(first posted 1/28/2016) One of the benefits of a Hulu subscription is that there are a lot of obscure old television shows available for watching. Mrs. JPC and I stumbled across one such show that had its debut in 1958 – The Naked City. No, it’s not about that. It ran for one season (before being revamped with a new cast) as a thirty minute drama about some Detectives with the New York Police Department, and was notable for introducing James Franciscus to the big time. Every TV show has a “thing”, and this show’s thing was that it was filmed on location in New York, and strove for a very realistic experience. In glorious black and white, of course.
One early 1959 episode of the show involved a parade in honor of a famous athlete, threatened by an embittered malcontent with a bomb. Some things from 1959 are still quite current, it would seem. (For those who care, this was episode number 22, entitled Ticker Tape, with an original air date of February 24, 1959.) But what makes this re-telling relevant here instead of in some other forum is the car in which the dignitary was to be conveyed. At first glimpse, I could tell that it was a big convertible sedan from the early 1940s.
“My”, thought the ever-observant car nut, “what an odd choice for a show going for realism – why would they be still using some ancient convertible sedan in a ticker tape parade in 1959 New York?” Didn’t the city have one of the famous Parade Phaetons built in the 1950s? As I got a better look, I could tell that it was a 1940 or 41 Chrysler, but could not recall Chrysler even offering a convertible sedan that late. A little googling after the show made me acknowledge that the folks doing the program got it right, and expanded my understanding of Chrysler’s foray into parade cars.
In 1939, the number two auto producer in the U.S. (if not in the world) was not the Ford Motor Company, but the Chrysler Corporation. Chrysler in 1939 was the result of what Walter Chrysler had spent nearly fifteen years building virtually from scratch, or at least from the wreckage of the failing Maxwell-Chalmers company. Although the founder had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1938 at the age of sixty three, the company he created was at its peak.
One of the luxuries of a profitable, well-run company is the ability to do some special projects to burnish your standing in the world. One of these was the construction of a Parade Phaeton for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The body of this 1939 Chrysler Custom Imperial was built by the Derham Body Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Derham had been one of the leading builders of custom bodywork during the classic era, and began a significant relationship with Chrysler in the mid 1930s including, strangely enough, becoming a DeSoto-Plymouth dealer to supplement the firm’s dwindling custom body business. There is an excellent article about Durham on Coachbuilt.com that can be read here.
There is nothing to indicate that the car’s chassis was anything other than a standard Custom Imperial. Of course, Chrysler’s high-end car of that time was nothing to be ashamed of. Its 323.5 cid ( 5.3L) inline eight featured an aluminum head and aluminum pistons, and was good for up to 141 horsepower in optional trim. 1939 was also the inaugural year for Chrysler’s new Fluid Drive, which was standard equipment on every Custom Imperial. It is difficult to imagine a better environment for clutch-free driving than a New York City parade.
The beautiful green phaeton (an open car without roll-up side windows) had a short life as the belle of the ball, but it lived grandly for a year which included being the official conveyance for the King and Queen of England on their visit to New York in the summer of 1939.
Chrysler and Durham teamed up again for another parade car in 1940. Upon the 1940 car’s completion, it was transported to New York to replace the 1939 car, which was returned to the Company’s care. The 1940 car was finished in a blue and gray two tone and would see official service as a New York parade car for the next twenty years. The 1940 car was finally retired from semi-regular service in 1960. It was this car that I saw on television, in what was probably the last year of its working life.
There are many black and white photos of the 1940 car online, showing it ferrying dignitaries like Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill. Strangely, despite the car having been under the care of the Henry Ford Museum ever since, I could not find a single color photograph of the car online. Or much of anything about its construction, either. Although the 1940 Chryslers and Imperials featured new bodies (which would serve through early 1949), they were essentially unchanged from the prior year, other than a two horsepower bump and a name change from Custom Imperial to Crown Imperial.
Although not strictly in the line of formal Parade Phaetons, Chrysler did build five Newport Phaetons in 1940-41. Strangely, none of these was ever put into formal parade use as the earlier cars had been. Instead, one was kept by the Chrysler family for personal use, and one was sold to Lana Turner. One of the five famously paced the 1941 Indianapolis 500 race, the only non-standard production car to do so until modern times.
