Curbside Classic: 1968 Chrysler Town and Country – The Importance Of Being Earnest

The irrepressible Oscar Wilde subtitled his most famous play “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” a work whose protagonist was “Ernest in town and Jack in the country” because this double life freed him from tedious Victorian social obligations.  In doing so, Wilde gently reminded us of the absurdity of our social constructs in a way that allowed him to brandish his rapid-fire brand of wordplay.  While the name of Chrysler’s paradoxically named station wagon may or may not have been dedicated to one of Ireland’s wittiest scribes, it’s clear that its product planners wanted buyers to see themselves as fitting in anywhere, including perhaps a rural car lot in Northern Michigan, where I found this lopsided example back in October.

Decades before our featured Town and Country was pressed into service carrying the dog and kids, its nameplate was affixed to a much more dashing hero of a car, the wood-bodied Chrysler of the same name.  Somehow, the thought of this Town and Country plying a sylvan country lane is more appropriate than our Newport-based feature wagon, the persona of which deserves an Oscar Wilde-like wink at ourselves to accept.

After all, false wood sides do not a real Town and Country make, in my opinion.  This Town and Country is even more fraudulent than those that earned their name plates by way of their arboreal wallpaper, as the woodgrained flanks were ostensibly a delete option of which the original owner of this example took advantage.  The idea here is less about fitting in anywhere than it is blending in anywhere, which isn’t exactly the same thing.

Being a plain, beige example of a wagon that few people saved, one may question how this wagon found its way to the salt belt in such solid condition.  This Town and Country still wears an Idaho license plate; therefore, its owner most probably trod a similar path to mine with my ’65 Dart wagon (which had an Idaho title when I bought it from Wildcat Mopars in Oregon).  Nearly rust-free derelicts being my purview, it’s no surprise that I was drawn to this behemoth, forlornly sitting on a blown out tire or three.  Like my Dart, this Chrysler’s condition has progressed to the point of making an economical restoration impractical; however, there’s no reason not to resurrect it into a fun “beater,” as I did with the Dart.

The ’68 Town and Country might even be a better resurrected classic than my Dart.  It’s certainly more powerful with its standard 383.  It’s roomier, being available in six or nine-passenger versions.  It’s easier to drive, with standard power steering and brakes, in addition to a standard Torqueflite (if my Standard Catalog of Chrysler is to be believed).  It’s larger, so occasional errands to the home improvement store would be less confining.  It’s more mellifluous, so fuel mileage may suffer from the temptation of its big-block’s bellowing.  With all that being said, this Town and Country wore no “for sale” signs, but a man of my proclivities can’t help but imagine the possibilities.

Unlike the denouement of The Importance of Being Earnest, where all loose ends are conveniently tied up by a well-timed illustration of Deus ex machina (that involves incest if one is to apply the machinations of modern jurisprudence), the headliner and rear seat of the Chrysler may not be so lucky, nor may be the driver if the white substance on the front seat is firmly entrenched in the mold camp.  Buyers take caution (and a respirator).

I did not check to see if this was a six-or-nine-passenger model, but there is plenty of room for a wagon-driving protagonist to go Bunburying.

Considering that The Importance of Being Earnest relies heavily on the concept of hiding one’s true identity and eventually being exposed, this wagon’s missing fender skirts become an appropriate plot device.  On the other hand, real life doesn’t always solve itself as readily as fictional literature does.  As an expert in the double entendre, Oscar Wilde was well-versed in nuance, but he may not have been able to procure a rare Chrysler sheetmetal stamping.

Oscar Wilde’s writing career abruptly came to an end after Earnest debuted, and that is a sad story of its own.  Less tragic for anyone with a heart not made of minerals is the fact that this big Chrysler is the last for a while that wasn’t labeled “fuselage.”  The story of the fuselage Chrysler has been told many a time here at CC, with many bemoaning the passing of its forebear.

But like interesting literature, interesting cars survive and are remembered by those who appreciate them for their noble qualities.  We lost Oscar Wilde in the infancy of the motorcar, and he’d most likely use a zinger to describe any man who used his work as a metaphor to describe one; however, some things are too good to pass up.

Postscript: Check out this ’67 Town and Country on the AACA forum for $6000 (the Craigslist ad is probably gone):

1967 Chrysler Newport Town and Country Station Wagon

For further reading:

1968 Chrysler Town and Country – My Favorite Big Wagon by PN