Harry Truman’s personal 1955 New Yorker was no trailer queen
We’ve read and written plenty of stories about cars with celebrity ownership history that have little in the way of celebrity driving history. This isn’t one of those cars. On the contrary, this gorgeous 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe was not only owned by President Harry S. Truman after he left office, it served as his daily driver.
Now it could be yours.
Classic Auto Mall is selling Truman’s four-door ’55 Chrysler sedan for $83,500, which is more than twice the $33,200 value of a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe in #1 (Concours) condition (which this one is not)—without the Truman provenance. The upcharge gives you an idea of what the 33rd president’s ownership is worth … even for a car that has a few drawbacks.
Truman’s Chrysler has been fully restored inside and out, but its refurbished 250-horsepower, 331-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 engine is not running, and the exterior paint on the black-over-tan model is cracking in some places. Regardless, the New Yorker spent time in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, and is particularly significant in that Truman actually drove it like any other citizen would drive their car—for enjoyment and without a security escort. Ah, those were the days.
Truman was never one to put on airs, so it should come as no surprise that after he left office in 1953, he did something no other former president had done before or has done since: he packed his Chrysler New Yorker—not this one but an earlier 1953 model—and took his wife, Bess, on a 19-day trip to the East Coast and back. Without Secret Service protection. The Trumans’ trip was later chronicled in Matthew Algeo’s 2011 book, Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure.
Truman replaced that New Yorker with this one. According to Classic Auto Mall, in addition to making the ’55 his personal daily driver, Truman drove the car to his daughter Margaret’s wedding on April 21, 1956.
The Chrysler New Yorker was produced from 1940–96 and was the longest-running American car nameplate when it was discontinued. Early into the New Yorker’s decades-long journey, Chrysler charged into 1955 with an across-the-board redesign from innovative designer Virgil Exner dubbed “The $100 Million Look.” The luxurious 126-inch wheelbase New Yorker Deluxe became the top offering, as the larger and more exclusive Imperial was officially a separate nameplate that year. The New Yorker’s Hemi (mated to a two-speed automatic transmission) matched that year’s standard Cadillac V-8, both in displacement and horsepower.
The New Yorker’s exterior design features a split front grille and a curved bumper framing the bottom. Each side of the car wears a widening trim spear, and just past the B pillars are open vents which feed an air conditioning/cooling system located in the trunk. Chromed tailfins house cathedral-style taillights, and wide whitewall tires complete its stylish appearance.
Interior features on the Truman car include tan leather and cloth seats, thick pile brown carpeting, shiny bezels, a shifter in the dash, Town and Country radio, and circular clock.
Classic Auto Mall refers to the Truman New Yorker as “a piece of history in our midst,” and it’s difficult to argue considering it was driven freely by the last U.S. president who was allowed to do so.