Much better known than the relatively obscure 1939 and 1940 cars was the trio of parade phaetons that Chrysler built in 1952. These cars were the beginnings of the Forward Look era at a resurgent Chrysler, which was still outselling the Ford Motor Company (although not for long). They began with the frame of a Custom Imperial limo, which was stretched two inches for a wheelbase of 147.5 inches. The bodies were the products of Chrysler stylist Cliff Voss and body engineer Harry Cheseborough, under the direction of Experimental Design Chief Virgil Exner. Other than the stock 1952 Imperial grille, the bodies of these cars were completely custom built of steel, and were an early glimpse of the direction that Chrysler styling would take for the 1955 models. Strangely, fabrication was done in Chrysler’s own shops rather than by Ghia in Italy, which had already completed the K-310 show car for Exner. The separate compartments for front and rear occupants were reminiscent of the 1940-41 Newport and some of the high end phaetons of the classic era.
Mechanically, the cars were stock 1952 Imperial, powered by Chrysler’s then-current 331 cid (5.4 L) hemi V8 coupled to a Fluid Torque semi-automatic transmission. Stopping was courtesy of the gigantic Ausco-Lambert disc brakes that were used on Imperial limousines at the time (and which we have previously covered here.) Was there an application where disc brakes were less necessary than in a car designed exclusively for parade duty? For that matter, this may be one of the few instances where the hoary old flathead straight eight of the 1939 and 1940 cars would have had the advantage over the modern Firepower hemi, which was somewhat lacking in the low-end grunt that was the old flathead’s forte’.
Chrysler retained ownership of the cars and maintained them in in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, and (of course) Detroit. Each was available for parades and special occasions in the region surrounding each of those cities, sometimes accompanied by promotions involving local dealers. Each of the cars was painted a different color scheme. The New York car was black with light gray leather interior. The L.A. car was cream with rose-red leather and the Detroit car was metallic green with natural tan pigskin. The Los Angeles car was first to make an official debut at the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena in January of 1953, in which it ferried Grand Marshal (and Vice President-Elect Richard Nixon). Soon after, the New York car got a cameo role in the 1953 Cinemascope film How to Marry a Millionaire.
From 1952 through 1960, many photos of New York parades show the veteran 1940 car backing up the newer model, as in this shot of a 1952 parade honoring Ben Hogan. This picture is interesting because there are not many pictures online of these phaetons in their original 1952 style.
The three 1952 cars were recalled to the company in 1955 and given an updating, which included a 1956-style Imperial grille and 1956-style tailfins. The front fenders used 1955-style round wheel openings, which were necessary for tire clearance. These 1956-trimmed cars are the most famous versions of Chrysler’s parade cars by far. Each of the three was repainted and retrimmed as part of the updating. The New York car was now cream with red leather, while the Detroit car got desert sand paint with red leather.
The Los Angeles car was painted silver-blue and trimmed with white leather, and it too was featured in the filming of a movie or two.
There were also some mechanical updates done. Each was refitted with a new PowerFlite two speed automatic, but still controlled by a conventional lever mounted on the steering column instead of either the dash-mounted lever or pushbuttons as used on 1955 and 56 production cars. Some sources indicate that the cars received new engines, but the best information (from a 1977 article in Special-Interest Autos) is that the original 331s received some minor performance upgrades such as new four barrel carbs.
These three cars went on to provide many years of good service in their respective cities, providing royal chariots to some of the leading figures of the era. This picture from 1958 shows classical pianist Van Cliburn in the white 1956 New York car with the old two-tone 1940 right behind. Unfortunately, as time passed and the cars became more dated, Chrysler declined to get back into the business of being America’s supplier of magic carriages. By the 1960s, Chrysler was a very different company with a very different mindset, one in which volume production ruled and expensive public relations vehicles were seen as a waste of time.
So, where these unique cars now? After Chrysler got the 1939 car back from New York, it was used by the Company for special functions before it was donated to the Detroit American Legion post (of which K. T. Keller was Post Commander) in 1952. A former Chrysler employee tried for years to buy the car, which had fallen into disuse. He was finally able to purchase it in the 1980s, and a full restoration was completed around 1990. As of 2009, the Imperial Club’s website reported that it lived at the WPC Museum. There are many high-quality color photos of this car that can be found online, and it is beautiful to look at.
