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Car of the Week: 1948 Chrysler Windsor convertible

When the Chrysler Windsor was about to be sold overseas, one couple decided it was time to step in and keep it in the family.
Car of the Week 2020

It wasn’t even actually their car, but Kelly and Jack Beaulieu couldn’t let a family treasure get away.

The Appleton, Wis., couple has used a 1948 Chrysler Windsor convertible in their own wedding, and the car had been a prominent member of the clan for nearly three decades, since Jack’s brother Don had purchased it back in the 1980s.

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So when Kelly found out two years ago that her brother-in-law was planning to sell the Chrysler, and that it would be heading overseas to a new owner, she put her foot down.

“Don had it up for sale and a guy from Belgium wanted to buy it and he did sell it and was going to ship it over. And before the transaction was complete Jack told me about it, and I said, ‘We can’t let that car go. That’s meant for us!’” Kelly recalls. “So we talked to Don and he sold it us and we’ll keep it forever, as long as we can.”

“It was fairly expensive, so I told her you can’t think about this, the answer is yes or no. We could buy Don’s Chrysler,” added Jack with a laugh. “I didn’t think about it,” replied Kelly. “The answer was yes.”

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So the car stayed home in Wisconsin, and will go on being part of happy occasions and weekend car shows. 

“Don had it in his wedding, we had it in our wedding, our daughter had it in her wedding, and now we have another daughter with a wedding coming up, and hopefully it will be there, too,” Kelly adds.

The purchase was easy for the couple, in part, because they knew exactly where the car had been for many years. They didn’t have to do a lot of homework or worry about the Chrysler’s past. Don had picked up the car in South Carolina sometime around 1987, had the car restored, and then kept it in pretty good running shape ever since.

“He’s actually had three of them that he bought during that time,” Jack said. “This is the only one that’s had a complete restoration done on it.”

CHRYSLER CARRIES ON

The 1946-’48 model years are often lumped together when U.S. car building history is revisited. Most of the time, there were few changes during early post-World War II production, and such was the case at Chrysler. As other manufacturers were forced to do, Chrysler served up left-over 1942 designs for three years after hostilities ended, but the buying public didn’t seem to mind.

The Windsor nameplate had actually been unveiled for the 1939 model year at Chrysler, and proved to be a popular seller as the middle child in the company’s lineup. It was difficult to distinguish the ’48 models from the ’46-47 offerings. Front fenders flowed smoothly into newly skinned front doors. All models had Chryslers elegant die-cast eggcrate style grille, new front and rear bumpers and different fender trim.

A look at the eggcrate style grille

A look at the eggcrate style grille

Some year-to-year running changes also occurred. The body-structure was all steel, a longtime Chrysler hallmark. Separate chassis/frame construction was used. Body insulation included the interior structure of the body, roof, side panels, floor, cowl and trunk. Postwar developments included Safe Guard hydraulic brakes and a permanent Oilite fuel tank filter. Rust-proofing protected the interior body structure. Series identification was provided by nameplates found on the hood sides. Standard equipment included armrests on both front doors; directional signal; entrance light; brake warning light; cigar lighter with illuminated ashtray; rubber floor covering in front compartment (except on the club coupe and eight-passenger sedans, which are carpeted); dual outside front door locks; glovebox light and lock; pile fabric or broadcloth upholstery; luggage compartment light; assist straps and robe cords on sedans and broughams; dual two-speed electric wipers; plastic steering wheel; automatic dome light; white wheel-trim rings and interior door locks.

The Windsor was one step up from the bottom-tier Royal line and included all Royal features, plus: two-tone wool broadcloth upholstery, carpeted front compartment, electric clock, rear seat folding armrest on sedans and exterior ‘goose neck’ mirror on convertibles only. The Windsor offered luxury on par with the New Yorker line, but was powered by the L-head 250.6-cid six-cylinder engine that produced 114 hp. Windsors were identified by nameplates on both sides of the hood. Popular options included: radios; twin heaters with defroster; Deluxe heater; antennas; bumper guards; locking gas caps; windshield washers; sun visors; exhaust extensions; and six-ply tires.

