This unusual Chrysler Town Car posted by LesabreToothTiger caught my eye as I was perusing the Cohort. Little did I realize that Walter Chrysler had this car designed and built to his specifications by LeBaron. But not for himself; some sources say for his wife, others for his daughter Bernice. Either way, Walter did right by the women in his life.
This splendid Town Car sit on a 140″ wheelbase chassis, and sat in the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum until 2006, when it was sold and restored by its new owner. But not before he displayed it in its original condition, and pondered whether to keep it that way.
here’s how it looked in 2012. There was a fair bit ov controversy about whether this one-off car in totally originally condition should be preserved in its “patinated” state, or be restored. Well, the outcome is evident. For what it’s worth, that’s not my idea of “good” patina. So I’m not really sorry to see it in its restored splendor, although preservationists have a point: it will never be original again.
While I agree, that from what I can see from the photo ,its not “good” Patina, in my view.
However, I believe it should of been left alone.
If I’d been Walter, I wouldn’t have wanted to preserve that particular front end on a grand limo. It’s a horrible example of how NOT to do the Art Deco thing. DeSoto’s ’37 front was only a little less awful. I would have placed a Dodge front on it, or else told LeBaron to make their own design and called it a ‘dream car’.
It does look like it belongs more on a Plymouth. In fact, when I first glanced it, I thought, wow! a Plymouth Town car. During the Depression, some folks did use low-end cars for that kind of thing.
Chrysler really was was getting deep into a corporate look from ’37 on – and it would only get worse.
Even before that there was a Model T town car as a catalogued Ford model for many years, although from what I’ve read most were used as taxis.
I wonder if that’s primer, or a different color under the failed black- though I presume it would not have been restored to black, if the latter was true. Odd how it reminds me of Neons or an Earl Shieb job. I prefer the patina be left to trucks, rat rods and lesser cars such as business coupes and Model A’s, and that ‘s just paint failure in my book.
I hope they left the interior alone, if it was presentable. Often the wool cloth, real tanning process leather and trim held up in these unlike our modern synthetics and chemical “bonded pleather.”
It’s primer; it was black from the beginning.
The interior is gorgeous. Not sure how much of it is original.
Not one of Chrysler`s better designs. It looks like it was cobbled up from two cars,the grill and hood treatment don`t work, the fabric cover over the driver`s compartment looks like an afterthought.Has none of the art deco elegance that it really needed to set it apart from lesser Chryslers. An interesting misfire. Everybody is allowed a few.
It really looks a lot better in person — especially with the driver’s compartment roof off, but that is true of many town cars. There is a lot of art deco detail in the interior (rear compartment).
Nice looking car. I’d preserve what you can in its original condition, but I’d also upgrade what you can, to make it safe to drive. Kind of a “resto-mod.”
I agree with Hatman. Patina enhances with the same kind of wear one finds on a river stone, and leaves a human shadow on an inanimate object. At its best, it reflects a well cared for possession allowed to age gracefully. Paint that’s flaked off isn’t patina; it’s effect is just the opposite It just speaks of sloppy workmanship.
In my mind, there was no other choice than restoration. You could fix the bad paint to the point that it matched, but that would be disingenuous.
My vote goes to restoration, as long as it’s sensitively done. In its “before” state, that car doesn’t look “patinated”, it just looks weary. Restored or not, it’s not a handsome car. Like Occam24, I would have just turned LeBaron loose on an Imperial chassis.
Originality is an important point. Reason for never ending discussions between two parties. Greece decided to keep Parthenon in partially ruined condition and did only the essential preservations…but not rebuilt it to Its perfect condition… If a car is displayed in a diorama that could be a reason for keeping it unrestored but preserved together with its patina. On the other hand if it is destined for a luxury showroom than it has to be restored obviously…
It’s funny to note that historians have recently realized that a lot of the Greek sculptures we think of as being pure white are only so because later owners or claimants stripped the original paint (which recent examinations and recreations have found to be quite gaudy).
Blame the Romans. They’re the ones who thought those old Greek ruins were supposed to be white, and perpetuated that by “copying” that esthetic.
The buildings were brightly painted too.
For a car that ungainly, restoration is no biggie. Something better looking might be a different story. But then, something better looking might not have been allowed to fall into that condition in the first place.