The article about Derham at coachbuilt.com states that there were actually two 1939 cars built, and that the other one is in the possession of the Henry Ford Museum. This is the only mention found online of a second 1939 car, which was claimed to have been the one used for the British monarchs during their visit here, after being bulletproofed. Perhaps this explains why some online pictures show dark brown leather upholstery while others show tan.
The 1940 car went to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan upon its 1960 retirement. This car seems to have been in mothballs there ever since, as there is virtually nothing about it that can be found online. This seems a shame given that this car probably served in its intended function for much longer than any of the others. The Derham coachwork in its blue and gray color scheme would undoubtedly be the most beautiful 1940 Chrysler of them all. Sadly, we will just have to imagine it for now.
The 1952/56 cars were eventually sold for nominal sums to their cities of residence. The New York car was at some point treated to a new black paint job. Some sources have this happening in the 1980s, but this photo clearly shows that the car was again black for the 1969 parade given for the Astronauts of Apollo 11. This car remains in New York.
The L.A. car was repainted white and retained its white interior, and at last information, still owned by the City of Los Angeles. According to a recent installment of Jay Leno’s Garage, the Los Angeles car was reupholstered in dark red. These cars have continued to serve their intended function in parades in those areas. The Detroit car had been a bit of a mystery. Although some had reported (including the 1977 SIA piece) that the car had been vandalized and stripped at some point in the past and was thereafter destroyed, the reports of its death had been greatly exaggerated. Subsequent information shows that the Detroit car was sold by Chrysler to private buyers around 1970, and is today at the Peterson Museum.
The most amazing fact is that of the five (or six) cars constructed or rebuilt between 1939 and 1956, each and every one seems to be present and accounted for today, which is an amazing survival rate, given the multiple paths followed by each of the cars.
So, there we have it. For much of the twentieth century, Chrysler’s Imperial was America’s National car, there to provide a sumptuous and ceremonial welcome to our biggest heroes and most distinguished visitors. Although they might be an anachronism in our modern age, they remind us of a time when we were able to “put on the dog” with style and class. They also provide us with a couple of pretty good modern automotive mystery stories. Finally, they are proof that in at least this one instance, watching old black and white detective shows on TV is not necessarily a waste of time.
1946 Chrysler Town & Country (Paul Niedermeyer)
1951 Chrysler K-310 (Paul Niedermeyer)
1953 Chrysler Imperial (J. P. Cavanaugh)
1955 Chryler New Yorker DeLuxe (J. P. Cavanaugh)
1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe St. Regis (Tom Klockau)
They sure had a lot of useless parades back then- and everyone showed up. I understand the first men on the moon, but, Van Cliburn???
Van Cliburn was actually a pretty big deal in 1958 when, at 23, he beat a Russian in the first international Tchaikovsky competition.
This was a Soviet sponsored competition that was put on to showcase Soviet superiority. This was a huge boost to America on the tail of Sputnik. He was the first musician to be honored with a ticker tape parade.
Beating the Russians at Tchaikovsky interpretation would not have gone down well behind the curtain. A bit like Jesse Owens in 1936.
Two years later the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the U.S.S.R. at the Winter Games in 1960. The original Miracle On Ice.
Squaw Valley! With the great Jack McCartan in goal. He played in the WHA with the Minnesota Fighting Saints c. ’72/73.
Wandering around Broadway (or commuting to / from home), one notices all the brass lettering on the sidewalk, identifying each parade honoree and the date. In some cases, parades were only six months apart. Must have been a lingering state of mess.
And some of the honorees are as, well, unusual as Van Cliburn. Like a number of ‘friendly benevolent despots’ installed and then subsequently overthrown by the good old CI of A.
Van Cliburn was HUGE back in the late fifties, was my mother’s idol, and directly related to my life as a miserable twelve year run of piano lessons, competitions, and recitals as my mother decided that I was going to be the next Van Cliburn.
Which has a lot to do with that 61 year old piano still sits in my living room (fourth house its resided in), having neither been tuned nor played for the past thirty years. And it will probably continue to stay that way, as I have absolutely no interest in playing any instruments anymore, but refuse to let the damned thing go.
