who adds that the floors are solid. The paint was applied about a year ago, and the seller admits that it was not completed to show quality. There is one scratch on the driver’s side front fender and a “slight” dent in the roof, per the seller. American Racing polished alloy wheels mount fresh Mirada tires that maintain most of their original tread depth. All of the exterior lighting is reported as functional.
The centerpiece of the Dodge’s interior is the upholstery work, which a previous owner had performed by a custom shop. The seats are now faced in beige leather, with matching pleated door panels. New carpeting was installed at the same time. It, and the seats, appear to be in acceptable condition but could benefit from a thorough cleaning. A new headliner has been installed, and it doesn’t sag. The door seals and weatherstripping are new. There’s no audio system, and while the under-dash air conditioning is fully functional, the heater doesn’t work. The digital odometer operates but the aftermarket speedometer does not. Aftermarket gauges monitor functions including fuel level, oil pressure, water temperature and battery charging. Some paint is chipped away from the dashboard where the auxiliary gauges were installed and at the factory steering wheel hub. A B&M performance shifter selects the gears.
According to the seller, this hot-rodded Dodge, with its proven GM mechanicals, is “ready to drive.” The car is described as being mechanically fine-tuned for reliable road operation. The car retains its original suspension. Its manual steering is centered properly and is said to have minimal free play. The manual drum brakes were recently replaced, and they function appropriately for a car of this age, but heat buildup can turn the pedal mushy after repeated hard applications, according to the seller. This Mopar can be enjoyed as is or treated to a full cosmetic redo. Either way, it will stand out as a genuinely atypical street rod.