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Buyers could chose from a host of configurations: two-door/three-passenger coupe; two-door club coupe (with a back seat); two-door convertible; two-door sedan; four-door sedan; four-door Traveler wagon; Town and Country or two different long-wheelbase limousine-style sedans. Prices ranged from $1,906 for the three-passenger coupe up to $2,880 for the stylish four-door Town and Country. A Windsor convertible like the Beaulieus’ would have carried a base price of $2,434 before add-ons. There were 11,200 of the droptops built for the ’48 model year. A pair of convertibles, including a Town and Country model, were also available in the top-end New Yorker lineup.

PRETTY IN PLAID

The 1946-48 Windsor convertible is probably overshadowed a bit these days by its Town and Country woody sibling, which has been a favorite of collectors and enthusiasts for years. But the Windsor convertible was a very nice car itself and plenty memorable, especially when it was equipped with the optional plaid “Highlander” interior. The red tartan plaid leather and cloth upholstery certainly makes a bold statement and gives the convertible a unique character. If you need a car to take on a picnic, this is the one.

“Yeah, it really gets the car noticed,” Jack said. “It was an option, and the marbeling on the dash, that was only on the Windsor, so that was unique, too. It wasn’t offered on the higher-end New Yorker.” Both features were part of a very interesting and pleasing interior design that complimented the car’s handsome and outgoing exterior design cues. “The radio across the bottom has got ‘Highlander’ written on it to go with the interior,” Jack added. “As far as bells and whistles, it’s got a horn and lights and blinkers and crank-up windows. The spotlight … I think Don added that over the years. It’s actually a MoPar spotlight, so it’s the right vintage. He’s got another one that he wants me to put on, too.”

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As far as Jack knows, the six-cylinder engine is the same one that came in the car originally and has propelled the big convertible through all 52,000-plus miles that are on the odometer. Aside from routine maintenance, not much has been done to the ’48 since it was restored back in the ‘90s.

“We’ve just done gaskets and seals … It doesn’t leak now, which is nice,” Jack chuckles. “It’s still the straight six, 6-volt with positive ground. And the thing fires right up and runs very well. Every once in a while you get a little stall, but that’s the only drawback. We were going 70 [mph] down the highway today and it purrs. Seventy is its sweet spot. It’s got a posi rear end with 4.10 gears. It’s kind of strange, but when you drive you take off with the torque converter, then you let off the gas for a second or two, then you can hear the transmission shift into high gear. It’s different.”

We featured this Chrysler in our "Out and About" video segments. Check it out below.

Added Kelly: “It floats. You know when people tell you ‘My car floats down the road, it’s so comfortable.’ Now I know what that feels like. The seats are very springy. It’s just so fun.”

The vast majority of the time, the Beaulieus brave the elements and keep the Chrysler’s top folded down. It’s the same top that has been on the car for the past 30 years.

The Windsor has been part of the family for over 30 years.

The Windsor has been part of the family for over 30 years.

“The top was done in 1990, 91 maybe, by a guy who was very popular at the time. He did the whole interior at the time,” Jack recalled. “ The top was all hand-stitched, custom-made for the car. It’s showing its age, but it’s very functional. The top is down most of the time. I’ll wear a stocking cap and gloves. It kind of has to have the top down.”

The couple added some seat belts so they could haul grandkids around on ice cream runs and other family outings. The Windsor has room for six, but Jack and Kelly are content to go sight-seeing and joy riding alone, too. It’s easy to strike up conversations in a such sweet old convertible.

“We drive it, we don’t park it,” Kelly says. “We drive it wherever we go. It’s beautiful. It’s fun to talk about. It’s fun to go places and have conversations about it. People love this kind of stuff. We stop in little towns and people talk to us about it.”

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