I was even deeper in that same boat. My mom had several Van Cliburn records and wanted me to become a virtuoso classical pianist. To hear her tell it, I was a child prodigy who won several national awards. In actuality, I was maybe the third-best piano player in my school music class. Those awards were indeed “national” in the sense that anyone in the USA could enter, but nobody in their right mind would drive across the country to enter their kid in some unknown competition watched by a crowd of maybe 50 people, nearly all of which were their parents or piano teachers. There are hundreds of these unknown competitions that seem to exist just so music teachers can brag about their students winning prizes.
I was also primed to be a neo-classical composer, and one piece I “wrote” as a 8 year old actually did win a truly national competition sponsored by BMI, one of the two big music publishing organizations. I had no idea how to write my own music back then though, so when assigned to do so I merely alternated two melodies I liked, one from a TV show theme and another that was the Schoolhouse Rock “figure 8” song, which apparently the judges had never heard. I wasn’t trying to plagiarize; rather, I just didn’t realize that young that alternating paragraphs from two different books doesn’t mean you haven’t written a new book. My next “composition” was just an unknown song I learned from an unlabeled tape my older brother had. This one didn’t win any prizes, probably because I later learned the song I ripped off was a well-known Beatles tune from Abbey Road. Very recently, while cleaning out my mom’s apartment, I came across a large bound folder with sheet music for a classical-style suite with my name listed as composer, along with an award it won. I had no recollection of this title so I looked inside at the music. This is the first time I’d ever seen or heard this; I have *nothing* to do with its composition. My folks (or my teacher) evidently wanted me to win awards so badly they entered other peoples’ music in contests miscredited to me.
This sort of story is very good for me to read.
I had a very weird childhood, and tend to idealize others’ childhoods as I imagined them or viewed them from outside. But for all of that, I never experienced involuntary music lessons. Dodged that bullet at least.
@ #35 ;
I can dig that .
I used to envy the Foster kids…..
Nate, oh my! I hope that’s said partly in jest.
Families, eh? I think my parents did the best they could given their own backgrounds. I think a lot of members of The Greatest Generation were pretty traumatized.
I think my rebellion was fairly constructive – developing a fascination with mechanical things, and becoming a competent amateur wrencher/plumber/carpenter/electrician, when Dad would have preferred I be an ivory-tower academic.
It really makes me wonder why The Henry Ford never has displayed the 1940 car. I’m sure they have a reason but it would be a nice complement to their other special use cars such as the presidential limousines.
Probably because it is not a Ford.
Maybe, but I’ve seen plenty of Chrysler products there.
Here’s an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage spotlighting the ’52 Chrysler Los Angeles parade car.
Wow, I missed this. It looks like burgundy leather has replaced the white on the LA car. I have made an update to the article with this info.
You know a car is obscure when Jay Leno doesn’t know much about it.
Wow, this is a fascinating article, and Jay Leno’s ride is hilarious. Thanks for posting this treatise, I had known of these parade cars and read about them, but never have seen the L.A. car in use, although it seems to see the light of day fairly often.
Friends of my parents had a ’55 Imperial sedan, as a 9-year old I was fascinated then, and riding in this leviathan was quite a treat to me. I remember it as gargantuanly big and heavy, but oh, so solid and cushy, and amazingly, it was their daily driver back then. Imagine one of these as a regular errand runner and grocery getter. Bygone era.
I’ve seen the LA car up close many, many times – in parades and at official functions. The first time I saw it – it was parked in Chinatown in the early 70’s. I was dumbfounded as I’d not heard of the Parade Phaetons and the SIA article had yet to be published. I was confused by the odd mix of 1952 bits in the interior with the 55 grille and so forth. This was before the internet so you couldn’t just “Google it.” Fortunately a friend with me knew the car’s history.
I was a little surprised to see the Detroit car in the Petersen Museum recently as I’d not seen it since Las Vegas many years ago. As Jim notes in this fine article, these beautiful cars have received well deserved good care over the years. That 55 styling still seems fresh to me.
As well to me, also. But then, I’ve always been prejudiced by my grandmother’s ’56 DeSoto Firedome Seville coupe, one of my favorite ’50s cars. I hate to admit it, but I’ve still not ever been to the Petersen, just don’t come to L.A. much any more, but it’s high on my “bucket list.”
I’ll take the pace car with livery, but twist my arm and the 55 body can join my garage as well. Fantastic JPC.
