Car Culture / Cars / History

Blackout 1942 Chevy Coupe


After the raid on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered World War II on December 8, 1941. Automakers were ordered to curtail the use of brightwork (chrome and stainless trim) within one month, and to cease production of passenger cars altogether within two. That first mandate led to a rare and interesting run of cars… the blackout specials.

We spotted this interesting piece of American automotive history during a recent trip to the LeMay Museum. Mike Ellis, our knowledgeable tour guide, pointed out what made the 1942 “blackout” Chevy different from the nearly identical (but much shinier) 1941 model sitting next to it.

In January of 1941, the government mandated that no new automobiles could be delivered with exposed stainless or chrome trim (with the exception of bumpers, bumper hardware, and windshield wipers). The order was meant to keep the playing field level, so that no manufacturer could gain a competitive advantage while the use of raw materials was limited. Chevrolet’s response was to paint the trim on 1942 models produced in January.

Sitting next to a 1941 model the 1942 “blackout” doesn’t have the same glimmer as the chromed car, but some argue that it lended a much more modern look.

And you kids thought you were the first ones to paint your chrome trim black…




  1. Thanks for the WWII info!

  2. When we took our tour of the museum, we almost ran right by this car. Once Mike pointed out the unique features of the car, it was all we could do to tear ourselves away. The Chevy had a very ethereal beauty to it. It invoked images of a nation at war and the lengths it went to in order to fuel the gigantic war machine of the day. It was a treasure for sure and I’m very glad to have seen it.

  3. Jim Stott says:

    Hi all,

    I am honored to serve the vintage automobile folks as a Docent at LeMay Collection in Spanaway, Washington. In particular, here are a couple of additional facts about our two 1942 Chevrolet coupes – a “gussied up” and the blackout Chevy.

    The 1942 Chevy which is dressed in full trim, including sunscreen, lots of stainless and chrome. This automobile was manufactured before December 8, 1941.

    In late December, 1941 the newly formed US Department of War mandated that no automobile manufactured after December 31, 1941 could have any bright work, stainless or chrome with a few exceptions, i.e., bumpers and wiper arms.

    Immediately thereafter, the Department of Was mandated that no automobiles could be manufactured for retail sales effective January 15, 1942. Notwithstanding that ban, automobiles were manufactured after January, 1942 but were built exclusively for military uses. These vehicles included ambulances, trucks, automobiles, motorcycles, tractors, busses and other heavy motorized heavy equipment.

    So, the tan 1942 Chevrolet was manufactured between January 1, 1942 and January 15, 1942. This is a fine and rare example of what happened when our country “went to war” at the beginning of World War II.


    Jim Stott
    LeMay Collection Docent

    • John Acocks says:

      Regarding the LeMay Museum auto collection in Tacoma, WA. I toured the museum today and saw the ’42 Chevy “blackout”. It has been well taken are of by a member of the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America.

  4. Thanks Jim for the additional info. The museum is excellent and you are a testament to the wealth of knowledge and expertise you guys have. We are lucky lucky people to have the LeMay Museum in our backyard!

  5. Another ‘element’ to the story is there was a serious shortage of copper which is necessary for chrome plating and therefore a big part of why no shiny stuff.
    Car production resumed in 1946 and most, including this Chevy, looked a lot like their short lived 1942 models. Production tools that were not scrapped for the steel were recommissioned and put back into service. It was 1948 before cars really started looking like new cars.

  6. Thanks for a great report on the 42 chevy blackout model I have a 42 brite work car with all the trim on it . Model 42/1027 five pass special delux coupe which many old timers have told me chevy did not build any cars after dec 7 ha I have driven this car for 12 years

  7. thanks for the great pics

  8. i am about to buy a 1942 chevy coupe this gives me great ideas for my car

  9. Rick Enright says:

    I too have a 1942 black blackout chev 42,000 miles was wondering how many are left and what there value is?

  10. Great story! Thanks for the history lesson.

  11. Deb McCarthy says:

    My boyfriend just purchased a 1942 blackout chevy. We are wondering how many are in existance & what they are really worth. this one still runs & is in fair shape.

    Thank you,

  12. The LeMay Museum’s 1942 Chevrolet Blackout is currently prominently displayed with three other 1942’s vehicles in our Harold E. LeMay Exhibit at LeMay-America’s Car Museum in Tacoma. 1942 is indeed a special year, as regular automotive production was ceased that February as automakers dove into wartime manufacturing.

    Regarding how many 1942 Chevrolets “Blackouts” were produced, this is a hard one to pin down. Our research points to sales figures of 22,187- 1942 Chevrolets Special Deluxe Coupes sold during the short 1942 model year. “Blackouts” are especially rare as they were only produced during the month of January. An article in February 9, 1942 issue of TIME Magazine noted the last Chevrolet rolled off the assembly line at the Flint Michigan Plan on January 30, 1942. The color of the car was appropriately black.

    It is interesting to note that all of the California registrations we have for our 1942 Chevrolet Blackout show that year sold for this car was 1943. The car had at least three owners in California until 1975, when it came to Washington. Harold LeMay purchased the car in 1987 and the car was donated to the Museum in 2004.

    Also interesting is that in 1942, there were many new colors available, and even though the US was not at war yet, these colors (for both paint and painted trim) were named after things pertaining to the war effort. You have the car in painted in patriotic colors: Martial Maroon, Scout Brown, Volunteer Green, Wing Blue, Torpedo Gray, Ensign Blue, Fortress Gray, Fleet Blue.

    Renee Crist
    Collections Manager
    LeMay-America’s Car Museum

  13. My father was a Chevy & Olds dealer in those days. His dealership was “Baldwin Chevrolet” at Chatsworth, Illinois. He stored 16 of those Blackout Cars at the beginning of the war. We called them “Paint Cars”. The cars went through a very exacting process of preservation so they would last for the duration of the hostilities (period of time unknown at the beginning of the War). Only individuals with important/war related jobs could get permits to buy these cars. I remember sales to an agent of the Manhattan Project(A Bomb), to our local doctor, to several farmers of large acreage. All cars were sold by the end of the war. They were very attractive cars….without bright work.

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