A Sad And Fond Farwell To An American Icon
Beat the drum slowly, play the fife lowly, hang your head in sorrow, another grand old American company has bitten the dust. A prolonged recession, expensive unions, and questionable business leadership brought this once automotive giant to its knees. The once proud company is declaring bankruptcy. A reported "controlled" bankruptcy, wherein the UAW (united auto workers) AKA "the government", Fiat of Italy, and some stock and bondholders will own the company and produce cars here in the USA. A sad ending for a company that produce some of the finest autos ever built.
Walter P. Chrysler founded his car company on June 6, 1925 when the Maxwell motor company was re-organized into the Chrysler Corporation. Walter Chrysler had originally arrived at the Maxwell-Chalmers company in the early 1920's, having been hired to make over and fix the company's troubled operations (after having done a similar rescue at the Willys car company).
Chrysler then acquired Dodge in 1928 and subsequently launched its low priced Plymouth followed by the mid-priced Desoto. In 1941 Chrysler introduced the ultimate classic, the town and country wood-bodied station Wagon with an unusual "barrel- back" body design. Chrysler continued this and other models into 1942 when WWII ended auto production for four model years. When Chrysler returned to building automobiles, there were two new town and country models that replaced the wagon, a convertible and a 4-door sedan. Both were very prestigious and highly coveted cars and they continued to be produced with a few changes into 1948. The final wood-bodied town and country, a "Newport" 2-door hardtop, was offered in 1950.
This is probably the most beautiful automobile of its type ever produced. It was powered by a virtually indestructible L-head 6-cylinder engine rated at 114 horsepower. It has a fluid Drive semi-automatic transmission that must be used to appreciate, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. In 1946 these classic convertibles sold for a whopping $3500.00, a price few but the wealthy could afford. Today, on the auction block, when they come up for sale (seldom if ever) they haul in $180,000to $250,000 depending on condition. With the sale of Chrysler, I anticipate that the prices will continue to escalate, as you would expect from a beautiful work of art. But, all is certainly not lost; a Fiat/Chrysler joining will inject some top-notch global cars into the U.S. market. According to Auto Week magazine, we won't get, and don't want all the goodies. We will get:
Fiat Cinquecento: Great interior 1.4 liter turbocharged engine
Fiat Panda: A low cost five-door mini car.
Alfa Romeo149: also called the C-evo hatchback.
Alfa Romeo MiTo: definitely a fun ride - 1.4 liter 155HP, 170 lb/ft turbocharged FWD with a six speed transmission.
The combination of companies and models will allow Chrysler to keep trucks, SUVs' and other popular sellers with an influx of reasonably priced, good performing small and midsized cars.
As an added bonus, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is reputed to be one of the best stewards in the Auto world.
Ciao for now,
- Citizen Wayne