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Mario's Tribute to The Playboy Car 1947-1951

10 Years ahead of its Time for the Compacr Cars

1 Playboy Motor Car Co built a prototype in 1947 shown here. The original prototype shares the same body as the production car but has a rear mounted 4 cyl engine and canvas top. Production models have a front engine and steel foldable top.

2 Company founder Lou Horwitz was a Packard dealer who after World War 2 saw a need for a new smaller car for postwar America and built this prototype.

3 The Playboy car was designed in 1947 with the intention of being an around the town second car and it featured America's first steel retractable hardtop convertible.

4 With a 90 in wheelbase the Playboy car measures 156 in long and was priced at just $985. It ran on 12 inch dia rims and weighed 2,035 lbs.

5 In 1948 Playboy offered a small one seating row 3 passenger convertible with a standard multi-part, retractable steel top. All the Playboy models were Convertible Hardtops.

6 Lou Horwitz finished 97 production cars between 1948 and 1951 and one prototype which is owned by his grandson today.

6.5 1948 Playboy ad

7 1948 The primary feature of note on the Playboy car is that it was the first American car to boast a retractable steel top and was billed as “America’s New Metal Top Convertible”.

8 In 1948 they changed to a front engine and were building a side valve flathead inline four cylinder 1.5L (91 cu in) with 40hp 1bbl carb according to the 1948 sales brochure.

9 1948 The Playboy offered seating for three adults in a single row bench configuration. The convertible hardtop was manually stowed and lifted up when needed. It was hidden from view when stowed.

10 1948 The car looked modern and well-designed with the top up or down and the 1948 Playboy carried a suggested retail price of just $985.

11 1948 Brakes on the Playboy were four wheel hydraulic drums and the suspension was coil spring in the front and leaf springs in the rear.

12 1948 Hydraulic shock absorbers were fitted on all the wheels. The Playboy rode a short 90 inch wheelbase on 12 inch wheels.

13 1948 Playboy car admired by Hollywood

14 1948 Playboy car.

15 1948 Playboy at a Mobil gas station with curious onlookers.

16 1948 Playboy car interior.

17 In 1948 the primary engine was changed to a Continental flathead displacing 1.5 L just 91 cubic inches and rated at the same 40 hp as the Hercules prototype 4 cyl engine. Notice the rare Spotlights option.

18 1948 This engine was used through the 1950 model year. The transmission and rear axle remained unchanged including the optional overdrive and axle ratio.

19 1948 Playboy ad

20 1948 Playboy ad

21 1948 Playboy ad

22 1948 Playboy ad

24 1948 Playboy ad

23 1948 Playboy ad

24.5 1948 Playboy car ad

25 1948 The transmission was a three-speed manual from Warner with all gears synchronized. An optional overdrive was available with a .70 ratio.

26 The Big Three were still using their 1942 tooling to meet pent-up demand, while the Playboy was introduced with a sleek, rounded body that was a couple of years ahead.

27 1948 With its flat-sided fender and body design, the Playboy resembled models that Ford, Hudson, and Nash introduced in 1949.

28 1948 Playboy has a roomy trunk with room for a spare tire.

29 A side-valve flathead inline four-cylinder 1.5 L (91 cu in) producing 40hp according to the 1948 sales brochure.

30 A side-valve flathead inline four-cylinder 1.5 L (91 cu in) producing 40hp according to the 1948 sales brochure.

31 One seating row 3 passenger convertible with a standard multi-part, retractable steel top.

32 One seating row 3 passenger convertible with a standard multi-part, retractable steel top.

33 1948 With a three-speed manual transmission the Playboy would get 35 mpg and accelerate from 0-30 mph in six seconds, top speed was 65 mph.

34 1948 Playboy basic instrument panel.

35 1948 Dealer in Buffalo, New York-based automobile company, established in 1947.

36 1948 Dealer. A stock offering that would have provided capital to begin full scale production failed in the wake of the unrelated Tucker automobile scandal.

37 1948 Dealer. The Tucker scandal scared off potential investors who were then, unjustifiably, worried about any new start-up car manufacturers.

