Car Show Classic: 1961 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country – Exner’s Finest Truckster

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Last June 29 was a great day for car nuts in the Quad Cities. That’s because the Antique Automobile Club of America decided to have their Grand National Meet right here, in downtown Moline. I’ll be posting several more articles here about this great event, but today I want to focus on my favorite car at the show: The fin-tastic 1961 New Yorker Town & Country.

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The ’61 Chryslers were facelifted versions of the all-new ’60 models that brought unibody construction to the entire corporate line–a big change at at time when most cars on the road still had full-frame construction, save for those funny little foreign cars that were starting to appear.

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Of course, the wagons were new as well, and they introduced a neat new feature: pillarless styling. Yes, you could get your Chrysler wagon as a hardtop model! In fact, that was all you could get, as no pillared version was available. It made the 1960 and later models look a bit more dashing than the outgoing ’59s.

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Today, everybody seems to hate wagons (well, not me, but the public at large), and I just don’t understand why. They were cool! And what’s the deal about the next generation automatically rejecting and hating what their parents like? I rode in Volvo wagons all through my childhood, and guess what I drive today? A Volvo wagon! Are some folks so knee-jerk that they can’t see a good thing for what it is? Or are Americans just getting too fat for the traditional station wagon?

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But enough digression. You can’t change the public’s love for boring, reliable, silver-colored appliances, and that is why CC is so great. You can look at cool and interesting cars all day, just to take your mind off all the Dramamine-influenced modern vehicles you see on the way to work, all quite unlike this 1961 Chrysler, which has style in spades! These wagons were the last Mopars to sport large fins without apology.

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While the 1962 models were largely the same, they became “plucked chickens” with fins shorn off. All things considered, they actually looked pretty good, but those fins were so cool on the 1960-61 models.

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A Newport T&C was also available, but the crème de la crème was the plusher New Yorker version, which retailed for a then-princely $4,764 (six-passenger) and $4,871 (nine-passenger), and tipped the scales at 4,425 and 4,455 pounds, respectively.

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As you’d expect, New Yorkers got lots of extra trim, including bright rocker and wheel lip trim, gold-accented wheel covers and emblems, and this side spear riding the sprouting point of the fins. They were among the most expensive Chryslers; only the 300G hardtop and convertible were dearer. They’re also among the rarest, with only 676 six-passenger and 760 nine-passenger versions built. And that’s why you don’t see these at every car show–to put it mildly.

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The inside was just as fancy as the exterior, with cloth-and-vinyl seating, a clear Lucite steering wheel rim, and the most excellent Astro Dome instrument cluster–the coolest dash of the ’60s, in my opinion. I really liked this sapphire-blue and light-blue color combination and matching interior.

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This car also has rare factory air conditioning, according to the barely visible announcement on the rear-quarter window: “Air Conditioned by AirTemp.” The option cost $714 on wagons–nearly 15% over the price of the car!

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The biggest difference over the ’60 model was the slanted headlights. Unlike the fins, these would return for ’62. Under the hood was a 413 CID V8 with a four-barrel carb, good for 350 horsepower. Dual exhaust was standard on wagons and optional on other New Yorkers.

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Ironically, I had my own reverse-CC Effect, having seen a white ’61 Windsor at the Coralville cruise night just the previous evening. We’ll also cover that one someday, but I think the wagon is far, far cooler–which is saying something, since I was drooling over that Windsor, as my uncle Dave, cousin Sara and her husband can attest!

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It was just starting to rain harder when I spotted this beautiful car (sadly, it rained off-and-on during my whole time at the show), but I had to get pictures of this Chrysler. I have never, ever seen one of these in person before, and the odds are I won’t ever see another one. These didn’t exactly grow on trees when new, and fifty-odd years of attrition has probably done in most of them. But I found one!

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