I love that pace car but they must have been turning awfully slow caution laps – I guess it’s all relative.
Am I the only one wondering why they would bulletproof one for the visit of the British royals? I mean I can understand why someone might shoot them, but it’s an open parade car – it seems a bit like fitting a steel security door to a yurt. Am I missing something?
A couple of points sort of off the subject….
I had no idea Chrysler Corp. was ever number 2 in sales.
Didn’t Walter P. Chrysler work at Ford at some point? It seems like I saw a documentary on Ford that said he managed to work at resuscitating many different car companies. If so, could that be why the 1940 Imperial isn’t displayed at Ford Village?
The producer for The Naked City was the same producer for Route 66 and Hawaii Five O (the 60s version), he was apparently quite “into” filming on location.
Walter Chrysler came up through railroad and locomotive companies before being recruited by Buick. He left Buick after differences of opinion with Billy Durant. He managed Willys under contract for awhile before taking on Maxwell-Chalmers. After his “Chrysler 70” was introduced in 1924, smaller Maxwells were renamed as Chryslers. Plymouth and DeSoto were home-built and Dodge was purchased. Walter Chrysler was an amazing guy who was the last (at least in America) to build a small auto company into a gigantic one.
I didn’t know ChryCo was #2 for that long. After WW2, I think, is pretty well known.
Fords were such an anachronism by that point, so much of the engineering dated to the Model T days. And how long did they have mechanical brakes?
Kinda shows, IMO, what a risk K.T. Keller took with the styling of the 1949 models – anything but sleek like GM and Ford. Also shows what the Whiz Kids pulled off for the 1949 Fords. Wasn’t FoMoCo back in the #2 position when the 1952 Ford Blitz began?
Makes me sad, thinking where FCA is now, compared to Chrysler in 1940.
Makes me sad, thinking where FCA is now
FCA is getting mighty close to Ford; 2.243 million vs. 2.60 million, in 2015 US sales.
I hadn’t given much thought to this, but I believe that whatever has been considered Chrysler has spent decades with roughly a 10% to 16% U.S. market share and Ford in the 15% to 20% range. Occasionally Chrysler has had a relatively strong year when Ford was off a bit, and the market share points can get to within a 3% or so spread between the companies.
There are numerous graphs out there if you Google “Chrysler market share.” I hesitated to grab and post one due to ownership rights.
I believe that Ford claimed the number-two spot for 1950, but for 1951 slipped back to number three, as each car company was assigned a production quota, due to the Korean War. Since Chrysler had long outsold Ford, it received a higher quota from the federal government. (Another factor in 1950 was that Chrysler was shut down for several weeks as a result of a strike by the UAW.)
For 1952, Ford was back in the number-two spot, on the strength of all-new bodies and greatly improved quality for Ford, Mercury and Lincoln.
The two companies were fairly close in 1953, but in 1954 the roof caved in on Chrysler. The Ford Blitz (which began late in the 1953 model year), Chevrolet’s response, the lack of a fully automatic transmission in Plymouth until halfway through the 1954 model year, and dull styling compared to all-new Buicks, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles, sent Chrysler’s market share tumbling from roughly 19 percent to 13 percent.
I read some articles from Collectible Automobile, it mentionned then Chrysler was #2 in 1953 by that much but as you mentionned with the price wars between Ford and Chevrolet and the Buick, Cadillac and Oldsmobile who got a complete redesign for the 1954 model year hit Chrysler and the independents (Nash, Hudson, Packard, Kaiser, Willys-Jeep, Studebaker) very hard. I wonder what if Chrysler’s “100 million dollar look” had arrived one model year early if it could had handle better the Ford-Chevy price wars?
1959 was the last Ford with mechanical brakes when the prewar Ford 10 finally got euthanized.
The tag line for the TV show was “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them …” I remember that from watching TV as a kid.
There was an award-winning movie of the same name from 1948 which was also shot on location in NYC and which also used the same “realism” and documentary style to separate itself from other films noir shot on Hollywood backlots.
I did not get to watch it, but I could hear that tag line while I was in bed.
An MP brigade I was assigned to had a proud New Yorker as a battalion commander. I recall him repeating that tag line to anyone trying to explain some unexplainable behavior his MPs had been confronted with.
