While the iconic American Woody may not have been invented by Chrysler, it can certainly be argued that it was Chrysler that perfected the concept with their luxurious Town & Country series. Born out of necessity, the earliest woodies were basic, utilitarian bodies that were sold in the aftermarket to adapt to existing chassis such as the Model T. Wood bodied station wagons and depot hacks proved popular enough to convince Henry Ford to buy his own forest and offer the bodies himself. As styling became an ever more important factor in selling automobiles, the structural and functional woodwork grew into a point of style, and by the mid 1930’s, many manufacturers (led by Ford) began to offer station wagons with nicely finished wood bodies and room for 7 or more passengers. But it was Chrysler who set a new standard for the woody with their new Town & Country of 1941. The Town & Country was a top of the line luxury machine that combined the best of the New Yorker series from the windscreen forward, in combination with an artfully crafted and opulent wooden “country home” feel from the windscreen back. The name is credited to Paul Hafer of the Boyertown Body Works in Pennsylvania, who suggested the car looked “Town from the front and Country from the rear”. The Town & Country was the first of its kind to be fitted with an all-steel roof, which was cleverly adapted from a limousine. It was expensive to build, expensive to buy and required specialized maintenance but it proved to be enough of a success for Chrysler to continue production into the post-war era. Chrysler’s success quickly became apparent and other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon. Ford and Mercury offered the Sportsman, Chevrolet offered Fleetline wagons, and Buick’s Roadmaster wagons came closest to Chrysler in terms of luxury and style. But few could match the Chrysler’s commercial success and no others offered the same diversity of body styles. Staying one step ahead of the competition, Chrysler eschewed the traditional wood station wagon roots in the Post War era in exchange for pure style points in the form of wood-bodied coupe, convertible and sedan models.
The traditional wood-bodied Town & Country remained in production through 1950, before the expense of hand-building the wood bodies in Alabama, and shipping them to Michigan for fitment and finishing proved far too costly. Pre-War and Post-War examples remain highly prized for their impeccable style and beautiful road manners, and all models through 1948 have earned their place on the all-important list of CCCA Approved Full Classics.
It is no secret that the Town & Country is both costly and difficult to restore properly. Expert care is needed to ensure proper fitment of the body, and high value is placed on the correct presentation of the wood. This exceptional 1947 example is far and above one of the finest of its kind we have encountered. While in the care of its most recent owner, it has been treated to an extensive, photo documented restoration to concours quality standards. The wood was painstakingly restored by noted marque expert Dennis Bickford to correct factory specifications and today presents in gorgeous order. The steel body panels are finished in the rare shade of Catalina Tan, which, combined with the maroon canvas top makes for a striking combination. Fitment of both wood and steel body components is exemplary and it retains the correct Mahogany door and boot lid inserts as originally fitted to the early 1947 cars such as our example, later cars having Di-Noc simulated wood inserts. Chrome and stainless trim has been thoroughly restored to an equally high standard and everything from the intricate chrome grille to the the large chrome bumpers are absolutely straight and correctly detailed. The Town & Country sits proudly on the road and rides on correct wide whitewall bias-ply tires with beautifully restored chrome hubcaps and deep trim rings. Along with dual cowl-mounted spot lamps, the presentation is simply stunning.
The lavishly appointed interior was restored by Pebble Beach Concours-winning trimmer Ken Nemanic of Vintage Automotive Upholstery. As one would expect from such a reputable restorer, the interior is beautifully trimmed to original specification in correct dark red leather with tan Bedford cord cloth inserts and two-tone door cards. Chrysler’s “library chairs” are supremely comfortable with room for three abreast seating both front and rear. The cabin is a beautiful display of late art-deco style and early post-war luxury. Maroon carpets and a two-tone tan and maroon dash tie the appearance together. The dash features the original radio and the shift lever for the Fluid Drive transmission features the signature clear Lucite shift knob. The convertible top in maroon canvas is quite striking, and a matching boot is included for when the top is folded. No detail has been overlooked; even the trunk is properly lined with upholstered hard board, bound carpeting and a correct spare wheel and jack bag.
Lifting the large hood reveals Chrysler’s tried and tested 323.5 cubic inch flat-head inline eight cylinder engine. It too has been meticulously detailed to factory specifications, with correct style fittings, hardware, finishes and hose clamps. Generally speaking, only convertibles received the eight-cylinder engine, while the sedan made do with the smaller six-cylinder unit. The additional horsepower of the eight (135hp vs 114hp) made up for the hefty weight, returning respectable performance and effortless cruising.
Of course, the Town & Country is not about speed rather, it is about sumptuous luxury and impeccable style. Thanks to the fluid drive transmission, power delivery is smooth, quiet and relaxed. This example has covered fewer than 200 miles since the restoration, and is reported to be fully sorted and ready for enjoyment. Town & Country convertibles of this nature and quality are a rare find. They require a special passion and commitment to restore properly, and this stunning example has clearly been lavished with the utmost in care. The most recent owner, who also carried out most of the restoration work, has shown the car on just one occasion: A southern California CCCA show where it received a staggering 99.5 points on its debut. That half point deduction has since been resolved, making this in theory a 100 point restoration that has yet to appear at any major concours. This is a rare opportunity to acquire one of the finest concours-quality Town & Country convertibles extant, fresh from its outstanding restoration.
Jul 14, 2017
Jan 25, 2017