Chrysler Newport Dual Cowl Phaeton
Designed by Roberts and Alex Tremulis, the Newport that caught the most public attention. It had breakthrough flowing lines and many other advanced features captured within a futuristic expression of the classic dual cowl phaeton body style.
Built on the long wheelbase 145 1/2” Chrysler Imperial chassis, the Chrysler Newport is the first American car to feature a fender line that flows from front to rear. Its smooth, fluid fenders foreshadow the full envelope styles that would develop years later. Its beautiful, organic shape was subtly accented by LeBaron’s elimination of the visible body seams necessary for all other cars with their bolted-on fenders. The Newport’s hood, deck, doors and fenders were completely smoothed, with no design-interrupting ornamentation. LeBaron’s devotion to a smooth, uninterrupted flow of the body panels extended to integrated rear fender skirts executed in the teardrop shape of the fenders, a flush cover for the top and even recessing the license plate into the decklid and covering it with glass.
There were many tributes to the trendsetting and flowing design of the Chrysler Newport. Automobile customizers in California and elsewhere took note of it all. They made a living after World War II leading in hood noses, deck lids and fender seams on Fords and other cars. The inset license plate holder cut into the trunk lid was a luxury feature. All this was done to achieve a smooth one-piece look for owners who wanted their cars to be “something special”.
Four of the five Newports had their headlights recessed into the front fenders behind retracting headlight doors. A single Newport with a clean forceful front fender design and exposed headlights is immediately recognizable among its counterparts. It has the most important piece of history of all prewar Chrysler concept cars, having been honored to pace the 1941 Indianapolis 500 – the last Indy pace car for five years – and becoming the personal property of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. Carefully preserved both for its trendsetting design and unique history, it is the Newport offered here. Chrysler missed no promotional opportunities for the Indy 500 festivities on Memorial Day 1941 and brought other Newports to the Speedway for VIP transportation. Most important, contemporary photos clearly identify this car, with its exposed headlights, pacing the race at the head of a field of open-wheel race cars.
The performance of its powerful Chrysler eight in stock configuration was sufficient to pace the Memorial Day Classic without major modifications, particularly when backed up by Chrysler’s innovative “Vacamatic” three-speed overdrive transmission which gives the Newport the performance of a four-speed with the convenience of clutchless shifting between standard and overdrive ratios in second and third.
This car, the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car with its distinctive open headlights was repainted in pastel green and reupholstered in dark green leather before the war for the use of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. It became Chrysler’s representative among the signature cars of Detroit’s design and styling leaders such as Edsel Ford’s Continental, Ed Macauley’s Phantom and Harley Earl’s Y-job. Even among these stylish, handsome and historic cars the Newport’s cutdown doors and dual cowl seating were unique, forming a visible stylistic link between the classic designs of the thirties and the fluid, streamlined designs of the late forties. To make it practical for regular use, Chrysler and LeBaron fitted this car with a top which folded under an integrated metal boot cover. To facilitate entry and exit the rear cowl was modified to be raised and lowered electrically.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida and in March of 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.
A special 143hp 323 cu. in. inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed overdrive Vacamatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live axle rear suspension with semi-elliptical leaf springs, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase 145.5".
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel