In 1949, the Chrysler Corporation introduced a new disc brake system, but it was nothing like the disc brakes we know today. Here’s how it worked. 570 more wordsA Completely Different Kind of Disc Brake: 1949 Chrysler — Mac’s Motor City Garage
When Chrysler Reintroduced the Convertible for 1982, No Less than the LeBaron Name Would Do – Jim Black @Hemmings
Even with a Storied Name, the Compact K-Derived Ragtop was a Gamble for Lacocca
When Lee Iacocca left the Ford Motor Company and joined Chrysler in 1978, he was faced with rebuilding a car company on the verge of bankruptcy. One of the reasons for the company’s lack of capital, he claimed, was that the corporation’s diverse number of platforms—five in production at the time —shared few common parts, which in turn had created a complex manufacturing and inventory conundrum.
Correcting Chrysler’s fortunes would require a streamlined system of production already in practice in Germany and Japan: fewer platforms with a broad array of shared components, most of which were hidden from buyer’s eyes. While Iacocca stood before the U.S. Congress making his appeal for the great “Chrysler bailout” in 1979, his engineers were busy developing a new chassis: The K-car platform.
The new front-wheel-drive K-platform debuted as the compact Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant in the fall of 1980, replacing the recall-plagued Aspen and Volare in the divisions’ lineups. Each of the new “K-cars” were offered in two-door and four-door sedan body styles, as well as a station wagon, in various trim levels. It was a clear shift for the corporation, with more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient vehicles aimed at lowering the buyers’ operating costs while simultaneously reducing production costs.
No sooner had the K-car begun to roll off dealership lots across the country when the parent division began to adopt the chassis for a reimagined LeBaron, set to be introduced for 1982. Like its corporate siblings, the new LeBaron was to make use of the existing two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and wagon—but a storied, luxurious name needed, perhaps, just a bit more, and this is where adaptability came into play as part of Iacocca’s engineering directive.
The Chrysler brand had not offered a convertible since the 1970 model year. Encouraged, in part, by a rebounding economy, Iacocca felt there might be renewed interest. To test the waters, he had a LeBaron two-door coupe sent from the St Louis, Missouri, plant to California, where it was modified into a “non-functional” convertible. Once completed and displayed at several auto shows — where it was met with strong interest— Cars and Concepts, based in Brighton, Michigan, was contracted to manage the conversion of two-door coupes into convertibles for the posh LeBaron (and the new Dodge 400).
Cars and Concepts was chosen from a list of aftermarket firms based on their competitive price, coupled with a full-service package of engineering, manufacturing, and after-sale support. Just as important, the company was deemed to have a proper concept of how to build convertibles in the new decade. As one would expect, Cars and Concepts did more than just hack off the roof of a two-door coupe. Approximately 34 separate steps were undertaken to complete the complex conversion, most of which included the necessary sheetmetal surgery and intricate body reinforcement required.
Thus, when the reimagined Chrysler LeBaron was officially unveiled for 1982, the entry-level luxury car was available in two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and convertible guises. Having shed its former boxy look for aerodynamic sleekness without sacrificing elegant trimmings, the all-new LeBaron was announced as, “Lee Iacocca’s dream to combine high mileage and luxury in a series of cars,” in ads pitched by actor Ricardo Montalban.
With the redesign came refreshing fuel-mileage estimates of 25 in the city and as high as 40 on the highway. Such numbers were made possible in part by a Chrysler-developed 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine (equating to 135 cubic inches) rated at 84 horsepower and 111 pound-feet of torque offered as standard equipment, save for the LeBaron Town & Country, which received the otherwise-optional Mitsubishi-produced 2.6-liter four-cylinder. A four-speed manual transmission was standard, though an automatic was optional.
Naturally, the LeBaron convertible was to be the ultimate in luxury further touted in Chrysler brochures and ads: “The convertible exudes an elegance, a sense of style that starts at the tip of its highly stylized grille and continues through to plush interior appointments. No other car is causing so much excitement.” That said, a luxury tradition was maintained when Chrysler offered the line in the upscale Medallion series, as depicted by this Mark Cross edition currently under the care of Ted DeHoogh of Sioux Center, Iowa.
Immaculate 1973 Chrysler Town & Country Wagon is the Ultimate Family Hauler! – Jim Donnelly @Hemmings
In the late 1980s, Chrysler transformed its Town & Country, and most other station wagons it produced, by reimagining them into its first-generation minivans, built on the front-wheel-drive S platform and sharing powertrain with Lee Iacocca’s ubiquitous K-cars. That’s notable because for most of the time leading up to then, the Town & Country was a massive, luxury-packed conventional station wagon with a longitudinal layout and an overall length that stretched right out of sight. The Chrysler minivans rocked the automotive world as few new cars before them had done, defining a new way to carry people and their possessions.
The redefinition of the wagon erased some of the attributes that made Americans love big station wagons in the first place: Gobs of big-block power, enough to ferry a full family across the continent with their belongings in back and whatever was left over in a trailer bobbing along behind. It’s a portrait in time that defines the postwar American dream as thoroughly as a tract house in a newly plowed suburb. A big station wagon is an iconic automobile. Given the way most of them were used hard by their owners and the owners’ hordes of kids, finding a survivor today is a definite occasion.
The exact mileage of this enormous 1973 Chrysler Town & Country nine-passenger station wagon (which means a rear-facing third seat) is unclear, though the owner thinks it’s on the light side of 100,000. Its condition is both original and phenomenal: Virtually everything, right down to the 3M woodgrain on the sides, is just as it was when the monstrous wagon rolled out of the Jefferson Avenue plant in Detroit in September 1972. All the owner says he’s had to do is gently touch up a little bit of woodgrain and one rock-chipped body piece, and then figure out its complex climate control’s vagaries.
According to widely accepted records, Chrysler built 14,687 copies of the nine-passenger Town & Country wagons for 1973, the highest total for fuselage-body wagons in that premium model range. Look inside, and you’ll find an unusual non-patterned cloth interior in prime condition, and a cargo area that’s devoid of scuffs and gouges from skidding objects and careless feet. It’s fully loaded with options, lacking only power windows, surprising for a car that was sold new in Arizona.
Again, fewer than 15,000 were built. Where are you going to find a survivor with this level of originality, options, and non-abused quality? In your dreams. Or, if you’re particularly fortunate, in the car corral at the AACA Eastern Fall Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hank Hallowell, who lives in Hershey and owns this nearly perfect Chrysler, bought it there just minutes after also buying a late “Letter Car” from Chrysler at the same sale.
“It’s my favorite Town & Country, to be truthful,” Hank explains. “I prefer the front end of the 1973; it’s the only year without the chrome loop front bumper, and it has the Chrysler New Yorker front end because the industry was heading toward a more formal, classic look. The New Yorker front looks majestic on the Town and Country. Plus, ’72 and ’73 were the only years for the fuselage-body wagon with fender skirts, which enhance the lines of the car dramatically.”
More high-end souped-up Dodge, Ram, Jeep vehicles stolen right from the plant in Detroit!
More on the story here
The Mod Top, Chrysler Corp’s 1969 Appeal to Female Buyers, Makes an Interesting Collectible Today – Bill Rothermel @Hemmings
Kim Barnes has a memory from her youth, of riding her Sears Sting-Ray-style “banana seat” bicycle past Friedman Chrysler-Plymouth in Des Moines, Iowa. There, in the showroom, was a yellow Mod Top Barracuda. About a block away was Des Moines AMC, which had a red, white, and blue Hurst SC/Rambler in the showroom. “I was obsessed with both cars, especially the yellow Barracuda,” she recalls.
Like other seven-year-olds of that time, Kim was a big fan of The Partridge Family and she collected Partridge Family trading cards. At the same time, she secretly collected trading cards of her favorite automobiles, too. “I had one of the yellow Mod Top Barracuda, as well as a blue Satellite Mod Top, in my collection,” Kim says.
One day, Kim rode by the dealership and the Mod Top Barracuda was gone. Her obsession with the unusual car continued. She certainly had no idea at the time, but a yellow Mod Top Barracuda would become part of her automotive stable nearly 50 years later.
Marketing specifically to woman buyers was nothing new. Dodge toured a pair of concept cars in 1954 called Le Comte and La Comtesse —specially modified Chrysler Newports with glass roof inserts. While Le Comte was finished in “masculine” colors, La Comtesse was painted Dusty Rose and Pigeon Gray—ostensibly to appeal to women.
Response was favorable and Dodge offered the La Femme, based on the Custom Royal Lancer, as a midyear “Spring Special” in 1955. It was finished in a Heather Rose and Sapphire White exterior color combination, while the interior was upholstered in cloth featuring pink rosebuds on a silver-pink background, with pink vinyl trim. Included was a fully accessorized keystone-shaped purse, along with a matching raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella.
Considered a sales success, La Femme returned for the 1956 model year, this time in Misty Orchid and Regal Orchid. The interior was quite lavish, with a unique white cloth highlighted by purple and lavender, a special headliner with gold flecks, and loop pile carpeting in various shades of purple and lavender. Once again, a raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella were included (but no purse) for the 1956 model year. Sales numbers were never reported but it is estimated that some 2,500 cars received the $143 option over two years.
The wonders of the Chrysler Norseman lie shipwrecked in the Atlantic – Jeff Peek @Hagerty
In the late-night hours of July 26, 1956, about 40 miles off the coast of Nantucket Island and nearing the end of its transatlantic journey from Italy to New York, the luxurious ocean liner SS Andrea Doria collided with another ship in heavy fog. Fifty-one people were killed, a number that would have been much higher had the Doria not remained afloat for 11 hours before it slipped below the water’s surface to its final resting place.
Considering the loss of life, less attention was given to the cargo that went down with the ship, but Chrysler Corporation quickly crafted a press release, matter-of-factly sharing the details of an “idea” car—the Norseman—that had been lost while making its way to America from Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia.
Calling the car’s pillarless design “revolutionary,” the press release acknowledged that the Norseman “must be considered a complete loss.” And then, oddly, Chrysler shared that the car was “covered by insurance.” The New York Times reported that the automaker invested $200,000 into the project, the equivalent to $2.1 million today. What Chrysler didn’t say in its press release was that it could never recoup the time and effort that went into creating the four-door hardtop sedan: 50,000 hours of research and labor, two years in design, and another 15 months to build it. All gone, thanks to the the unfortunate confluence of bad weather and certain regrettable decisions.
SS Andrea Doria
The SS Andrea Doria was a source of great national pride when it was launched in 1951. Named for a 16th-century Genoese admiral, it was considered the largest, fastest, and (supposedly) safest of all Italian ships when it took its maiden voyage in January 1953. The opulent 29,100-ton ship had a normal capacity of 1200 passengers and 500 crew, and it had successfully completed 50 transatlantic voyages when it left the port of Genoa on July 17, 1956—with 1706 on board—and headed west to New York City. In an odd coincidence with the more famous RMS Titanic, which sank in 1912 during what was to be Captain Edward Smith’s final turn at the helm before retirement, Cpt. Piero Calamai was taking his final tour on the Andrea Doria before moving to its sister ship, the SS Christopher Columbo.
Nine days into the journey across the Atlantic Ocean and less than 300 miles from New York, dense fog made it difficult to see beyond the bow. Regardless, Calamai maintained a speed of more than 20 knots in the heavily trafficked area while the ship’s crew became completely reliant on radar.
Meanwhile, the MS Stockholm, having recently left New York for Sweden, was fast approaching in the same shipping lane, heading east. The Stockholm, less than half the size of the Doria but designed with a reinforced ice-breaking bow, was also operating solely by radar due to the heavy fog.