I think you might have mixed up Mr Chrysler with the Dodge brothers who were major stock holders of Ford way back
Fine article on rare Imperials largely unknown for all the public exposure they once had, thanks! It’s a shame that Chrysler management didn’t sponsor at least one last round of parade phaetons, just imagine if they had Ghia create three in 1963 or 1964 while they were still building the last of those magnificent limousines.
I think you could build a pretty impressive parade 300, the only problem is that every dignitary (except the current Pope) wants to ride around in a bulletproof bubble.
An Imperial would’ve been much easier to make a stretched limo convertible out of an Imperial than a 300 at that time. Through 1966, Imperials were still BOF, while all other Mopars including the 300 were unibody.
They could’ve made new ones with a roof (permanent or removable) instead of being convertibles. The ’61 Lincoln that Kennedy was shot in was updated to look like a newer Lincoln, fitted with a roof, and continued to be used as a presidential limo. (It now resides in the Henry Ford museum.)
Thanks to this, today I learned 3 new things before breakfast…. Very interesting.
This is why we come back to CC daily.
Jim, the Detroit Imperial Phaeton Parade car was purchased by the Petersen Museum in LA – I saw it on display a couple of weeks ago during a tour of their underground “Vault” storage area.
Good to know. Is that the white one with the brown leather interior I presume?
Thanks much, CA Guy! I have made some updates to the text.
Splendid cars; splendid article. I’ve seen snippets on the Exner phaetons, but never a full treatise on the subject. Thanks!
Do we know why a wheelbase of 145 inches had to be stretched by just 2 inches? Surely not worth the effort?
This is America, Roger. Bigger is always better. 🙂 Seriously, you raise a good question, for which I have no answer.
Likely the definitive article on these cars. Thank you!
All of these are much classier than the black SUVs used to shuttle VIPs today. I understand the security angle, It’s just that we lost something visually. PS: For old detective show fans, The TV show “Naked City” was loosely based on the 1948 movie of the same name. That film featured Howard Duff, Radio’s most famous Sam Spade.
Great article. I believe that the first time I ever actually saw one of these cars (as opposed to just reading about them) was in early 1981, when New York City held a parade for some of the hostages released after the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
Great article. First time i knewChrysler made a flat head straight eight. I thought the sixes they had pulled almost everything around. Thanks JP
Watching old black and white detective shows on TV (or on U Tube) is never a waste of time.
+1! That’s true for old radio detective shows too!
An Imperial Patheon also did a cameo in the 1987 movie Assassination with Charles Bronson.
Governor Williams of Michigan rode in what I assume was the Detroit car to christen the Mackinac Bridge when it opened. He didn’t have any cash on him when it came time to pay the toll, and he insisted on paying the toll–with a check. 🙂
By golly you are right.
One more of same (and mention of the whole Cherry Blossom celebration), May 1959:
I have supplied parts for and driven the Los Angeles parade car , it’s nice but the front seat isn’t adjustable and the driver’s leg room is *very* minimal , I have short legs @ 32″ inseam .
Nate wins the thread! Seriously, that must be a real charge to drive something so rare. If your drive was in the last few years, perhaps you noticed if the most recent re-upholstery job was leather or a cheaper and more weather-resistant vinyl? I cannot imagine that the City of Los Angeles has an unlimited budget for vehicle restorations.
When I started in 1984 , I learned about this fine old car , it’s never been properly restored , in 1986 I moved over to the mayor’s garage and it was just sitting there , talk about junking it because of ” can’t get any damn parts ! ” so I naturally asked what parts and sourced a rebuilt distributor , generator , some other things like that .
To me , all routine wear parts any ‘ parts guy ‘ worth his salt should easily find .
Then a year or two later I was talking to the shop super and he complained ‘ I don’t know how we’ll _EVER_ get the leaky original exhaust replaced ! ‘ so I said well hell Pete , just give me a signed R.O. and I’ll send it out for custom exhaust work , if no one wants to drive it , _I’ll_ drive the damn thing , it’s not difficult ‘ .
Much to my amazement two days later he showed up with the keys and a R.O. and asked if I’d really do him a ‘ BIG favor ‘ and drive it to the contract muffler vendor….
I was able to get *one* blurry poorly taken photograph of me standing next to it on the grass in some park in Lakeview Terrace , not sure where that photo is now .
