Apr 11 2012

Hemmings Blog: Walter P. Chrysler’s one-off Imperial town car finds new home

Jim Donnelly, Hemmings Senior Editor, has written a blog post today on "Chrysler's Chrysler":



Howard Kroplick

Walter P. Chrysler’s one-off Imperial town car finds new home

Hemmings Blog April 11, 2012

If you watch this space, you know about the adventures of Howard Kroplick from East Hills, New York. He’s a keeper of history on early Long Island driving and racing, has written a book about the Long Island Motor Parkway, and runs around his hometown in a fire-belching 1909 Alco race car dubbed the Black Beast.

For a while, Howard’s also been endeavoring to get his hands on another car with rarity and strong Long Island connections. He’s finally taken possession of just such a one-of-one car: the 1937 Chrysler Imperial Model C-15 Town Car originally commissioned by Walter P. Chrysler for his wife, Della. Cast lettering in an Art Deco styling underneath the rear windows dot out BCG for Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, the Chryslers’ daughter, who inherited the Town Car in 1938.

It rides on a 140-inch wheelbase with aluminum LeBaron coachwork that has room for seven passengers. As the photos demonstrate, the straight-eight Imperial has never been restored. Last week, it was transferred from the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, New York, where it had been in repose since 1959, to Howard’s shop in Roslyn. Some of Howard’s pals who took part in the transfer were Jim Pearsall, Automobile Restorations Inc. of New Jersey owner Steve Babinsky, Hemmings Classic Car columnist Walter Gosden and Al Velocci, co-author of Howard’s The Long Island Motor Parkway book.

Current Comments (Updated: April 19, 2012):

Paulieb says:
April 11, 2012 at 9:23 am I look forward to follow-up stories here on the blog..

Reply  Michael Carmichael says:
April 11, 2012 at 9:37 am What a brilliant Chrysler! Would love to see it restored.

Reply  cliff says:
April 11, 2012 at 9:41 am Looks like a great party car Howard. Make her proud again.

Reply  Ken Wiebke says:
April 11, 2012 at 9:56 am This man is doing the hobby proud here on L.I.

Among many aspects of the car’s unique form I am drawn to the car’s unusual rear fenders. Is their shape some sweeping design statement or are the fender skirts in the trunk?

Reply  Walt Gosden says:
April 11, 2012 at 10:16 am The fender skirts were removed many years ago (but are still with the it) to be able to move the car, the “look” with them on is amazing – the trim at the running boards that starts at the back edge of the front fender extends into the skirt bottom edge and then around the back of the body down the other side to the other front fender in an uninterrupted line. Late art deco streamilne styling at its best. Howard is the perfect owner for the car, and intends to drive it , not make it a trailer queen.

Reply  shawnschallenger says:
April 11, 2012 at 10:17 am Super kool car I’m looking forward to update. Love one of one car’s .

Reply  William Bergmann says:
April 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm There should be a reality show interested in this. Maybe Hemmings should produce it?

Reply  Charles Gibilterra says:
April 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm Reminds me of another New Yorker, Lily Koppel, the journalist who pull “The Red Leather Diary” out of a trash dumpster to reclaim a life through the pages of that lost journal. This 1937 Chrysler Imperial also has a story to tell; its design speaks volumes about not only its design, but also of the mind set of those amazing times ~~

Reply  Polara says:
April 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm I’ve seen Mr. Kroplick w/ his Also at the annual Great Neck car show. What a great representative of the hobby. He allows people to it in the car to take pictures, cheerfully answers questions and is very willing to take people for a short drive when possible. The Chrysler could not have wound up in better hands!

Reply  Bruce W says:
April 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm Stunning car! Too bad I didn’t see the word ‘restore’ in the article. And please don’t give me any nonsense about ‘original condition. I can guarantee you that it didn’t come from LeBaron looking that way. You don’t have to turn it into a ‘trailer queen’ , but a little TLC and a bit of gussying up is what the old girl needs.

Reply  Dave H says:
April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm There is a lot of the “story” still left on the table. How did the C-15 Chrysler go from Bernice to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum? How did Howard find out about the vehicle and manage to acquire ? Hope it will become a great story with a lot more pictures to follow in the Hemmings Digital.

