Jul 10 2013

Chrysler’s Chrysler Chronicle IV: The Underlying Bodywork

Historian and coachwork specialist Walt Gosden has been providing reports on the restoration of the 1937 Chrysler's Chrysler at Steve Babinsky's Automotive Restorations, Inc. in Lebanon, New Jersey. The fourth Chrysler's Chrysler Chronicle article highlights the status of the underlying bodywork seen at the most recent visit to Steve's shop.

Great job, Walt!



Howard Kroplick

Chrysler's Chrysler Chronicle IV: The Underlying Bodywork

By Walter Gosden

The saga of getting all the structural framework of the body back to correct alignment and condition continues. No cosmetic restoration will be done until the underlying  bodywork is sound.  If this were the restoration of a house one can compare it to restoring the foundation to make the house sit even before you consider painting  the shutters for the windows! 

Here we see the hard roof panel over the chauffeur's compartment stripped of paint and the few dents at the center have been removed. Compound curves are at the sides as well as front to back, there is no place to store this in the car, so it was left in place or taken off before the car was driven anyplace.

 All four doors now fit as they did when new. This was a major part of the structural rebuild that had to be addressed before anything else.  The sheet metal was straight and undented, but structural wood framework  deteriorated badly from decades of poor, damp, wet storage.

The seam just below the windshield pillars show where the factory cowl / firewall stamping was matted to the custom made pillars and windshield. All factory (Briggs Body) coachwork used one piece flat windshields.  LeBaron bodied custom coachwork like this used a two piece V windshield (as did the custom bodies created by the Derham Body Company on the C-15 Imperial  long wheelbase chassis.) Note the radical curve of the edge of the door above the top hinge.

Pencil marks were drawn on the body by the restorer as reference points to make sure all is in perfect alignment  and before any sheet metal that needed to be replaced was cut out.

The hinges and the B pillar door posts were designed to give a sleek look to the most formal body style, but in reality were way to thin to support the 100 plus pound weight of each door.

A curved channel was made by a pattern maker of wood, then cast in bronze with a mirror image pair needed one for each side.  The pattern and molds were discarded after the channel was cast as no other car would be built with this body. It shows the effort that went into make one body. 

Bronze and aluminum  are not compatible when fitted next to each other and moisture of dampness and humidity set in to cause a chemical reaction. The alloy panel of the roof/rear door edge was corroded away from the inside out! These areas on both sides were cut out and new panels hand formed and welded in  place and finished to a seem less blend into the existing roof area. All the time great care being taken not to set the structural wood frame work  ablaze or warp the roof panel. The skill level to do this properly without making a mistake is amazing.

Note the latches and support fittings on the very narrow wood door posts next to the hinge for the rear door. Immediately to the right of this are the bright heads of wood screws that hold steel plates that were fabricated and added to give additional structural support. None of these will be seen once the car is reupholstered.

Huge amounts of white ash wood frame the whole body and the alloy skin is nailed and screwed in place to cover it.

Everything has to be in perfect alignment and all contours smooth to flow with the styling.

The front doors have huge pieces of glass that are framed in chrome plated brass channels, all at a raked angle and supported by two tiny hinges that take all the weight.

The trunk lid has been stripped to bare aluminum as well, any loose wood joints repaired and will eventually be returned to the back of the body.


Jul 11 2013 Mike Cain 11:42 AM

It’s clear from the pictures and your description Howard that these restorers are truly craftsmen and the the work can be quite complicated at times. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

Jul 11 2013 Howard Kroplick 3:34 PM

Mike, me, too!!!

Jul 11 2013 frank femenias 11:21 PM

Very impressive work here. There’ll be no rushing this project that I believe is in good hands and will turn out just fine. But still, can’t wait!

Jul 13 2013 Ted 12:11 AM

Same here. Well worth the wait. What a car it’s going to be!

Jul 14 2013 Roger Price 9:53 AM

Thanks for the update on the Chrysler.  It’s wonderful to watch craftsmen at work.
I, too, am looking forward to the finished car.


Jul 14 2013 Phil Benincasa 10:13 AM

Love the updates, keep them coming.

Jul 14 2013 Manuel Levine 11:59 AM

Good to see the old girl shaping up.

Jul 14 2013 R Troy 10:53 PM

It’s quite an education reading these updates.  And it says quite a bit about just how unique a car this is.  I may be a Packard and Rolls Royce (Springfield) guy, but this car is now a frequent reminder of what Walter Chrysler accomplished - this, plus every time I see the Chrysler building.


Jul 15 2013 Ken Wiebke 4:14 PM

Very much appreciate Mr. Gosden’s reports. 

What was discovered beneath the surface showed a full restoration was the absolutely the right course of action.

Aug 07 2013 R Troy 11:45 PM

What is being done to improve the strength of framing or hinges which originally were too small to hold the weight?

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