Both ships were aware of the other as they drew closer, but it was later revealed that the Stockholm’s radar was set to a different range, so the Doria was actually closer to the Swedish ship than its crew realized. Nevertheless, it was Doria Cpt. Calamai’s decision to turn his ship to port—not starboard, in accordance with maritime rules—that proved fatal. With both ships turning in the same direction, the Stockholm struck the Doria at an almost 90-degree angle.
Below deck was the Norseman. Designed by Chrysler’s engineering division and built by Ghia, Chrysler claimed the concept “incorporated more structural, chassis, electrical, and styling innovations than any other ‘idea’ car every designed by Chrysler.”
The automaker’s press release added:
“Although the car was intended to have as great structural strength as today’s automobiles, it had no posts or pillars to support the roof. This was accomplished by means of structural cantilever arch, which curved upward from the rear of the frame and over the passenger compartment of the car.
“Glass surrounding the passenger compartment was uninterrupted, with the exception of the two arches of steel curving upward in the rear. In addition, there was a 12-square-foot panel of glass in the rook that was power operated and slid forward, leaving the roof over the rear seat open.
“All major body panels on the car were made of aluminum, as a result of research in advanced structural techniques to reduce weight. It had a sharply sloping hoof, unswept tail fins, and a covered, smooth underbody for aerodynamic efficiency.”Read on
A Pared-Down Take on Upscale Luxury Marked Chrysler’s 1972 New Yorker Brougham – Mark J McCourt @Hemmings
Was it a cause of Tom Wolfe’s “‘Me’ Decade” or a byproduct? By the early 1970s, the 1969 Volkswagen ad that had cheekily suggested Americans should live below their means felt out of touch. Really, we were worthy of indulgence, and near-luxury automakers like Chrysler were happy to oblige. More of everything would prove the trend of the decade, and from the early days, the New Yorker Brougham offered consumers a unique interpretation of middle-class luxury.
The Imperial line had all but been absorbed into Chrysler by 1972, those well-appointed flagship two- and four-door hardtops built alongside lesser models instead of on a dedicated assembly line and marketed in the same brochure. Their unit-bodies were long-wheelbase variants of the parent company’s standard versions and bore minimal styling differentiation. At the same time, Chrysler’s eponymous models were creeping upmarket; the New Yorker Brougham offered nearly as many lavish trimmings as a Cadillac- or Lincoln-fighting Imperial LeBaron, in a slightly smaller (but, at 224.1 inches long over a 124-inch wheelbase, a still-generous) package.
This New Yorker Brougham remained in the possession of its original owner until 1994, by which time she’d driven it fewer than 22,000 miles. It now displays just under 23,500 miles and retains all its factory-original finishes and features. “A couple of scratches have been touched up, but I’ve never found evidence that any panel has been changed. I just think it was a nice lady’s go-to-church car, and from what we can tell, it accumulated pretty minimal mileage,” Jeff Stork explains. “This Chrysler remained in North Carolina, we believe in collector hands, until we brought it to California in 2018.”
As curator of the 80-car-strong Prescott Collection, Jeff is the primary caretaker of the time capsule Mopar and others of its ilk. This collection specializes in postwar American automobiles, with a particular emphasis on these four-door hardtops that are typically overlooked by other collectors. He tells us they sought this car both for its pristine condition and for its individualist interpretation of American luxury motoring in that era. “We wanted a 1972 because it was the first year of the New Yorker Brougham, and the last year of the original styling statement, with the loop front bumper that was gone in 1973.”
“This car represents a very interesting moment in American automotive history. It was the Broughamization of America… the automakers were ‘going for baroque,’” Jeff says with a laugh. “Suddenly everyone had these luxury offerings with upgraded cloth interiors and vinyl tops. You could get this in midsize cars like the Cutlass Supreme, and even in what had previously been the low-priced three with the Ford LTD and Chevy Caprice. The automakers were reaching up to see how many profitable features they could offer. This car reminds me of Marcus Welby, M.D.; I used to watch that show when I was a kid, and Welby drove a blue one. He was a caring doctor, and this Chrysler exudes upper-middle-class respectability.”