Reply  Larry Young says:
April 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm get a hold of the production company that film’s ”one of a kind” for Velocity channel,i’m sure they’ed be interested.

Reply  Honest Earl says:
April 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm A great old car and a limo! Sure hope to see it fully restored , or at least to condition 3. Does it have an overdrive?

Howard Kroplick says:
April 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm Jim, thanks for the shout-out for “Chrysler’s Chrysler”. I also appreciate all the positive comments.

Some answers to the questions raised in the Blog:

1- I am currently in the research stage to determine the degree of preservation versus restoration that the car will require. It will be given a lot of TLC and will be driven.

2- The car was purchased sometime in the 1950s from Bernice Chrysler Garbisch (Walter Chrysler’s daughter) by Long Island car collector Harry Gilbert. He donated it to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in 1959.

3- I acquired the car at an auction held at the museum in January 2012. The availabilty of the car was widely promoted including Newsday and right here on Hemmings Blog: http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/blog/article/suffolk_county_vanderbilt_museum_selling_a_special_1937_chrysler_imperial

4. The car does have an automatic overdrive transmission… “At 35 miles an hour a miracle happens-as Chrysler’s Automatic Overdrive goes into action providing the greatest and newest thrill in motoring.”

5. Here are links to the recent history of the car including photos taken today:


Reply  Clay Thompson says:
April 11, 2012 at 10:24 pm What a great acquisition by Mr. Kroplick. I would hesitate to restore it to preserve its originality.Would be a nice loaner to the Walter P Chrysler Museum for a special exhibit one day, perhaps in 2024 for Chrysler’s 100th anniversary.

Reply  Fred Rohrbach says:
April 11, 2012 at 10:33 pm There must be pictures in Chrysler Archives of this car when new. Could they be found and a few printed for us to enjoy?

casey says:
April 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm Fred: Hemmings Classic Car magazine published a photo of this car when new in its July 2011 issue, page 56. It’s stunning and remarkably, the car looks to have had zero modifications. The biggest differences I see today are the missing rear fender skirts which

Howard Kroplick says:

April 13, 2012 at 12:23 am Fred, here is a link to eight 1937 photos taken before the car was delivered to the Chrysler family with a comparison to photos shot over the last two days: http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/blog/article/then_now_chryslers_chrysler_1937_and_2012

Packratdave says:
April 17, 2012 at 5:48 am I wonder why the museum let the car get into such a state of disrepair, or did they get it that way and never did anything with it?

Howard Kroplick says:
April 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm It is a great question without a easy answer. Most of the damage apparently occurred when the car was stored off-site from the museum in various Suffolk County garages from 1990 to 2006.

Tom Gibson says:
April 17, 2012 at 7:19 am Howard,
Congrats on rescuing the ’37 LeBaron! My interest in the car goes back to the mid-’80′s when I photographed the car in the Eagle’s Nest courtyard.

They are the only known “modern” images taken when the ’37 was briefly displayed outside, and one was used in the prospectus. I’m thrilled she’s gone to a good home, and will have to stop by for a look-see next time I’m in the area.

Howard Kroplick says:
April 18, 2012 at 10:07 pm Tom, thanks so much for the photos and documenting the car in the 1980s.

Please send an email to me at Howard@Kroplick.com so that we can coordinate a visit to its new Roslyn home.





Today's Photos of "Chrysler's Chrysler"

The aluminum body was hand built by LeBaron and had trouble holding the paint after over 35 years in various garages. The Art Deco dash board includes a clock, radio and an automatic overdrive transmission. Jumper seats are down and in great shape. The bar is getting ready for champagne. The 1937 New York license plate was gifted by Walter Gosden and the period license plate holder was gifted by Ian Zwerdling. Prospectus: Disposition of 1937 Chrysler Imperial Model C-15 Town Car, Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, November 4, 2011

VanderbiltCupRaces.com Honored with Two Webby Awards


Apr 15 2012 Chris Osborne 5:54 PM

Howard what a grand automobile!  Reminds me of my 8-passenger 1938 Buick Limited 90L limo, gone to a new owner now (your rare Chrysler is in its own class!).  I see a panting with Walter P. Chrysler and his wife and the Town Car, when you are ready!  I would enjoy putting it to canvas grin
Best wishes,
Chris Osborne

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