(Click on any small image to see a larger view of Robert's beautiful Crown Town Sedan.)
The Town Sedan story started in the 1930's when Chrysler offered models characterized by the absence of rear quarter windows to create a more formal enclosed styling. For the 1941 model year, Chrysler introduced a new town sedan body style with the vent windows in the rear doors, which were hinged on the center posts. This was available on Crown Imperial, Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge. By eliminating the rear quarter window, the rear door could be extended rearward and made larger. The center post was also moved back a few inches to create a wider front door. The larger door openings allowed for better passenger access and more visibility for rear seat occupants. Of course, there was also the safety factor of eliminating the standard sedan's suicide doors.
For the Crown Imperial Series, the Town Sedan was only offered for 1941. The style was continued in the Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge lines for 1942 as well as being offered on Plymouth that year. In the post war years it was only offered on Dodge through 1948. In the years 1941-1948 it was not a big seller, likely due to its premium price over the standard six-windowed sedan. It is my belief that the 1941 Crown Imperial Town Sedan was a unique and ultimate automobile to have. It gave the buyer the finest of Crown Imperial appointments on the C-30 (New Yorker/Saratoga) chassis. This combination created a terrific driving and handling luxury automobile on the 127-1/2" wheelbase, rather than the more cumbersome 145-1/2" wheelbase of the C-33 Crown Imperial. In addition, I consider the 1941 Chrysler Imperial line to be a superb—almost timeless—style that Ray Dietrich had a big hand in designing. Alas, this was the last year for Chrysler that Ray did any design work for, since he was dismissed by K. T. Keller in 1940 after Walter P.'s death that year. Chrysler's motive for the Imperial Town Sedan this year was likely to offer their luxury clientele something competitive with, and in many way superior to, the Packard Clipper and Cadillac 60 Special models.
The 1941 Crown Imperial line offered many standard appointments including 4-speed Vacamatic transmission, power windows, marshall upholstery individually wrapped springs, carpeting in front and rear compartments, rear compartment assist straps, safety step lights, rear compartment reading light, butler finish interior hardware, and handbrake warning light. Optional appointments included running boards, fender skirts, division window, and air conditioning which was supplied by Bishop and Babcock. Interiors were opulent and offered in many selections, such as solid or two-toned broadcloth, striped broadcloth, pinstriped broadcloth, or shadow stripe broadcloth.
Crown Imperial Town Sedans are not easy to find. Only a handful are listed in the various directories of this type of auto. For years I had never seen one except in pictures. Then in the May, 1991 Hemmings one appeared for sale. It was in Connecticut and I was living in California at the time. After a friend who lived back East checked it out for me, I purchased it sight unseen. That is the only time I have ever done that. But geography and my inability to get away from work at the time made it necessary if I was to own this Imperial.
Later when I could get to Connecticut to retrieve my treasure, I was delighted to find the car as good as or better than represented. It was a very nice 43,000 mile mostly original car that the seller had owned since the 1970's. It was black, with the blue and gray interior, and the optional running boards. It drove well and all options worked fine—even the power windows. A friend, Bill Lauer, and I drove it back to California (3785 miles) without incident. Once home, it enjoyed a thorough detailing and participated in a number of California Imperial and WPC Club events.
When I relocated to Durango, Colorado to open the Grand Motor Car and Piano Collection with Bill Lauer, it was driven the 775 miles to its new home, as were all but the two oldest cars in the collection. Once in Durango, it has participated in a number of local events including one Fall Classic Car Club tour to Taos-Red River, New Mexico, where we ended up returning home in a major snowstorm! Many thanks to Chrysler for offering the twin heating system, which kept us comfortable, and the windows clear.
The 323.5 cubic inch straight eight is a superb engine with plenty of torque for the mountain grades in this part of Colorado, while the 3.29 differential ratio is low enough for easy highway cruising. The steering is quite easy on this car, and somewhat lighter than the 1948 New Yorker or 1950 Town & Country that are in the museum. Of course the K. T. Keller "chair high seating" is really appreciated on longer drives.
From time to time I get offers to buy this car, which are politely refused. If I was ever to liquidate the collection, the 1941 Imperial would be one of the last to go. Museum visitors are continually amazed that a 1941 model automobile could offer an automatic transmission, power window lifts, or air conditioning. As I tell the visitors, "there is hardly any such thing as a new idea - only old ones warmed over!"