Pontiac offered 3 distinct series again for 1941. The Deluxe Torpedo (JA) line was based on the A-body, shared with Chevrolet and the smallest Oldsmobile. The Streamliner Torpedo (JB) line utilized the larger B-body, shared with Buick and Oldsmobile. The Custom Torpedo (JC) line replaced the Torpedo Eight of 1940 and used the large C-body, which was also used for the senior Oldsmobiles, most Buicks and the standard Cadillac. This would be the final model year that Pontiac was to offer the large C-body, which put them on par with some of the most luxurious automobiles available. The true market niche for Pontiac was right where Alfred Sloan originally placed it, a step above the low-priced, “big three” cars from Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth.
The big news at Pontiac this year was the creation of the “engine” option. All Pontiac models came standard with the six cylinder engine, and every model was available with the straight eight for an additional $25. This was an automobile industry first. Prior to this, the larger, more expensive models had exclusive rights to the largest and / or most powerful engine that the company had to offer. The eight cylinder models in all 3 series could be readily identified by the longer head-dress on the Indian-head hood ornament; “Pontiac Eight” lettering in the bright, hood side-moldings and the red numeral “8” on the vertical center grille bar. The six cylinder models had a noticeably shorter hood ornament, a blank center grille bar and only the “Pontiac” name on the hood moldings.
The Deluxe Torpedo series consisted of 5 models initially, later in the model year the handsome Metropolitan sedan was introduced. The September model line included the following: the business coupe, sedan coupe, convertible sedan coupe, two-door sedan and four-door sedan. The Metropolitan 4 door sedan offered buyers modern new 5 window styling, which originally debuted in 1940 on the C-body, to be applied to the smaller A-body Deluxe Torpedo line. The traditional 7 window 4 door sedan remained in the line-up. All Deluxe Torpedo models rode on a 119” wheelbase, which was 2 inches longer than the entry level Quality Six of 1940. The tire size was 6.00 x 16, which was the same as previously used. All but the Business Coupe were 6 passenger jobs, and the bodies were larger in every dimension than the year before. A new feature for the convertible was the vacuum-operated top; prior to this, the top had to be manually raised or lowered. The Deluxe and Streamliner Torpedo models were available with either Canda cloth or Beige Corded Wool cloth upholstery. Canda cloth was new for 1941 and similar to Mohair; its backing was open which allowed the fabric to “breathe” so it was comfortable in hot weather. The convertible was available with cloth or leather in a variety of colors; black, tan, grey, green, blue or red. Leather and cloth combinations were also available at no extra charge. Convertible tops came in 3 colors; black, blue-grey or tan.
The Streamliner Torpedo series featured only 2 models; the sedan coupe and the four-door sedan. Both of these models were being touted for their “streamline” styling, primarily the fact that the roof flowed from the top of the windshield to the rear bumper in a smooth, un-broken line. The front and rear fenders were blended into the body and all door hinges were fully concealed, as well; features that added to the “streamline” effect. In addition to the standard Streamliner, there was also a Super-Streamliner available on either body. The Super-Streamliner was identical on the outside, but offered the more luxurious interior appointments of the Custom Torpedo. These items included deluxe two-tone Worsted Wool cloth upholstery and deep-pile carpet, foam sponge rubber seat cushions, an electric clock, the flexible steering wheel and a folding center arm rest in the rear seat of the Four-Door Sedan. This is the first time for Pontiac to offer standard and deluxe trim within the same model series.
The Custom Torpedo series offered 3 body styles; the sedan coupe, a four-door sedan and an 8 passenger station wagon. The Custom Torpedo models offered a high degree of luxury with regard to their interior trim and appointments. The quick way to visually distinguish the Custom and Streamliner from the Deluxe “Torpedo” was to look at the fenders; the B and C-bodies featured 3 bright trim strips adorning the stamped “speed lines” on each fender. The A-body fenders had the “speed lines” but no bright trim. The Streamliner and Custom models all shared the same chassis with a 122 inch wheelbase and 6.50x16 tires; this also represented an increase in wheelbase over the previous year’s B and C-body offerings, which didn’t share the same chassis at that time. The Custom Torpedo coupe and sedan were the only models offered with conventional full width running boards as an extra-cost option. The Deluxe and Streamliner Torpedoes came only with the “enclosed” running boards that Pontiac originally featured on the 1940 Torpedo Eight models.
The station wagon was now based upon the B-body: prior to this it was only available on the smaller A-body. Station wagons were also offered in 2 trim levels, standard or the Deluxe model. The Deluxe interior featured front seats fitted with Marshall Springs, foam sponge rubber cushions, and upholstered with a combination of genuine leather and quality fabric. Genuine leather and chrome-plated tubular frames were used for the removable second and third row seats.
There were many new body features for 1941; the most noticeable were the enclosed running boards, standard on all models. A cable operated hood latch was fitted on all models; the knob was located under the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel.
The fuel filler cap was concealed under a hinged door on the left rear fender, further adding to the “streamline” appearance of every new Pontiac. Key lock cylinders were fitted to both front doors as standard equipment, in years past only the passenger side lock was standard. The dome light was automatic, coming on when either front door was opened. The traditional dome light switch was moved from the passenger side B-pillar to the driver’s side pillar, thus making it easy for the driver to reach. The interior sun visors were new as well, featuring a knob to loosen them so they could be slid toward the center behind the rear view mirror. The dashboard was revised from having ashtrays at either end, to one central unit under the radio speaker grille. A knob to control the instrument panel lamp intensity was placed just to the right of the speedometer near the top of the dash. It had previously been a simpler 3-position switch concealed under the edge of the dashboard near the ignition. The cigar lighter, also adjacent to the ignition switch, became standard equipment on all models this year.
