1941 Chrysler Newport Pace Car
Today, we are going to cover a super rare piece of automotive history. This is the actual 1941 Chrysler Newport Pace Car used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and this particular car has a rather interesting history.
The Great Depression was tough on everyone in the USA, but especially hard for the automakers. No one had the money to buy luxury items, and at that time a new car was something very few could afford. By the early 1940’s, people were much more prosperous due to all the jobs the War created. Chrysler, however, had suffered several recent setbacks, and was a bit apprehensive about creating anything new or bold. The new company CEO, K. T. Keller, had just been put in place after the company founder, Walter P. Chrysler died.
The LeBaron Coachbuilder company presented a couple of ideas to Chrysler for unique showcars that could show everyone that Chrysler was still a player in the car game. These two cars were the Thunderbolt and the new 4 seat Newport dual-cowl Phaeton. Dual cowl means it has two windshields, and looks like 2 interiors stuck end to end. They are indeed two separate cockpits. The new CEO for Chrysler liked one of them in particular – the Dual Cowl Phaeton you see here. However, he did not like the idea of just creating a single car for car shows – he ordered 6 of the Phaetons and the Thunderbolts.
An order for 12 cars was great news for a small coach builder like LeBaron, however it was troublesome in a way. Chrysler wanted all 12 of these custom cars delivered in 90 days. In 1941, that was a monumental task, considering there were no robots or computers to aid in this process. They also had a shortage of labor, as all the men that worked in factories at the time were either working building airplanes or were in the war. They did their best, but only managed to make 5 of the 6 ordered of each model. Those 5 LeBaron Newports and Thunderbolts made waves at the car shows around the USA. This 1941 Chrysler Newport Pace Car was one of those 5.
Actual Pace Car
The car you see here is one of those 5, and it was without a doubt the most important of the 5 Newports made. This 1941 Chrysler Newport Pace Car served as the actual Pace Car for the Indy 500 in 1941. It is unique also in that the headlights for the pace car has open headlights – the other 4 had concealed headlights, like the car shown below.
This car was like a movie star during its heyday, and was known around the World. It is even more unique in that Walter P. Chrysler Jr, son of the Founder of Chrysler, kept the car and drove it around Detroit. He chose to repaint the car a pastel green and replaced the interior with dark green leather. It was originally a pearl white with red leather. It was seen all about town in Detroit, and everyone knew this car. LeBaron built a custom convertible top for the car, which folded down via an electronic control for raising and lowering the rear cowl to conceal it. This allowed entry in the back seat for passengers.
Under the hood, there is a very special edition of the ‘Spitfire’ flathead Straight 8. It was a 322 cubic inch, 143 horsepower inline 8 cylinder, which meant it had the configuration of a modern 4 cylinder, not a V configuration. Backing that was a “Vacamatic” 3 speed overdrive clutchless transmission. It also featured independent front suspension with coil springs, 4 wheel drum brakes, and live axle rear suspension.
This beautiful piece of automotive history was flawlessly restored in 2009, and was sold at auction. Since it is the only with with exposed headlights, was the actual Indy 500 Pace Car, and was once owned by the son of the founder of Chrylser, you can imagine the price is more than most people can imagine paying for a car. It is one of one built, like the Mustang 428 we recently covered.. This 1941 Chrysler Newport Pace Car is truly a piece of automotive history, and still exists today.
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