Backroads with Kenny: Chasing Chryslers

1031-kennychryslers

Editor’s note: For years, people have been requesting documentation of retired Old Cars Weekly Research Editor Kenny Buttolph’s knowledge and adventures. This is the first installment in what we expect to be a series.

 

During the 1960s, I was working at the Texaco gas station in Waupaca, Wis., where a prominent resident would stop for gas. He knew I liked old cars and asked if I was interested in buying his green 1948 Chrysler Town and Country convertible. Naturally, I said “sure” and bought it for $700. (Dec. 1, 2011, issue of Old Cars Weekly.)

My friend, Jack Carew said, “I know where there is one just like it.” It was another green Town and Country convertible in Ripon, Wis., and belonged to an old doctor. We drove my Town and Country down to this doctor’s house one day and when we showed up, he said, “How did you get my car out of the garage?”

backroadskennyWe got a good laugh and he started looking at mine, which was an original with about 100,000 miles. I asked if he would be interested in selling his Town and Country, which was a beautiful original with just 14,000 miles.

Well, I knew he wasn’t ready to sell, but he took my name and address anyway. He asked, “What would you give for it?” and I said, “I don’t know.” He asked what I paid for mine and when I said “$700,” he said, “That sounds good,” and wrote it on the note with my phone number and put it in his desk.

When he found out where I was from, he said he wanted some Wisconsin cheese from Fremont, so I brought him some cheese. Three or four years later, his widow called and said, “If you want that car, come and get it.” He had already been offered $1,500, but she sold it to me for $700, because of his note.

It was funny having the two Town and Countrys. They were both the same color, but had opposite insides. The first one I bought had dark green leather and tan bedford cord interior. The later one with low-mileage was an example with the first Naugahyde, which Chrysler Corp. was so proud of. It had eggshell Naugahyde and dark-green bedford cord for an interior.

I ended up selling the first Town and Country in the late 1960s, only to buy it back in the 2000s. I sold the second one — the low-mileage car — some years later and eventually lost  track of it. The last time I saw it, someone had actually restored it and messed up its originality.

Jack and I always used to go looking for cars and parts, and one Saturday in the late 1960s, we found by accident a junkyard north of Bonduel, Wis. By the time we arrived, it was late in the day, so the owner told us to come back Monday. There was a Town and Country in the yard, one with rotten wood so there wasn’t much there, but we decided to go back for the unique door handles, trunk hinges, stop light and other Town and Country-only hardware.

As we approached the yard the next Monday, we could see smoke in the general direction of the yard — thick, black smoke — and upon arriving at the yard, we discovered the owner was burning cars. (Years ago, junkyards used to burn cars to get rid of the upholstery and rubber — it would all go up in smoke. Not just wood cars, too.) We went to look at the Town and Country and found it was burning. The woodie was now a bonfire. So that was the end of that.

A while later, I found another Town and Country one time at Windy Hill Auto Parts in New London, Minn. There was little left but fragments — the parts that didn’t rot. All the wood was gone, but I got the trunk hinges and the taillights. Of course, the parts were pitted, but to get trunk hinges was a great break. They are rights and lefts (side specific), so it was nice to have spares in case they break.

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Kenny’s Tip
The 1956 Lincoln is the only car with backup lamps that do not face backward; they face downward from the bottom of the decklid and reflect backward from the bumper.

 

Like Chryslers? Get your hands on the best resource around: The Standard Catalog of Chrysler 1914-2000 – now with updated pricing.

 

 

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