the view through the windshield
1947 Chrysler Town & Country - Postwar Wooden Elegance

The idea of Santa Claus making deliveries of gifts in a wooden sleigh drawn by reindeer is preposterous by today's standards. It's time for an update. I suggest replacing the wood sleigh with another wood-containing product - a postwar Chrysler Town & Country convertible. In red, of course.

Wood wagons go back to the early 20th Century; the Ford Model T depot hack being an example.

But when the 1941 Chrysler Town & Country station wagon was introduced in 1941, it represented a unique departure from standard wood wagon style and construction. The Town and Country was the first woodie wagon with an all-steel roof and featured stylish rounded barrel-style double rear doors. In 1941 and 1942, fewer than 1,000 of these 'barrel-back' models were manufactured.

After the war the Town & Country nameplate returned but the station wagon body did not. Town & Country sedans, convertibles and a few prototype hardtop coupes were also produced, starting from 1946. They were produced in much greater numbers than the prewar wagon.

The Town and Country convertible was based on the New Yorker model. It rode on the larger Chrysler 127.5-inch wheelbase and was powered by a 135 horsepower, 323.5-cubic-inch L-head straight-eight engine.

The T&C feathred a power-operated cloth top and was a heavy beast weighing 4,300 pounds. It featured an upscale interior upholstered in leather, Bedford cord or 'miracle' 'Saran' woven plastic. Highlander tartan upholstery was optional but no Town and Country convertibles are known to be produced with that interior, although lots of lesser Chryslers were fitted with the snappy tartan-plaid interiors.

1947 Chrysler Highlander convertible with Scots plaid and leatherette interior

Premium pricing limited sales - only 2,651 convertibles were produced in 1947 and were priced at a lofty $2,998. Over a three-year period, a little over of 8,000 Town & Country convertibles were sold.

At the 2013 Scottsdale Auction, a stunning green 1948 Chrysler Town & Country woodie convertible crossed the gavel for $88,000. I seem to recall that T&C ragtops were selling for about the same price 30 years ago. Less than six figures for such an American Icon seems like a bargain to me. (11/28/14)

Scale Model T&Cs: In 1990, I purchased a maroon Chrysler T&C convertible made by Motor City USA. These handbuilt white metal models were manufactured in Southern California in very limited quantities. The models were expensive, costing over $200 new. Motor City USA stopped offering models in 2008 or so. I later sold my maroon Chrysler at a nice profit. eBay is currently showing this model with asking prices of $450 and up. A much cheaper, lighter and sturdier alternative is Vitesse's T&C convertible model. I bought my silver-blue example in 1991 for less than $30.

Remember When: 1947
auto blogIn 1947, Howard Hughes made the maiden (and only) flight of the infamous wooden Spruce Goose airplane. On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in an experimental rocket plane. Princess Elizabeth II, the future queen of England, married in November. The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in a cave in '47.

On April 16th, a disaster in Texas City, TX killed over 560 people. A fire aboard a French freighter caused its ammonium nitrate cargo to explode. The resultant chain-reaction destroyed the nearby Monsanto chemical plant, demolished the business district and set off fires throughout the city. With its fire equipment demolished and no water pumping capability in the city, the carnage was massive. It was deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history.

Kaiser-Frazer Corporation’s first car was launched for the 1947 model year - the Kaiser Special along with its companion, the Frazer. Like the Studebaker, these cars had the first true postwar sheet metal with three-box enveloped bodies and fender lines that ran front to rear in an unbroken contour.

In '47, Packard offered power seats and windows across their range.

Even though World War II had ended, there were shortages of many items as factories struggled to made the switch to peacetime production. In 1946 and '47, many automobiles were delivered with sawn lumber pieces instead of chrome bumpers. Customers were given IOUs for 'real' bumpers which would be available later.

In October, the first Levittown home was occupied.

Levitt homes became the prototype for mass-produced, affordable, look-alike housing that characterized the Fifties.

New for '47 were Proctor & Gamble's Tide - the first cold-water laundry detergent, food flavor ingredient MSG, Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores and the Polaroid Land camera, priced at $35.

B.F. Goodrich began selling the first tubeless tires and Reddi-Whip was introduced to the American public. It was the first highly-artificial convenience food and could be sprayed out of a can, like paint or insect repellent. The accent was on convenience and speed, not taste. It was, perhaps, a first step toward the '50s trend of freeing the housewife from the drudgery of daily chores.

Plastic was still a considered a wonder material. The very first National Plastics Exposition was held in New York in 1946.

In 1947, the first automatic transfer molding press was developed, permitting high quantity production of items made from thermosetting plastics. The first commercial use of transparent red Plexiglas thermoplastic injection molding compound was the center brake lamp on the 1947 Chrysler.

Television was still in its infancy. Nevertheless, several significant programs made their debuts, including 'CBS Evening News' and 'Kraft Television Theatre'. In late 1947, Howdy Doody and Kukla, Fran and Ollie appeared on the small screen. (The original announcer for Kukla, Fran & Ollie was a young unknown named Hugh Downs.) The opening session of Congress was broadcast in '47, the first televised Congressional event. Wrestler Gorgeous George made his debut on the DuMont Network.

Several notable movies debuted in 1947: 'Dark Passage', 'The Fugitive', 'Gentlemen's Agreement', 'Miracle On 34th Street' and 'The Road To Rio'.

Big '47 record hits - sold in the form of large, 10-inch diameter, mineral-filled shellac 78 rpm records - included Peg O' My Heart' (Harmonicats), 'Open The Door, Richard' (Dusty Fletcher), 'Too Fat Polka' (Arthur Godfrey), 'Ballerina' (Vaughn Monroe), 'Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba' (Perry Como) and Gene Autry's 'Here Comes Santa Claus'.

Quite a few famous folks were born in 1947: humorist Dave Barry, performer David Bowie, comedian Billy Crystal, actor Ted Danson, TV chef Paula Deen, singer Elton John, 'SCTV' comediene Andrea Martin, singer Meat Loaf, rocker Peter Noone, politician Mitt Romney, composer Carole Bayer Sager, novelist Danielle Steel, model Cheryl Tiegs, race car driver Darrell Waltrip and actor James Woods.

Deaths included carmakers Henry Ford, William C. Durant (founder of General Motors), Ettore Bugatti, gangsters Al Capone and Bugsy Siegal, scientist Max Planck and Man O' War, one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses of all time.

The New York Yankees won the World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3. Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's 'color barrier' earlier in the year, was named Rookie of the Year.


More AutoSketch car drawings can be found here.
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copyright 2014 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved. Drawing copytright 1989-2014


Disclaimer

The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.


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