There was a time when making a living for a mass-market business involved a door-to-door regional beat from the comfort of your vehicle. The catch was that the roving salesman – who either purveyed immediately usable items, or carried with him “salesman samplers” to demonstrate – needed storage. A common, everyday trunk wasn’t satisfactory enough, while a half-ton truck was ill-suited for cruising endless miles of the countryside several days on end. Detroit’s solution: the business coupe. These two-door cars had all the creature comfort of the ordinary family ride, but without a conventional rear seat (or none at all) for added capacity. In our latest edition of This or That, we’re tipping a hat to the nearly forgotten profession by taking a closer look at just four examples from the immediate prewar era, each of which is currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.
Let’s begin this niche market round-up with this attractive 1939 Plymouth. By the start of the model year, Plymouth had a decade of business coupe history to tout, and during the year the model was available in both the entry-level P7 Road King series, or the P8 Deluxe series, as seen here. Affordability was the name of the game, and the P8 version started at $725 (or $13,489 today). Standard equipment included an 82-hp, 201.3-cu.in. six-cylinder engine, backed by a column-shifted three-speed manual transmission, supported by a 114-inch-wheelbase chassis. It was a banner year for Plymouth’s business coupe production, which jumped from a combined 1938 output of 43,113 units to 64,461. Of those, 41,924 were P8 examples. According to the seller of this one:
Part of a private collection, absolutely gorgeous, black with gray interior. AACA Senior winner in 2007 with multiple repeat preservation awards, the latest from the May 2014 AACA meet in Buffalo NY. Car has an Inline 6 motor with a three-speed transmission on the column. I purchased this car from a man who had owned it since 1962, I had intentions of keeping it for myself, but my plans have changed and am offering it for sale after owning it for seven years. I have put about 600 miles on it in the last two years, it runs, drives, starts and stops excellently and I would not hesitate to drive it anywhere. All of the gauges work properly as do the speedometer and odometer. The horn works and all of the lights in both high and low beam work excellently. The Plymouth has seatbelts and a third taillight added for safety, done to AACA acceptable standards.