These pix should be dated , I don’t know how to get that info off digital photos , only a few years ago , since 2010 I’m quite sure .
Just a few years back the final drive failed and I was working else where , no one there knew / cared so the L.A.P.D. Mechanics shoe horned an old 1980’s MoPar vintage cop car rear end into it … a sad thing indeed .
I used to source all manner of parts for the weird fleet the City has , 1971 Cadillac limo , 1970 Dodge Charger undercover car etc. .
This photo is of my buddy Chris , an old Hot Rodder who the last time I checked , was the only Mechanic in the entire City who’d touch this dead simple and easy to maintain / repair car .
NATE! Ya gotta write this stuff up for us!
If he’s the only one who’ll work on it, then I hope he stays on in his position for a long time, and that he can properly train someone from the “new generation” to take care of it when he retires. It’d be a shame if the car was relegated to sale (and most likely a stationary spot at a museum) for want of a fleet mechanic who’s willing to work on such a beautiful classic.
Nate, *very* cool that you’ve actually had the occasion to drive it!
Fear not Chris ;
My Buddy there was supposed to have been gone by now , at this point it looks like he’ll work until he drops with a wrench in his hand as the 2008 crash lost him his house and he’s got kids , a wife and so on to support .
Indeed it was a hoot to drive ! .
It still gets out and about now and then , mostly whenever a mayor want’s to make a big splashy appearance in Public .
I have lots and lots of stories but I’m closing in on my retirement and I promised if they let me finish my working life and retire , I’d keep my mouth shut and I always keep my word .
We have a1928 Studebaker Paddy Wagon too .
it’s all done up in L.A.P.D. Livery .
More pix , these were taken in Piper Tech , the City’s main garage where I used to work and still visit occasionally .
More , sorry for the lousy quality pictures , I don’t really know how to work my iPod .
The 1940 car is attractive, but the ’39 is just gorgeous.
Of course it comes as no surprise, but todays CC stories have absolutely blown me away.
From the Parade Phaetons here, to a vintage road test of a car I used to own (Mitsubishi I had the Aussie version)
Then on to a cool old British truck plus a 1965 Chrysler New Yorker.
Thanks so much to everyone who brings this to us everyday.
As to Chrysler’s position in the world today, as mentioned further up this thread, I hope Chrysler survives intact with Dodge and Jeep and does well.
The automotive world would be a lonely place without Mopars.
I’ve seen both the 1940 phaeton at the Henry Ford, in 1987, and the ex-Detroit ’52/56 phaeton at the Petersen. As they’ve added more Presidential Limos, I think the HFM bumped the ’40 into storage, because it wasn’t on display the last time I was there in ’08.
When my dad was at Chrysler dealer training in the late 50s, one of the stories they told was about the ’40 phaeton following a Cadillac that broke down during a parade. The driver of the Chrysler moved up to the Caddy and pushed it the rest of the way. That low-end torque from the straight 9 really came in handy.
I’d never head about there being two ’39s. That’s intriguing.
Beautiful cars, all of them, and great to hear the history of each! I was aware of the ’56 cars but not of the others, and I didn’t know there were three of the ’56 models. That really is some of the finest styling to ever see the light of day on a Chrysler. Not as flashy as the subsequent cars, but timeless elegance.
I wonder how often the New York and LA cars are used these days?
The NYC 1952/56 car is still owned by the city. The city owned TV station used it in a promo about ten years ago for one of their shows. Here is a photo of it at the NYPD Museum car show a few years back.
I had no idea these “traveled” like this. On tour, March 1955 (North Carolina)–the New York car?
A **great** essay, widening my knowledge of these cars by about 1000%. Interesting comments and additions by Nate and others as well. A little newsreel footage here (1962): Shah of Iran feted in NYC (car is still white):
NYC/1960: King of Thailand (more crisp British Pathe B&W footage; same car): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vQGZGe2SxE
I’m curious as to what kinds of vehicle are used for parade duty these days since I can’t think of any new convertibles large enough that might be up to the task. Usually, parades end up being reserved mostly for annual sports champions, i.e., World Series, Super Bowl, NBA, etc. since championship winners are not nearly the security risk of, say, major political figures.
The last production vehicle I can recall might be the last, full-size Eldorado convertible from 1976 that had an optional, hard, ‘parade-boot’ upon which dignitaries could sit.
