It’s almost bed time Saturday night, so I can’t allow myself to get too worked up at this hour. But why do these ’65-’66 Chryslers tug at me so hard? Why can I never resist posting one when I encounter one on the street or at the Cohort, in this case, shot by William Rubano? Seriously; it’s hard for me to come up with an American big car from the 60s that speaks more seductively to me.
They exude such understated self confidence. They know that they were the best of their class, in terms of what really counts, meaning not the latest Coke-bottle hips or stacked headlights. Under that throw-back boxy exterior it has all the right stuff. And it felt all of apiece; which it was, thanks to its unibody. Never mind its impeccable engines and transmission and the rest of the hard and greasy parts.
These were cars that appealed to left-hemisphere folks, even though that concept has been thrown into doubt. You know what I mean though; buyers who used their heads more than their emotions, like engineers and such. And German ex-pats. These cars were heavily favored by that crowd in Iowa City, doctors and engineers to a man.
But I know the most important reason. My dad’s cousin, who was a traveling salesman all over the Midwest for fine German and Austrian opticals with a trunk stuffed full of cameras, microscopes, telescopes, binoculars and such, bought one of these in 1965 to replace his road-weary ’62 Cadillac. He lived in Kansas City, and one time as were were traveling through, he took me for a ride in it. He was the polar opposite of my dad, meaning a bon vivant who loved food, drink and fast cars, among other things. And he was a superb driver, in stark contrast to my dad.
He drove hard and fast, putting the spurs to that big Chrysler on the freeway around the city, showing me some sights while my family and his wife were off doing something else. I could hear the big 383 working hard, its exhaust murmuring in our wake.
I was in utter bliss, sitting there next to him on that big seat, the window open, the warm wind in my hair. Uncle Leo knew I was susceptible to these charms, which is precisely why he asked me to go with him. He wanted to show off his big Chrysler and knew I was the only one in the bunch that would be able to appreciate it properly. And I did. I can see and feel and smell every detail still.
The next time we visited him, he’d traded it in for a Mercedes 280SE (W108), and…he asked me to go again, although my younger brother tagged along this time. No problem, as I got the front seat again. Another memorable ride.
He wasn’t the only German/Austrian ex-pat we knew that also traded their big Chrysler for a Mercedes when it was time for a new car. What else? A fuselage Chrysler wasn’t going to do for this crowd; those were for right hemisphere folks. They expected high quality components and assembly; only a Mercedes was going to deliver the goods after 1969 or so.
My Uncle Leo had a dark green Newport Custom four-window sedan; this New Yorker was a cut above that. But that didn’t really matter very much; it was all just a bit more icing on the cake. And in this case, unlike some other cars, it was the cake that made these so delicious.
So why does a car that appealed to left-brain thinkers work so hard on my emotions?