Monday, May 19, 2014

The '41 Chrysler

Shelly suggested that I might present a story about the Chrysler I mentioned a week ago.

My father made his 1936 Ford tudor last throughout the war years.  But he very nearly ran the wheels off it, and thus by 1946 he was feeling the need for a better vehicle.  I am sure he would have liked a new car, but since Detroit had made no cars since early 1942, now that production was beginning again, everybody wanted a new car.  There were waiting lists at all dealerships which had the names of those who thought they could afford to buy new.

Someone of his acquaintance had a 1941 Chrysler Royal Club Coupe. It carried six passengers comfortably.  Father bought the car.  I think I am correct in recalling that he paid $1500 for it, or it may have been that he paid $1300, then had to spend another $200 for repairs.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that is equivalent to $18,176 in today's money.  Dad's salary that year was one hundred dollars per month, and thus he spent his income for a year and a quarter on this set of wheels.

The car was a beauty.  The picture shows the correct color, although it was not two-tone, but rather all green as the lower body.  This was the first car I ever drove.  I still remember cutting a corner too short on a right turn, running over the curb with the rear wheel.  Dad, in his calm voice, observed, "You cut the hind leg off on that one."  Good times.  My father was an excellent teacher, economy of words his style.  And that is a good thing, for I do not remember ever being "yelled at" while behind the wheel and he beside me.  He taught me how to parallel park in one lesson on a street in downtown Boulder, Colorado.  By following his instructions, which I still follow to this day, I parked it correctly on the first pass.  Still can do.

This was to be the story of the '41 Chrysler, and look.  I have already made it about me.

It was, I think, in summer 1949 and Mother and Father were on their way to Pueblo for a church meeting.  I was working, so my knowledge of the incident is second-hand, as I got it from Dad.  They were almost to their destination when they came to the intersection of highway 85, on which they were traveling, with highway 50.  The stop sign made it clear that it was Dad's responsibility to allow right-of-way to the cross traffic.  He started to slow, gauging his speed and the distance, applied the brake to stop, but instead of stopping, the car skidded right in front of the car coming from his left.  This event is referred to as a collision.

According to the parent, the newly-laid pea gravel on the surface of the tarmac served the function of marbles beneath his tires, and the rest was his responsibility for failure to yield.  The car was in the shop for quite some time, and hence the borrowed '39 Nash became a part of our daily routines.

Finally, though, the Chrysler returned home, and Dad was never happy with it from that day on.  First of all, though it had a new paint job, the color was not quite right.  It was green, yes, but it seemed to have a sort of aqua tint.  But that was not the prime reason for discontent.  No.  The problem was, that in spite of all the subsequent efforts by the mechanics, the car ran down the road crooked.  Oh, it stayed in its lane, but its rear wheels ever after tracked to the right of the front wheels.  It looked, how can I put it?  It looked like a cattywampus old hound running down the road.

It was not long before the car was traded away.  Dad got his first-ever new car, a 1950 Ford Custom fordor.  This car became my first car in 1955.  I traded it in 1958 after it had traversed more than 123,000 miles.


Jim Grey said...

I was a wee lad when I was riding with my dad somewhere and we were behind a car with its front wheels right of its rear wheels. Dad said, "Hm. That one's dog tracking."

You would be the second person ever to use this metaphor, at least in my earshot!

Vee said...

It's interesting that some people remember cars as though they were family. I can provide a few details on the car we have now and still know the color of the last one. That's it.

vanilla said...

Jim, you Dad is very observant, too. Clearly, we have both seen dogs run just so.

Vee, to many people, automobiles are transportation. To others they are family, or mistresses, or vile money pits we'd like to forget and can't.

Grace said...

Because my father drove a truck for a living he favored big cars...Pontiacs I think - I remember the hood ornament and then there was a huge red Chrysler with automatic windows...He also spoke fondly of a car he had when he was young - it had a rumble seat.

Shelly said...

Better the car run a little off kilter after the mishap than the people in it. Very enjoyable story!

Secondary Roads said...

After the war, my dad wanted, but couldn't get a new Ford. Consequently, he bought a Kaiser, which spent most Saturdays in the dealer's shop. His next car was a 1950 Ford Custom fordor. It was black. That's the car I used to learned to drive on roads. I had driven tractors in fields before.

vanilla said...

Grace, back in the day, those who favored big cars had abundant choices!

Shelly, true. I should have made a note of that. Mom, Dad, and the occupant of the other car were unscathed, Blessed, crooked car and all.

Chuck, I had better luck with my Kaiser, but it was a '53, so perhaps they had had time to work out some of the kinks. (Maybe it is merely nostalgia, but I still think that in many ways my '50 Ford Custom fordor was the best car I ever had. Nah, nostalgia; we all know today's cars are better.)

Pearl said...


I can't imagine years of no new-car production happening...


vanilla said...

Pearl, it happened just so. No new vehicles for civilians, but, oh, my! The tanks and trucks and airplanes and ships-- those were produced in abundance.

Secondary Roads said...

That 50 Ford was hard to beat in its time.

vanilla said...

Chuck, value for the dollar and general reliability, ease of maintenance: best buy, imo.