The standard steering wheel was a new design, consisting of just two spokes across the diameter of the wheel. The horn was actuated by a flat “key” in either of the spokes, as opposed to pressing the central hub. The Safety Shift Gear Control offered reduced effort thanks to an over-center spring mounted in conjunction with the transmission linkage. The driver only needed to guide the shift lever toward the selected gear position and set the lever in motion; spring action would complete the shift. The clutch pedal linkage was similarly fitted with an over-center spring, so that the force required to keep the pedal down was significantly reduced.
Note: 75 Years of Pontiac-Oakland and Pontiac: The Complete History 1926-1986 both claim that Pontiac offered a vacuum-assisted shift in 1941. I’ve checked the factory service manual and several Pontiac parts books for any parts or service information; there is no mention that I could find. I am not aware of any General Motors application of vacuum-assisted shifting, except as used by Chevrolet beginning in 1940. I have no idea of the original source for this information, but to the best of my knowledge, it is erroneous. I would appreciate hearing from any of our members who have any information to the contrary. Pete
The chassis under the larger 1941 bodies was suitably strengthened. The tires sizes and standard axle ratios remained the same as previously offered; the Deluxe series using a 4.10:1 axle, the Streamliner and Custom series was fitted with a 4.30:1 ratio. The “mountain” and “economy” also carried over at 4.55:1 and 3.90:1 respectively. The brake system featured composite brake drums, consisting of a heavy steel shell surrounding a centrifugally cast nickel alloy braking surface. This was a carry-over feature from 1940. The drums were 11 inches in diameter and the brake shoes featured molded linings as opposed to having the friction material riveted in place. Transmissions featured a new gear contour to reduce the noise level of first and also reduce the tendency of second to vibrate. A new jack was included with the 1941 models. It lifted the car by the wheel rim, and once raised, there was a rigid stand with an extended handle to place under the suspension to support the vehicle. This method of lifting the car kept the driver from having to get down low enough to see underneath to place a jack.
There was big news under the hood for 1941, too. The most important was the new, patented, full-flow oil cleaner that was built into all engines. Unlike the external oil filter system in use by many manufacturers, the Pontiac oil cleaner filtered all of the oil before it was pumped through the lubrication system. Particulate contaminates were removed by precipitation and captured in a sediment bowl in the oil pan. The bowl could be removed and cleaned out if and when the pan was lowered for engine service. This device remained exclusive to Pontiac and was used until the modern V-8 debuted. The oil pump was new this year as well; the pressure relief valve was moved from the pump cover to the pump body. The new design controlled the oil pressure more accurately to insure adequate lubrication under all operating conditions. Piston rings were improved for better oil control and the wrist pin bushings were now an aluminum bronze alloy for improved resistance to acidity in the engine oil. The filter was removed from the standard road draft tube, making 1940 the only year the standard tube included a filter. Cars fitted with the optional oil bath air cleaner also received the increased capacity oil cap filter and road draft tube complete with the large diameter filter. This was highly recommended for desert regions, and other dusty areas of the country.
All straight eights were fitted with Carter WDO two barrel carburetors, and rated for 103 horsepower @ 3,500rpm. The combination fuel / vacuum booster pump became standard equipment on the eight, and remained optional on the six. The standard compression ratio was 6.5:1 for the six and the eight. The optional high compression head was increased to 7.5:1 for either engine, and required the use of high octane fuel.
The six cylinder engine was bored out 1/8” and its displacement increased from 222 to 239 cubic inches. The rated horsepower was 90 @ 3,200rpm. The six cylinder intake manifold continued the use of the thin-wall steel insert as part of the heat riser assembly; the 2 barrel manifold for the eight reverted back to the conventional iron passage.
The Pontiac accessory list continued to grow. Accessories were typically offered individually, but some could be packaged as part of a “group”. The accessory group price was usually discounted as compared to the total price for them individually. The “economy” axle ratio was available at no charge, as was the high compression head. The “mountain” ratio continued to be offered, but owners were advised to drive a standard model first to be sure it was necessary, since both the six and eight had increased power. The accessory list remained a mix of factory installed and/or dealer installed options. Nearly all of the “factory” options could be dealer installed, although a labor charge would be incurred in the case of the high compression cylinder head or either of the axle ratio changes the factory offered for free. The “dealer” options, on the other hand, were typically not available for factory installation; especially those items the dealer was required to buy direct from their respective manufacturer.
The Torpedo Fleet represented Pontiac’s most successful model year to date, including the assembly of its 2 millionth automobile. There were 330,061 cars built, 208,760 with the six cylinder and 121,301 with the straight eight. The series break-down is as follows: Deluxe Torpedo Six, 117,976; Deluxe Torpedo Eight, 37,823; Streamliner Torpedo Six, 82,527; Streamliner Torpedo Eight, 66,287; Custom Torpedo Six, 8,257 and the Custom Torpedo Eight accounted for 17,191 automobiles.
Probably the most interesting statistic, due to the advent of the “engine” option, was that 37,823 eight cylinder engines were installed in the small A-body series cars. Prior to 1941, the entry level models, which had debuted in 1939, were only available with the six cylinder engine. The lowest price Pontiac, the Deluxe Torpedo Six business coupe, was offered F.O.B. Pontiac, Michigan for $828; the most expensive model was the Custom Torpedo Eight Deluxe station wagon, with an F.O.B. list price of $1,250.
The “Torpedo Fleet” established Pontiac as the dominate automobile for American families that wanted a car that was step above the “big three”.