By Al Johnson
I own a 1970 Chrysler Newport two-door hardtop. When it rolled off the car hauler seven years ago at my home outside Minot, N.D., the numbers "00137" were showing on its odometer. Since becoming wrapped up in old cars and pickups, my goal was to someday own one like the one my mother drove back in 1970. Finding the same year and model as hers as well as the same nylon fabric interior — I had to have it. With so few miles registered since new there also had to be a story. And, there is.
My Chrysler was ordered by Reed Motors in Bellefonte, Pa. Upon delivery, the transport driver managed to do minor damage to the driver's side unloading it. The customer now did not want the car. Reed Motors in return refused to take delivery, and Chrysler didn't want the expense of taking it back. So, Chrysler did the next-best thing, it donated the car to the Centre County Vocational Technical School near Bellefonte for use in their automotive studies. The VIN plate was removed as required by the Chrysler Corp. so the school would not sell the car or get any warranty work done on it. At this point, there were 7 miles showing on the odometer.
In 1975, the school was given another car, so the Chrysler was put in storage. It sat relatively untouched until 1994, when the school applied for and was given a Pennsylvania issued VIN and title so it could sell the car. It was first registered to a gentleman in Spring Mills, Pa. He had bought the car intending to repair the minor damage done at the dealership in 1970 and have himself a very nice, low-mileage driver. He never quite got around to doing the work needed, and in 1998 sold the car to a collector in Acton, Ma.
It was trailered to his shop and parked with 10 miles on the odometer. Kept in covered storage until 2005, it was given a complete service and check-up to be sure that everything was in working order. With the Chrysler safe and road worthy, it was taken to a body man who stripped the car, replaced the driver's door, and repaired the other minimal damage. The entire car was then re-painted the original color so all panels would match before it was reassembled. The car was driven sparingly, and in 2008 was put back on the market. I was still looking.
In 1970, my parents bought a new Chrysler Newport. It was my mother¹s car. It was also the car in which I learned to drive and used for my driver¹s test. I had a great fondness for Mom's Newport and longed for the day when I might convince my folks to let me have it. In 1973, they sold it to a business friend of my father's. I kept track of it so that I might buy it back some day.
In 1983, the car was sold again to a gentleman in my hometown. I contacted him and offered to buy the car when he no longer wanted it. A few months later he was in a nasty accident that totaled the Chrysler, and the car went to the scrapyard.
At that point I started a long, slow search for a replacement. It may have taken 25 years for the stars to align, but it was well worth the wait. I bought this car out of Pennsylvania and had a transport deliver it to my home in North Dakota. When I drove it into the garage it had only 137 miles on it, and I had a smile on my face.
It is quite a time capsule! Everything about it is still fresh. It still smells new inside. Driving it takes me back to my much younger days. I only wish my parents were still alive so they could enjoy it with me.
The color is Citron Gold Metallic. Mother's was Burgundy Metallic. Both were built as 1970 Chrysler Newports in the base model two-door hardtop. Hers had the light group, AM stereo 8-track, remote driver's mirror, and cruise control. Mine has the light group, vinyl roof, remote driver's mirror, AM-FM radio, and air conditioning. These Newports had the Chrysler 383 engines, TorqueFlite transmissions, and weighed right at 4,200 lbs. Even with their weight and size, they were not sluggish cars. Things we never told our mothers.
I have often wondered: If I had been fortunate enough to have acquired the family's Newport, would it still be as nice as it was back then? Maybe, but not likely. Would it be as nice as the one I have now? Not likely. And, as it sits in my shop covered for the winter, 00675 is its mileage since new.
For certain I know what happened to two of the 10,292 Newports built for 1970. Even though Chrysler was doing well, 1970 was the last year for the Newport convertible and the Newport station wagons. The wagons continued on as the Town and Country and in later years that name was used for the minivan.
I enjoy owning this piece of time machinery and regret having put so many miles on it. When it goes to distant shows it goes on a custom-built trailer and towed by my 1970 Dodge D-100 pickup like the one my dad drove.
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