38 1948 Dealer. Reportedly the name was fondly remembered by one Hugh Hefner from his childhood and eventually named his magazine Playboy in 1955. He had no connection to the car.

39 1948 Playboy car factory.

40 1948 Playboy factory ready to ship new cars.

41 1948 The Playboy car remains an important and innovative example of the interesting genre of post-war startup motor cars.

42 1948 Among the many new automotive ventures that sprang up and faded away after the Second World War, the Playboy car may have been one of the most promising.

43 1948 The Playboy metal top can be folded down level with the rear bodywork. The Playboy car was introduced a full decade before Ford came out with the much larger Fairlane 500 Skyliner hardtop convertible.

44 1948 The Playboy company logo was a dashing set of stylized wings with a top hat, cane, white gloves and the word “PLAYBOY” across the center.

45 1948 Playboy car with comedian Lou Costello.

46 1948 Playboy car. This car sold for $132,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Auctions’ sale in Hershey, PA, on October 11, 2018.

47 1948 A station wagon was planned, and prototypes built but never put in production.

48 1948 Prototype station wagon.

49 1948 The rear axle ratio was 3.73 with an optional 4.10 final drive.

50 1948 Playboy car shown in a Museum.

51 1948 Playboy car shown in a Museum.

52 1948 Playboy car.

53 1948 Playboy car.

54 1948 Playboy car 1 of 97 built, displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA.

55 1948 Playboy car premiere in Chicago hotel.

56 1948 Playboy car premiere in Chicago hotel.

57 1948 Playboy car premiere in Chicago hotel.

58 1948 Playboy at car show.

59 1948 Playboy in Black and 1949 in Red.

60 1949 Playboy at car show.

61 1949 Playboy at car show.

62 1949 Playboy at car show.

63 1949 Playboy at car show.

64 1949 Playboy at car show.

65 1951 Playboy. Of 97 production cars sold, only about 43 survive today. Five (including the prototype) are owned by David Kaplan, grandson of company founder Lou Horwitz.

66 1951 Of the 43 surviving today, only about 15 are known to be in roadworthy condition, and fewer than 5 are known to have the optional windshield-mounted spotlights.

67 1951 Under-capitalized, Playboy could not compete with better-financed companies offering more conventional cars.

68 1951 For the final year of production, the Playboy car was fitted with a Willys four-cylinder flathead engine displacing 2.2 L (134 cubic inches) and producing a much improved 72 hp.

69 1951 The proposed retail price had risen to $1,600 and just a few were produced this final year.

70 In 1951 the company’s assets changed hands and the idea never caught on. Today any Playboy model is considered extremely rare and collectible in almost any condition.


Video and audio clips

The Playboy Car was made in Buffalo NY


The 1948 Playboy Car



Related

More Cars of the 1950s

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Comments

Mario on Apr 5, 2023 said:

The Playboy car was designed in 1947 with the intention of being an around the town second car and it featured America's first steel retractable hardtop convertible. The convertible hardtop was manually stowed and lifted up when needed. The top was hidden from view when stowed.

With a 90 in wheelbase the Playboy car measures 156 in long and was priced at just $985. It ran on 12 inch dia rims and weighed 2,035 lbs.

There were 97 production cars built between 1948 and 1951 and one prototype in 1947. The Playboy car was powered by a front engine side valve flathead inline four cyl 1.5L (91 cu in) with 40hp 1bbl carb. With a three-speed manual transmission the Playboy would get 35 mpg and accelerate from 0-30 mph in six seconds, top speed was 65 mph. Enjoy! Mario

[Reply to this comment]

Mario on Sep 1, 2023 said:

This Playboy car was at least 10 years ahead of its time when the Imports arrived in the late 50's. GM, Ford and Chrysler were taken by surprise to find out the people were looking for compact gas saving cars. Too bad the company went bankrupt in 1951.

[Reply to this comment]

Anonymous on Sep 3, 2023 said:

I have never ever ever seen one of these. NEVER. It's cute from one angle and sort of un-cute at others. I could see one with an LS7, 7 Speed, 20 inch tires, and other accoutrements of our time period. 2000 pounds with a Hellcat engine? WHY NOT? What I see is a cute car, named terribly wrong, ahead of it's time.

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