Lifestyle

In Praise of the Vintage Woody


The 1941 Chrysler Town & Country Barrel Back Estate Wagon remains arguably the rarest, most desirable pre-war Woody

Conceived in 1939, the Town & Country Estate wagon represented Chrysler's desire to create an entirely new car that was both luxurious and dramatic. It had to be elegant enough for city driving and chauffeur driving, but utilitarian enough for country living.

David Wallace, Chrysler's president, was the driving force behind the creation of the unique Town & Country Estate wagon design. He wanted a wood-bodied car that would have the same basic lines as the steel-bodied sedans, yet with greater refinement, quality, and panache. The cars were constructed utilizing two very different types of wood, including the structural wood of white ash with contrasting panels in a rich Honduran mahogany.

By 1941, the evolution of the Town & Country had blossomed into the streamlined and beautiful design presented here. Built for a limited time only -- production halted with the onset of World War II -- the Town & Country was a rare sight on the street and remains, arguably, the rarest, most attractive, and most desirable pre-war wood-based vehicle ever produced.

The 1941 Chrysler Town & Country Barrel Back station wagon on offer is an outstanding nine-passenger example that has resided in the collection of the vendor for over 15 years. Finished in Polo Green and trimmed in tan leather, these colors in combination with the white ash and Honduran mahogany wood give the Town & Country a very attractive and stately appearance. A highly optioned example, the Chrysler comes with wide whitewall tires, a radio, a clock, a roof rack, and the very rare musical horns that play "The Campbells Are Coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!" This was an option offered to promote the Highlander cloth interior trim.

Beautifully finished, meticulously restored, impressively optioned, and highly correct, this nine-passenger Town & Country presents a rare opportunity for the serious collector to acquire one of the most unique and luxurious wood-bodied station wagons ever produced.

The SCM Analysis

This Town & Country Estate wagon sold for $313,500 at the RM auction held at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix on January 18, 2008. Its pre-sale estimate was $300,000 to $400,000.

The 1941 Chrysler Barrel Back is a rare and unusual vehicle, as only 997 of these hand-built Estate wagons were manufactured. Of those, 797 were nine-passenger versions and 200 were six-passenger cars. The Town & Country Registry lists only 17 nine-passenger survivors. They were built on a 121.5-inch wheelbase and are powered by a 112-horsepower, 252-ci, 6-cylinder Spitfire engine. They have Chrysler Fluid Drive, which was first introduced with the 1939 Chrysler Custom Imperial. Fluid Drive is the fluid coupling between the clutch and the engine that allows shifting between low and second without depressing the clutch. It also allows the driver to stop and start without using the clutch.

The first steel-roof luxury Woody wagon

The Town & Country was the first luxury steel-roof wood station wagon, and it appealed to more affluent buyers with its $1,475 price tag. It offered a larger, more refined cargo area that was accessed by two "clam shell" wood doors. It was frequently referred to as a "fastback sedan" rather than a station wagon. As an aside, the 1941 Estate wagon was mentioned in the debate within the Classic Car Club of America as a sidebar regarding granting Full Classic status to the post-war Town & Country sedans and convertibles. The nay-sayers, who prevailed, stated that there was no pre-war model in sedan or convertible form to justify acceptance of the post-war models. When the pre-war Estate wagon was suggested, it was determined that it was a "commercial" vehicle and therefore could not be considered. To many, this was a ludicrous argument. But this is a topic that will surely come up again -- hopefully, with a more sensible result. This example was restored to the highest standard and had won numerous Best in Show and Best in Class awards from prominent concours such as Amelia Island and Meadowbrook. The roof rack is a distinctive option, the interior trim elegant and distinctive. It's a very striking example of what many consider to be the most desirable Town & Country. While this Barrel Back sold for over $300,000, it was still at the low end of the estimate. Considering the quality of the restoration and the unique options, I'd have to say it was well bought and could have easily sold for another $20,000 or even $30,000 without concern. RM sold another example of a 1941 Town & Country for $280,000 at its 2006 Arizona Biltmore sale, and while it was excellent, it was not as stunning as this one. Lesser examples have recently sold for under $200,000, so the premium paid here was certainly justified.

Details

Years Produced: 1941-42

Number Produced: 1,995

Original List Price: $1,475

SCM Valuation: $150,000-$250,000

Tune-up Cost: $60

Distributor Caps: $19.95

Chassis # Location: Left front door hinge post

Engine # Location: Left side of block

Club Info: WPC Club, Box 3504, Kalamazoo, MI 49002

Alternatives: 1941 Ford Super Deluxe station wagon, 1941 Packard Deluxe Woody wagon, 1941 Hudson 8 Woody wagon

Investment Grade: A

Provided by Sports Car Market—The Insider's Guide to Collecting, Investing, Values and Trends

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