Chrysler’s First Show Cars


1941 Chrysler Newport at Hershey - circa 1988
1941 Chrysler Newport at Amelia Island in 2009 - chassis C7807503

1941 Chrysler Newport in the collection of the Walter P Chrysler Museum
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt when owned by Mark Hyman - circa 2010
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt in the collection of the Walter P Chrysler Museum
By way of collaboration between Alex Tremulis (best known as the designer of the Tucker) and Ralph Roberts (head of LeBaron Coachworks at the time), K.T. Keller, President of Chrysler, was inspired to build two unique show cars for public display in the 1941 auto show season. Based on Tremulis' and Robert's sketches, Keller ordered 6 examples - of what would be known as the Chrysler Newport Phaeton and Chrysler Thunderbolt. LeBaron (with the support of Briggs Manufacturing) delivered 5 cars each in 8 months – just in time for the ’41 season. I’ve had the chance to photograph a few of these fantastic cars over the years. It is stated that all five of the Newports have survived; I could find reference to four of them. Additionally, it is suggested that four of the Thunderbolts survive; I could find reference to three of them.

The 1941 Chrysler Newport
I photographed one of these cars back in the 1980’s at Hershey. It is interesting to note that this car doesn’t have the “Cord”-like hide-a-way headlights. I don’t know the chassis number of this car or where it currently resides. The next time I photographed a Newport was in 2009 at Amelia Island. This car, chassis  C7807503, was 1941 Indianapolis 500 pace car. At the time it was largely original, and was sold RM Auctions (at their 2009 Amelia Island sale) for $$687,500. Later the same car, now fully restored, crossed the block again at RM Auctions 2012 Amelia Island sale. It was a no-sale (with a high bid of $1,000,000). In 2011, Gooding & Co (at their Scottsdale sale) sold another Newport, chassis C331001 – the first Newport produced. This car sold for $1,017,500. Another Newport resides in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, NV. This car is unique in that it was purchase and customized by Henry J. "Bob" Topping, husband to Lana Turner at the time – the car is now known as the Lana Turner Newport. Just this summer while visiting the Walter P Chrysler Museum in MI, I photographed yet another Newport. I don’t know the story behind this car or it’s chassis number. Even though this car is also red (like the car photographed at Hershey years ago), I don’t believe they are the same car. This car has the hide-a-way headlights?

The 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt
I photographed the green Thunderbolt (with copper colored bright work), chassis number 7807943, at Hershey in 2010. However, I had also seen this car in 2009 while on display at Amelia Island. Apparently owned by Harrah’s in the past, it was offered for sale by Mark Hyman at the time I photographed it. The next year, RM Auctions sold it at their Monterey sale for $935,000. Of course the Walter P Chysler Museum also as a Thunderbolt on display, which I photographed while there this year. A third Thunderbolt, chassis 7807976, was sold by RM Auctions in 2008 for $1,320,000.   

1 comment:

  1. Look at those sophisticated coupés! Chrysler definitely has its unique, sleek features that make it very distinct from other cars. My dream car is a 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt Roadster. That two-door auto with retractable metal top is just one of the best!

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