By Brian Earnest
Pedro Aguilera tried his best to hide his excitement the first time he laid eyes on his 1927 Chrysler. The Port St. Lucie, Fla., resident had no intentions that fateful day four years ago of shopping for a pre-war Chrysler — or a Chrysler of any vintage for that matter — but it was love at first sight.
He tried not to let the car’s owner know how much he wanted to own the Chrysler, and he downplayed the idea of buying it as much as he could. But he couldn’t resist making a little promise to the car. “I had to take a picture of it, and I said, ‘I don’t know what it will take, but you will be mine.’" Aguilera recalls. "And it was; it just took eight months.”
Aguilera had to continue to mask his true feelings for many more weeks before the car’s owners finally agreed to the price he was offering. Aguilera said he never gave up hope, but he was getting plenty anxious to finally bring home the car he figured he was somehow destined to own. “I happened to go to a car show in Port St. Lucie and they had it for sale … At that time, the economic situation over here was very bad. They probably needed the money and I just happened to be lucky to end up with it …
"I actually been looking for a car for a long time and it just happened that the car found me. It took me about eight months to get because they wanted a lot more money than I could afford. It’s funny … the moment I saw the car I fell in love with it, but I couldn’t express it because I didn’t want to the price to go up! I had to find something wrong … ‘Oh, I’ve got to fix this and got to paint it.' … But I just loved it!”
Part of the reason Aguilera was so smitten is that he had never seen a Chrysler of such vintage before, and he knew they had to be scarce. In the three-plus years he’s had the car, he’s still never seen another two-door, five-passenger coach like his, and he’s not expecting to see many in the future. Chrysler built more than 182,000 cars in the 1927 calendar year, and about 130,000 of those were either the bottom tier 50 Series cars or third-tier 70 Series. There are no exact production figures available for the second level 60 Series cars like Aguilera’s, but they were clearly in the minority. The two-door, five-passenger coach was one of eight body styles offered in the series.
“No, I haven’t been able to find another one like mine,” Aguilera noted. “The only one I’ve seen [from 1927] is a phaeton — a four-door convertible.”
Aguilera believes he is at least the third owner of the Chrysler, which was originally licensed in Detroit and resided in the previous owner’s family for about 35 years. At some point the car had been restored, although it appeared to have almost all its original parts when Aguilera bought it in 2009. Since then, he has repainted the car its original blue with black fenders and trim and a black top. The white pinstripes that run from bow to stern at the belt line have also been nicely redone.
He has also redone the interior, and plans to refinish the car’s original wooden steering wheel. “Everything was still in nice shape, but I wanted to re-do the interior,” he said. “I gutted everything — did the whole thing [inside]. I covered the floor — it’s a wooden floor and I didn’t want to leave it exposed, so I put a nice carpet on it.
“Everything else I’ve left alone. It’s been very sound; extremely well taken care of. I did a compression test on it, and the compression is all up to standard. It runs like a sewing machine. It’s very quiet, and it starts faster than my Lexus!”
Chrysler started fast as a company, too, back in its early days. Walter P. Chrysler debuted his new company and automobile line in 1924, and in three short years it rose all the way to No. 4 on the sales charts. The company was getting good at producing the exact cars for the niche it wanted to fill: a medium-priced machine that most Americans could afford, but that was clearly more luxurious and technically advanced than the Fords and Chevrolets of the day. The calling cards of the Chrysler were to be a powerful, high-compression L-head six-cylinder engine, hydraulic brakes, full-pressure lubrication, aluminum pistons and other niceties that simply weren’t found on lesser cars.
In 1926, Chrysler added a lower-priced four-cylinder 50 Series to its lineup — the series would last through the 1928 model year — but six-cylinders powered the Series 60, 70 and 80 lineups. The 60 Series debuted in mid-year 1926 and carried over for 1927. The cars rode on 109-inch wheelbase chassis with hydraulic brakes and artillery-style wheels. After August of 1927, steel disc wheels were available. The engine displaced 180.2 cubic inches and was rated at 54 hp. Early series cars were fitted with 30 x 5.25 tires. Later models got smaller 28 x 5.25 rubber.
The handsome Chryslers carried styling that was somewhat conservative and typical of the period, with upright cab profiles, sloping front fenders, large running boards and bullet-shaped headlights. Options included heaters, clocks, sidemounts and leather sidemount covers, step plates, outside rear view mirrors, dual wipers and trunk racks.
“Chrysler didn’t want to compete with Ford, he wanted to compete with Lincoln and Cadillac,” Aguilera noted. “So he made this car with four-wheel hydraulic brakes and a different kind of suspension with a wire in it ... The gas tank, instead of being in front under the windshield, it’s in the rear and lower. Gas is brought to a canister by vacuum … The master cylinder, you pump air into it to make it easier on the pedal… It was a very advanced car for 1927. But it was also $1,195, and the Fords were selling for $500 or $600.”
The 1927 Chrysler is Aguilera’s first hobby car, and it’s obvious the honeymoon is still going. He gets the car out as often as he can, but keeps the trips short. Once he figured out the car’s nuances and personality quirks, Aguilera has had nothing but happy miles. “It’s kind of difficult not to grind [the gears] at first,” he said. “At that time the transmission was not synchronized. You really have to learn how to do it … It has so much torque that have to be careful… In first [gear] you only go 5 mph … When you get to 15, you have to change to third. After that it is like an automatic.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it. I don’t drive it as much I would like to because I am really afraid that if something breaks I won’t be able to replace it… I don’t drive it more than 10 miles. If a show is more than 10 miles away, it goes on the trailer.”
One of Aguilera’s biggest goals is to begin finding some more 1920s Chrysler enthusiasts who can help him troubleshoot his car and help him track down parts if any problems arise. Not surprisingly, he’s found parts very hard to come by. “The advantage you have with this car is that it is very unique, but it’s a disadvantage because anything you need to repair, replacement parts are almost impossible [to find]. Nobody has anything," he said.
“They car is in extremely good shape, but I’m looking for an oil canister and I haven’t been able to find it. It doesn’t have a replaceable oil canister, and I change the oil very frequently. I would like to get in touch with people that have the same car or the same year. Maybe they can tell me where I can buy parts for it!"
Aguilera affectionately calls his vintage sedan “Lolita,” and together the pair have had a ball at car shows and hobby gatherings in the past few years. Most people can’t identify the car at first glance, which makes it stand out among the other cars of a similar vintage when he parks at shows. “You see many very, very nice Fords, and many nice Chevys, but not many Chryslers,” he laughs.
Eventually, Aguilera says his beloved ’27 will go to his daughter — with some stipulations. “I told her I’ll give it to her on one condition. You can’t change it or alter it, you have to take care of it," he said. "Then you have to donate it to a museum when you are done with it. It’s a part of history, and I’d like a museum to have it.”
With that in mind, Aguilera is trying to keep his car as pristine and unmolested as possible. “I don’t want to do nothing that was not done in 1927. I’m not going to change anything Chrysler did,” he said. “I’m not going to remove the engine. I'm not going to make it a hot rod. I’m going to keep it as unique and original as I can. It was pretty back then, and it’s going to stay pretty.
“Mostly I’m just going to enjoy it and let the people look at it.”
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