The before photo almost makes the car look like it has been in a wreck. Peeling paint and a sagging convertible top look more like maintenace problems to me, not patina. Restoration seems to have been a wise decision.
The whole “town car” concept with the driver exposed to the elements is an interesting phenomenon. Undoubtedly a nod to the days of carriages when the driver was also outside. It sure looks elitist today that a very impractical design was utilized, to put it bluntly, to keep the help in their place.
Plus those plebes could see you have help so much the better.
I would love to recreate that famous prank, based on the film “Every Which way but Loose-” involving a town car limo with an Orangutan, Golden Retriever or Scarlet Macaw uniformed driver.
Wasn’t that one of the Cannonball Run sequels?
I should have known that, had a bootleg copy on VHS. Got my oragutans mixed up.
Don’t see those orangutan gags, or other non-hominid higher primates, in movies much anymore, thanks to PETA, and computerized special effects.
The Town Car was the ultimate in class warfare–the driver sits outside, exposed to the elements in the performance of his humble duty, while the wealthy owners sit in back, completely separated from the common folk. It really is an obnoxious concept.
Sadly, they also tended to be attractive. Even this one would be were it not for that odd grille. I like the grillework on the sides of the hood, even, but the actual nose treatment is bulbous and peculiar.
I’m surprised Mr. Burns doesn’t have Waylon Smithers drive him around in one- he does have that cool Bentley, though.
It does reek of pure elitism, but I think the drivers had fairly decent gig, for they were often a full time skilled mechanic for the car.
Those front compartments were also stingy in regards of space, with coarse leather seats versus the top shelf wool used in the rear. I’ve heard the Toyota Century has a control to “adjust” the position of the driver from the rear, I wonder if anyone has actually done that to Jeebs-san.
Which is also funny when you consider so many people think leather is “high end” and cloth is “low end”, when leather used to be for the drivers compartment while the rich folks sat in the enclosed part on wool and broadcloth.
The Mr. Burns association is also correct, the drivers job was a JOB back then, these cars don’t stop or turn, they have unassisted steering with a turning radius of a Nimitz class carriers, automatic transmission? Whats that? Not only were you expected to drive this as chauffer, but you were expected to drive it smoothly as to not disturb your employer in the back.
Can you imagine a rich old lady or someone with the strength of Mr. Burns driving one of these things?
I’ve always wondered if a driver was ever fired on the spot for something ridiculous, such as an unplanned backfire in front of the governors’ mansion somewhere in Dixie, blackening his honor’s daughters’ gowns…Only latter the owner, after a generous service of mint jelups, would come to realize he had no clue on how he was going to get the beast, or himself home- perhaps his “secret society” buddy JW Wentworth came through with a loaner driver.
My word Saxby! That was most uncouth! Stalling the the V16 Fleetwood at the summer cotillion! When we get back to the manor, clean out your apartment above the carriage house and have the butler drive you back to town.
Leather has pulled the wool over the consumer’s eyes. It has a lot of the qualities of vinyl which used to be associated with lower end or very practical cars driven by the sticky kid in tow set.
The cloth used in today’s fabric cars tends to be very low quality, to force you into a leather car. My 2002 Durango was one of the last vehicles with great fabric – it shows no wear after 12 years and 90K. As my 17 year old put it, “its more comfortable and you don’t need seat heaters and coolers.” Wise words indeed.
In the 30s, Walter Chrysler and his family lived mostly in New York, so a town car was probably something fairly common in his circle. Good for him in sticking with his own car instead of putting on the dog with a Packard or a Cadillac.
Chrysler styling was an interesting place in the 30s. The Airflow had been styled over in Engineering. Ray Dietrich was head of styling, but got bypassed on the Airflow. He was in with Walter Chrysler, but after Chrysler’s stroke in 1937 or 38, Fred Zeder got him fired.
Dietrich’s designs are a little uneven. The best of them (like the 38 Chrysler or 39 Plymouth) are quite good. Some, like this one, were a bit off. In fairness, the general body lines and proportions are quite nice on the car. The front is an acquired taste, I’ll admit. However, his stuff is a lot better than Henry King’s who followed him.
