The 1946 Chevrolet Suburban Calgary Police Paddy Wagon

Back in the summer of 1988 or 1989, there was a music festival on Prince’s Island Park in Calgary. The police had brought out their vintage paddy wagon and in those pre-internet days, I had never seen anything like it before. I took a number of photos of it.

But even a police officer in vintage uniform is still on duty and I annoyed him by asking him to hold open doors and such. Eventually he told me to go elsewhere. Not sympathetic to youthful enthusiasm, he was.

For years, I thought it was a 1936 model. Thankfully, the internet did come along eventually and I was able to figure out it was from 1946.

1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon
1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon
1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon
1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon
1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon
1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon

Bottom two rows, photos by Charles Millar


1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon

The paddy wagon when it was new


1946 Calgary Police Paddy Wagon

Photos by Ron McManus

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF MOTORING IN ALBERTA

1946 Chevrolet One-Ton Panel Wagon

In June 1946, a new Chevrolet one-ton panel wagon was pressed into service for use as a paddy wagon by the Calgary Police. Many of Calgary’s notorious and not-so-notorious offenders were escorted to Police Headquarters in the rear of this vehicle. After 23 years, 32,000 miles and numerous accidents, the wagon was retired from service in 1969 and sold at public auction for $1200.

The wagon – which had been abandoned in a farmer’s field – was repurchased by the Police Service in 1978 for $500. In a state of disrepair, the vehicle was restored by officers – mainly on their own time. The paddy wagon became a historical symbol and was used by the Public Relations Branch and later by the Calgary Police Historical Unit at special events.

The paddy wagon is now a significant piece in the artifact collection of the Calgary Police Service Interpretive Centre. The centre – which is unique in Canada – is a hands-on facility which presents crime issues, the consequences of crime and how the police work with the public to combat criminal activity. Geared to youth, the Interpretive Centre’s aim is to educate young people about those issues that greatly concern all of us.

Courtesy of the Alberta Pioneer Auto Club


A BIT OF HISTORY

In this era, there were two lines produced. The passenger version was the Suburban and the commercial line was the Panel Van. The main distinctions between the two were the Panel Van lacked windows past the front seats and it had a cargo area instead of passenger seats.

The 1946 was the first post-Second World War model, and was virtually identical to the 1942 (production of civilian vehicles was suspended after the US entered the war). The end of the war was difficult to predict, and when the factories switched back from bombers to passenger vehicles, there were no new models on the drawing boards. American automakers picked up in 1946 where they left off at the end of 1941.

A Stovebolt-Six engine powered the 1946 Suburban, which produced 90 horsepower with low-rpm torque that suited its role of transporting people and cargo. The engine was paired with a three-speed manual transmission and hydraulic brakes were standard.

To satisfy demand for new vehicles, production of the 1946 Suburban (and all other Chevrolet trucks) lasted through May 1947.

Base price
Body style
Wheelbase
Engine
Horsepower
Torque
Transmission
Curb weight
$1,283 US
Two-door with tailgate or barn doors
115 in
216.5 in3 inline 6
90 at 3,300 rpm
~165 lb/ft at 1,000–2,000 rpm
Three-speed manual
~3,400 lbs

History sourced from General Motors


With the 1941, 1942 and 1946 models being very close to each other, it was easy enough to find a variety of images of different styles and conditions of vehicles. Some of the coolest were the vintage illustrations from marketing pieces.

1941 Chevrolet Suburban
1941 Chevrolet Suburban
1942 Chevrolet Suburban
1942 Chevrolet Suburban
1942 Chevrolet Suburban
1942 Chevrolet Suburban
1941 Chevrolet Suburban specs
1941 Chevrolet Suburban specs
1941 Chevrolet Suburban specs
1941 Chevrolet Suburban specs


US NAVY G-7105 AND US ARMY K-51

During the years of the Second World War, General Motors made a variety of vehicles for military transport. They adapted the 1½-ton dual-rear-wheel Suburban into a four-wheel drive model designated the G-7105. Relatively rare, only 3,658 were produced.

While using the basic form of the Suburban, everything about the G-7105 was utilitarian. Without chrome, the front grille and hood vents are purely functional, as are the plain fenders and simple front bumper.

Chevrolet G7105 Illustration
Chevrolet G7105 Diagram
Chevrolet K15 G7105
Chevrolet G7105 Navy

The Army version is a K-51 radio truck for the Signal Corps. The grey version is a restored Navy G-7105.


THREE & THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Apart from liking vintage things, I had a specific purpose for being so interested in this. I took one look at that vehicle back then and thought, “That’s Three’s car.” There would be no hot sports car for my comic book character. He’d be driving a big bad-ass black van, engine roaring with spotlights for headlights and the chrome maw of a grill filling the rear-view mirror of criminals. With 3,400 pounds of Detroit steel, he could take out whatever he bumped into, let alone running them off the road. And he’d be doing it with unique style.

Of course, he wouldn’t accomplish much with the 90 hp of a stock inline six, but Three would put something serious under the hood. On the curves, they might lose him, but on the flats he’d crush them.

1946 Chevrolet Suburban Three and the Historical Society


THE FRANKLIN MINT SHERIFF’S WAGON

Photo reference is good to have, but for industrial things a model is even better. Unfortunately – in years past – the closest I came was a Ford of the same era. Recently, I picked up an Ertl version which doubles as a bank, but it’s not very accurate or detailed beyond the basic shape and nothing opens.

Near perfect is the Franklin Mint Sheriff’s Wagon (try eBay) which is the ’46 Suburban passenger model (They also produced a green passenger model and a blue ski resort panel version.) Nicely detailed. Benches in the back like the Calgary Police Paddy Wagon and the wire mesh which divides the front seats from the prisoner compartment. The wheels turn, doors and hood open. These shots are from a session of macro photography.

1946 Chevrolet Suburban Sheriffs Car
1946 Chevrolet Suburban Sheriffs Car
1946 Chevrolet Suburban Sheriffs Car


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