All the parades I have been to recently in Chicago have been of the sports variety and the vehicle of choice is always a train of double decker buses, with the team and other personnel up on the exposed top level and their various support staff and hangers-on in the enclosed first level.
JPC, that was another excellent article from you—nearly all of which was new to me. Thanks for your time/expertise!
The Henry Ford Museum *does* have this color photo of the 1940 car online (feel free to add it to article):
The Los Angeles car does show up in the late-1950s film of the Broadway musical “Li’l Abner”—I can’t remember what color it was by then.
At last! Thanks for this. My one bit of confusion is that everything I read about the 1940 car was that it was a blue and silver two-tone. The upper portion looks white on this car, but I suppose that a repaint would not be unexpected at some time over its long history.
Not any more 🙁
Israel’s second president, Yitzhak Ben Zvi, had a similar car but don’t ask me what happened to it, although I would not be surprised to find out some idiot decided to recycle it into Uzi SMGs when it was pensioned.
This looks like they begun with a production version of the 55 Chrysler. I presume that it was stretched into a 4 door convertible parade car?
Wikiworld lists Picture No. 1 to be Gen Eisenhower standing and waving to June 10, 1945, with Mayor LaGuardia seated next to him.
A tiny bit more of the Los Angeles tale (December 1953): “This Chrysler Imperial Phaeton, which was seen the first time in the Rose Bowl parade was used by Roy Rogers, grand marshal of the Star of Bethlehem parade in Van Nuys Saturday. In the car with Roy is his wife, Dale Evans and the Rogers children. In front seat is Mel Lewis and the driver, Herman Hadler of the Chrysler Corp. Car was furnished for Rogers by Valley Chrysler dealers.”
1954, FWIW (Benton Harbor, MI newspaper):
It’s too bad Chrysler didn’t built more Phateons, it would have been cool to see them at the Stanley Cup parade like the one when the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1971. https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesmontreal/16431909466/in/album-72157650662201622/
Imagine and picture, Jean Beliveau who was back then the captain of the Canadiens (and retired shortly after) in a Patheon back then althought the Dodge Challenger was still cool. 😉
The MacArthur parade was right after Truman fired him.
Few years ago, when New York Times still had its auto section in its weekend edition, that Chrysler parade car was featured. It was maintained by a city garage, was in operation condition. Actually, the NYT ran that piece because it was used in a special event few weeks ago — I recalled what event was. We had a lot of them is NYC.
Our automotive section (in the Winnipeg Free Press) disappeared about two years ago. I miss it. I wonder if this is a common thing.
I guess I should be grateful we still have a daily paper.
Well, NYT should be able to survive for a while. It has been trying very hard to transform to digital format. Its heavily opinionated articles please its liberal supporters greatly especially during Trump presidency. The whole media landscape is tailoring what its reader base like. No more reporting.
I have been subscribing NYCT weekend paper ovee 30 years, my favorite sections are Weekend Review, Book Review, magazine and, of course, auto section/car review, Driven.
I get very frustrated with how news stories and editorials have morphed together. The media have gone from reporting the news to trying to shape it.
The NYT’s credit, their crossword puzzle, as carried in our daily broadsheet, remains a delight.
Great article for those of us who love Mopars.
FYI: There hasn’t been either a king or queen of England since the political union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland 1707.
“…The Los Angeles car was painted silver-blue and trimmed with white leather, and it too was featured in the filming of a movie or two…”
One of those movies is the 1962 version of Sweet Bird of Youth with Paul Newman, Gerry Page and Shirley Knight.
The parade Phaeton is heavily featured throughout the movie; it’s the personal car of small-town political “Boss” Finley – played by Ed Begley – so it’s not just in the background of only one scene, say. Lots of screen time.
This and a sweet 1961 Cadillac Series 62 convertible make it a decent car-spotting movie. Add in Tennessee Williams’s magic way with words and some stellar performances by the cast, and IMO it’s definitely worth a watch.
There was a second ’39 Custom Imperial parade phaeton built, for the Canadian portion of King George VI and Queen Mary’s tour. but it was a cut-down of a standard limousine, not a true custom. I’ve seen it referred to as a Derham job, but looks more in-house – and much less elegant than the one they did.