By Brian Earnest
Photos by Jeff Ponstler
Tim Wolfe didn’t want his ’30 Chrysler to be a “30-footer.” If he and his wife Julia were ever going to be truly happy with their stunning rumblseat coupe, he knew the car was going to have to look as great close up as it did from across the street.
“From, say, 30 feet it looked great, but when you got up close the paint was cracked and alligatored. The door handles were wrong … the air cleaner was wrong. There were a lot of things that needed to be fixed,” says Wolfe, a resident of tiny Oran, Ohio.
Wolfe never had any intention of turning the Series 70 coupe into a 1,000-point show car, but after 13 years of ownership, the Chrysler is getting close. It has since undergone a frame-off restoration and Wolfe has gradually made the car as correct, authentic and perfect as he can make it.
“I wanted to drive it and show it in local shows. I had no idea a concours show existed,” he says. “I didn’t even know there were shows like that. Until you get into them and see all the things they check on [the cars] — seeing if all the colors are right and nuts and bolts are correct, everything has to be perfect. It’s really an experience to show a car at one of those shows.”
The car has been a trophy getter at the Dayton Concours and other shows, and will make an appearance this year at Spring Auburn. The whole evolution of the Chrysler is a far cry from what Tim and Julia had in mind when they went to check out the car on a whim back in 2003.
“We were on our way to Hershey, Pa., for the [Fall AACA Meet] over there,” Tim recalls. “We had picked up a local magazine that had nothing but cars for sale, and we saw the car listed for sale and we stopped to took at it because it was in State College [Pa.] and it was on our way. We were really looking for a roadster, but this car was in good shape. It had had an amateur restoration and they had done several things wrong, but the guy was very honest about the condition of the car. It had the wrong headlights, the wrong door handles and a few other things. The guy quoted a price, and when I told him what I had found wrong with the car, he immediately dropped the price. He was an extremely honest man.
“We agreed to buy it, but I didn’t have a trailer with me. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s a few days or a few months, the car is yours, it will be here when you come and get it.’ He didn’t even want a down payment! He was a very unusual man to deal with. He’s called me several times and talked to me and it’s been 13 years since we bought it.”
The car had been originally ordered by a couple from New Jersey, who had it shipped “across the Great Lakes” and owned the car for many years. They later sold it to a Pennsylvania man, “and he sold it to the man I bought it from,” Wolfe said.
The Wolfes already owned an original-condition 1930 Chrysler Model 70 Brougham — a very rare model — when they added the second ’30 to their garage. Unlike the first one, though, they had plans to invest some money in the rumbleseat coupe to bring it up to pristine condition.
“I’ve been a shop foreman for most of my life, so doing work isn’t a problem for me and I was planning on doing most of the work myself, but I was working so many hours at the shop I just couldn’t get anything done on it,” Tim says. “I took some of parts off and took the engine apart, but there was no way I could do upholstery or the paint.”
He eventually settled on an accomplished restorer to do the ground-up remake on the Chrysler, but the results were mixed.
“The guy is known worldwide. People fly their cars in from Europe and all over to have him restore them… He completely frame-offed it — paint, upholstery, everything. We went with Packard Ivory and Marine Blue, and those are a great color combination and they really draw attention to the car… But he had never done a 1930 Chrysler before and he made a lot of mistakes which I’m still finding and repairing.”
Wolfe’s car is one of 3,135 Royal coupes — aka rumbleseat coupes — built by Chrysler for the 1930 model year. It was part of the 70 series, which was the second-highest in Chrysler hierarchy, above the new CJ and 66 series, but one rung below the top-line 77 Series. The handsome and technologically advanced 70 Series cars were also offered in two-door roadster, business coupe, Brougham sedan and convertible coupe versions, along with four-door phaeton and four-door Royal sedan body styles.
Wolfe’s Royal coupe carried a base price of $1,395 when it was new and weighed in at 3,490 lbs. Styling features included a narrow-profile radiator, bowl-shaped headlamps and pennon-type hood louvers on early-year cars such as Wolfe’s. Later in the year, the cars were given vertical hood louvers. Standard equipment included a Delco-Remy ignition, hydraulic brakes — a cutting edge feature for the year — a four-speed transmission with a “granny gear,” mechanical fuel pump, downdraft carburetor and new “paraflex” springs. Under the bonnet was an inline six displacing 218.6 cubic inches and generating 75 hp. Late-year cars also featured vertical hood louvers, new type instrument panel and thermostatic radiator shutters. The option list included fog lamps, front and rear bumpers, dual side-mounted spare tires, wire-spoke wheels, folding luggage rack and pedestal sidemount mirrors.
“It’s got a lot of firsts,” Wolfe says. “It’s got all hydraulic brakes, which was a big deal. And 1930 was when Chrysler developed oil light bushings in the starter and generator and water pump. They were the first to offer the [Stromberg] downdraft carburetor, too.”
Wolfe had the car reupholstered in leather, but not before double-checking that such a treatment was correct. Leather was standard on the roadster at the time, but could also be ordered on closed cars as an option. “I had pictures sent to me from the AACA and before I put leather in I checked it out to make sure it wouldn’t hurt me as far as showing the car,” he laughed. “Everything was approved by AACA.”
The white-and-blue paint scheme was also available originally. Wolfe’s car was black when it left the factory. “But for $40, Chrysler would paint it a color of your choice,” he said. “The Packard Ivory was actually used a lot for the pinstriping.”
The beautiful Chrysler had 7,000 miles on the odometer when Wolfe bought it, but he’s not sure how that number was accumulated. He has added “a couple thousand” since then and expects to roll up plenty more in the future.
“It rides great since I’ve redone all the suspension and everything,” Tim says. “Our local shop here in town has a new front end alignment machine and he aligned it for me. Now I can drive with one arm out the window and two fingers on the wheel.
“I drive it now. We do not trailer this car anymore. If it’s far away we have a toy hauler, but we go out to eat with it and drive it around. There’s a group of us that go out to eat every Friday night and we drive our cars. The guy who painted it lives 10 miles from me and I take it to him and get it touched up once in a while.
“I can’t see putting all that effort into a car and not enjoying it. I just can’t see having it sit in the garage.”
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