1960-’61 Chrysler 300F & 300G Buyer’s Guide – Matt Litwin @Hemmings
The original “businessman’s hot rod” combined a racing pedigree with luxury trimmings
When people boasted of the performance of Chrysler-branded automobiles during the postwar years, it was usually in reference to the cars’ mechanical prowess: smooth and reliable, just like a luxury vehicle should be. Naturally, powerful acceleration was a key element, but it was intended to make premium models more capable on the road, and not meant for speed contests. The corporation’s other divisions were better equipped to manage a young buyer’s stoplight-sprint antics.
Part of that perspective changed when the division released the C-300 in 1955. Fitted with the 300-hp, 331-cu.in. “FirePower” V-8 capable of pushing it to a top speed of 130 mph, the specially trimmed hardtop coupe broke the mold while redefining the parameters of a luxury coupe. Adventurous CEOs could feel the excitement of raw power while seated in a luxurious cabin, surrounded by coachwork that spoke of edgy—yet not audacious — exclusivity. And it was exclusive: Just 1,725 were built in the first year, each costing $4,110 (or $40,095 today) without options.
More compelling was how the C-300 began to cement its legacy beyond the boulevard. Trimmed for racing, it utterly dominated the NASCAR and AAA stock car ranks, which continued a year later with the updated 300B. For 1957, the 300C set a notable production car speed record at Daytona Beach before the Chrysler division took a bow and left the business of racing to Dodge and Plymouth, prior to the AMA embargo.
Although the on-track exploits may have been put to rest, the exclusive “Letter Cars” remained in production, continuously improved both visually and mechanically. The model’s evolution took a significant leap forward when the 300F was introduced in 1960, the basic elements of which carried through to the 300G of ’61, with attributes that not only set these cars apart from their predecessors but have attracted both collectors and vintage-car driving enthusiasts alike since. If you’ve been considering the purchase of one, here are some things you should be aware of
1934 Chrysler Airflow Goes Over the Cliff and Drives Away | Road and Track
Watch a 1934 Chrysler Airflow get dropped of a cliff in an early Chrysler PR stunt to illustrate the strength of unibody construction. Video courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC.
Which domestic performance car from 1957 would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings
Let’s open the floodgates of the American performance car debate, specifically when the first regular production examples emerged from assembly plants. While many will quickly give a nod to Pontiac’s 1964 GTO, others will suggest the bar was raised in a far different era. The Stutz Bearcat from the Teens is a perfect early candidate. So, too, is Buick’s Century, introduced in 1936: It was a true midsize car that made use of the larger Roadmaster’s more-powerful straight-eight engine; it was reportedly capable of hitting 100 mph under the right conditions. Then, of course, there was the 1949 Oldsmobile 88, featuring the high-output Rocket V-8 engine that tore up drag strips and stock car circuits alike. Was Hudson’s Twin-H powerplant, nestled in the Hornet, a more suitable candidate, or, perhaps, Detroit’s explosion of elaborate fuel induction systems in 1957? Let’s pause here and review a handful of arguably-muscular options from the year in our latest edition of This or That, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.
It’s no secret that Chrysler Corporation set the NASCAR circuit on fire in 1955 and ’56, thanks to team principals like Lee Petty and Carl Kiekhaefer, the latter of whom amassed an astounding 52 wins as team owner, along with 52 poles and 139 top-10 finishes by 11 drivers in just a combined 190 starts–a NASCAR record at the time. At the dawn of the 1957 season, Kiekhaefer and his teams were gone, but not the powerful Mopars he loved to prepare for racing, such as this 1957 Chrysler 300C. Although the upscale and freshly restyled performance model was no longer a contender on the track – it went winless in ’57 – it was a winner at the dealership when 1,918 hardtops found new buyers, bolstered by the sale of 484 convertibles. The base price for each was $4,929 and $5,359 respectively (or $46,517 and $50,575 today), but that price also netted a standard 375-hp 392-cu.in. V-8 engine, its output made possible by a pair of four-barrel carburetors. According to the scant description provided by the seller of this hardtop: