Looking good at 71 years young.
4 unique Chryslers to celebrate the company’s 94th birthday
Thanks to his years of prior experience, Walter Chrysler entered the automotive market at just the right time. Now 94 years on, the brand is still alive, but the cars it builds are something ol’ Walter himself likely never could have imagined.
Currently the brand has just three models—the 300, Pacifica, and Pacifica Hybrid. In an era where crossovers and SUVs are the profit centers for brands, Chrysler doesn’t have either (yet). There are rumors that a Pacifica-based crossover is in the works, but with Sergio Marchionne’s passing, the brand’s vision forward is decidedly fuzzy.
The first Chrysler automobile, which premiered at the 1924 New York Automobile Show prior to the company’s official founding in 1925, was the Chrysler Six. It sported fantastic features, namely the 201-cubic-inch six-cylinder that powered the car with a 4.7:1 compression ratio—higher than the industry average of 4.1 at the time. It also boasted full pressure oiling and aluminum pistons, while the car’s hydraulic four-wheel brakes were a first for passenger cars. Top speed was 70 mph and the car was positioned as an affordable entry to luxury car ownership with a price of $1565.
That first car set Chrysler on a path, and to honor its 94th birthday, here are four other significant cars that were graced with the Chrysler badge.
1932 Chrysler Imperial
Just eight years removed from its early beginnings, Chrysler continued to compete in the affordable luxury space in 1932, with the Imperial. The long-wheelbase chassis could be fitted with custom coachwork, but most buyers opted for a standard four-door sedan. This example was one of the few outfitted with LeBaron coachwork, thus creating a gorgeous profile that truly fits the term “full classic.”
1948 Chrysler Town and Country sedan
Chrysler’s first year for this iconic station wagon body style, named the Town and Country, was 1941. By 1948 though, Chrysler extended the white ash framing with mahogany veneer style to a sedan model that wore the same name. These sedans are timelessly beautiful, but their complicated construction made them expensive to produce, leaving little in the way of a profit from what was then the brand’s most popular model.
It would be too easy to feature the typical Hemi-powered Chrysler, so here is an example from the evolution of the long-lived 300 model. The 300 was introduced in 1955 and showcased the cutting-edge-for-the-1950s Hemi engine. The “letter cars” as they were later called, were high-power variations of the 300 series, adding a single letter that moved through the alphabet as the years wore on. Eventually the letters were dropped, but the 300 model lived on until 1971, came back in the late 1990s with the 300M, and continues now with the rear-drive-based 300 sedan.
In 1970, the 300 Hurst arrived as part of a partnership with the aftermarket shifter manufacturer. Roughly 500 examples were built, making these cars fairly rare and desirable. While it doesn’t have the Hemi, the 300 Hurst’s 440-cubic-inch V-8 with four-barrel carb laid down a potent 375 horsepower that added speed to the 300’s ample size and elegant style.
During the relative dark ages where auto brands struggled with emissions and safety controls, the K-car was Chrysler’s savior. The butt of more than a few jokes, the K-car did exactly what Chrysler needed at the time—it made money. Another big shift was with the introduction of the PT Cruiser in 2000. It had styling that harkened back to memorable elements of the brand’s history, with swoopy fenders a la ’32 Imperial, woody package (from ’02-04) to call back to the Town and Country, and turbocharged power to give the PT muscle that had been long missing from the Chrysler lineup. Taste preferences aside, the car was a sales success, even if interested waned at the end of its run.
If you have a favorite Chrysler, be sure to leave it in the comments below. Especially if it’s a Prowler.