I remember cringing when I first read that Ray Dietrich designed this car. But the mid-to-late 30s were a bit of a wayward period in design overall, as many brands struggled to shift from the classic to the modern, by way of streamlining. Nash and Hudson come to mind.
There’s patina, and there’s neglect.
Given its provenance, restoration and preservation seem appropriate.
The ’37 was the only year with these high-mounted bugeye headlights. The next year they moved down to the fenders, and further apart, which is a bit more dignified.
Perhaps Walter had this car made so that when he had to drive his mother in law somewhere he did not have to hear her whine about things. It looks like the perfect mother in law car with a nice solid partition between you and the MiL.
Strait-8 power I presume?
Google – Yes Straight-8.
Glad it was saved and not rodded or pimped out .
The only photo I had taken of me when I was at the Pebble Beach Concours, I was standing next to Rudolph Hess’ Mercedes.
Now that had patina.
Rodolfo’s ol’ Benz should be kept around, just for her history- but the idea of owning, is creepy in the least. I would consider donation to a Holocaust museum. I’m surprised that the event planners didn’t say: “Thanks, but no.”
I’m fairly skeptical of the supernatural or cursed objects, but I don’t take chances in that arena. My pay grade fortunately protects me from these situations.
I saw it at Hershey, it’s magnificent! The quintessential Art Deco full-custom coachbuilt LeBaron town car. It might be the very last full custom body built by LeBaron.
The chassis is an Imperial Custom C-15, lengthened to 144″ wb from the standard 140″ wb, powered by the 323.5 ci straight eight that would stay in production through 1950, found under the hoods of Saratoga, New York, Imperial and Crown Imperial models.
For those who find the ’37 Imperial’s styling ‘off’, I suggest a look at Special Interest Automobile’s December 1984 issue, where they featured a ’37 Imperial drophead (see imperial club 1937 – http://www.imperialclub.com/~imperialclub/Articles/37SIA/index.htm).
On the smaller wheelbase, grill and the art deco comes together perfectly (as is the case on most coupes/convertibles) -from the winged emblems on the fender skirts to the dashboard gauges and banjo steering wheel.
Below is a good resolution picture of the understated deco gauges (however this example doesn’t have the optional banjo steering wheel which was over-the-top Deco).
I am surprised that that car had a floor mounted manual gear shifter. By the mid 1930’s the column mounted shifter became popular and all luxury car makers were putting them in their cars.
Actually, I am not sure that anyone was doing a column shift before 1939, but it seems to have hit the market with force in 1939-40.
In 1937-38, there were two style trends around the grille: grille lines extending down both sides of the hood, and a cant to the grille (grilles had been canted backward since the early 30s, but the forward cant was new).
With that as context, take a look at the picture below of a ’37 Studebaker (top) and the ’38 Graham (bottom). Contrast that with the ’37 Chrysler’s lines and they now look appropriate to the time (although I would argue that Studebaker pulled it off the best, the backward cant to the grille was ‘old’ by then).
Last comment on grilles: the ’37 Chrysler looks elegant in comparison with the ’38 Oldsmobile ~!
Last month at Hershey the owner was explaining why he restored the car. He sort of didn’t have a choice. This body has a lot of wood framing inside. The wood was so badly dry rotted that the car was in danger of falling apart on its own. So it couldn’t be preserved as-is; it had to be taken apart and restored from the inside out.
One shouldn’t blame Ray Dietrich too much for the uneven ’30’s frontal styling as head of their small styling group. Although friends with Walter Chrysler, engineering dominated completely what was built and apparently did so with WPC’s consent. Oliver Clark, chief body engineer didn’t like Dietrich or his progressive ideas, thwarted his efforts at every turn. Ever wonder why Chrysler products had butterfly-style hoods long after others had gone to alligator-style? Credit Engineering.
Chrysler also frequently turned to Briggs Body Company and their small in-house staff for design services, the 1935-36 Airstream models issued from there. Briggs was building a high percentage of their bodies, certain to have much credibility when it came to suggested styling.
One thing that’s rarely considered about Ray Dietrich: his greatest designs were for the body only from the cowl rearward. Although he had great feel and talent for proportion and detail, that might not have extended to frontal styling. Also, as the design ethic transitioned from classic to streamlined, he may have had more feel for the former than the latter.