Clayton attorney Mike Williamson was thinking of getting a new four-wheel toy, something fast and flashy. "Probably something like the 500 HP 60th anniversary 427 Corvette," he said.

But that's not exactly what he got. One day a friend told Williamson his family wanted to sell its 1950 Chrysler New Yorker but felt bad about having it leave the family. He hoped since Williamson was a car guy, and almost family, that he might be interested.

"I saw photos of the car and couldn't believe my eyes. I made the purchase."

Williamson is the third owner of the 63-year-old car, which has been driven only 82,600 miles. Since the granddaughter of the original owner inherited the vehicle in 1979, only 10,000 miles have been added. Other than the car being repainted the original color, Scotch Green, in 1979, everything is as it was when driven off a Seattle dealer's showroom floor.

When the car was built, K.T. Keller was president of Chrysler Corp. He was more interested in engineering and practicality than styling and design. So in 1949, when the first new series of vehicles after World War II were introduced, they were somewhat boxy. According to a book on the history of Chrysler by Richard Langworth and Jan Norbye, some critics called it "three-box styling" -- one box piled on top of two others. But the cars sold well.

"It's an intriguing car because it's the transition following the war and before Detroit hit its golden era," Williamson said. "The car is an interesting mix of pre-war and post-war. The dashboard looks art deco, but the instrument cluster is absolutely 1950s."


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It's a big car, almost 18 feet long, on a 131½-inch wheelbase . It weighs more than 4,000 ponds. The sales brochure for the 1950 Chrysler boasted that the "powerful 135 HP Spitfire High Compression engine has the speed of the wind, and more power than you will ever need. The seats are chair height to afford the utmost comfort." Ample headroom for men and women wearing hats was also a promoted feature.

Chrysler was pretty proud of its Prestomatic Fluid Drive transmission. On a ride, Williamson demonstrated and explained how it works. The car has a clutch, but it is not always required to shift. There is a low range and a high range, with two speeds in each. Williamson started in the low range, then let up on the gas pedal, resulting in a "clunk," meaning the Chrysler had shifted from first to second gear. He then depressed the clutch, moved the gear level down to the high position for third gear, accelerated to about 35 mph, let up on the accelerator, resulting in another "clunk," and the car was in fourth gear.

A driver could also just leave the car in the high position (third gear) at a stop without depressing the clutch and then accelerate using just the third and fourth gears, but not quickly. This car is no neck jerker, which makes me wonder about the truthfulness of the speed and power statements in the sales brochure, especially since the 1951 Chrysler introduced the first Hemi V8 engine.

Some of the standard equipment selling features listed for the 1950 New Yorker included a folding Lavaliere, window control handles, carpeting, direction signals, back-up lights, automatic entrance lights, waterproof ignition, two sun visors, a cigar lighter, vacuum booster brakes, safety-rim wheels, a counterbalanced deck lid, stainless steel wheel covers and two-speed electric wipers.

Optional equipment offered white wall tires, radio, heater and defroster, six-ply tires, electric window lifts and disc brakes. The original list price of this car was about $2,750 or about $27,000 in today's dollars.

"One of the things I love about the car is all the chrome," Williamson said. "It's really like a time machine. Even though by today's standards the car is basic, it has so much style."

The 323.5 c.i. straight-eight engine drives the car beautifully and comfortably at 45 to 50 mph which was highway speed in 1950. Gas mileage was not a feature as Williamson jokes, "fill it up early and fill it up often" as his car gets about 5 mpg.

The car's interior of the car is quite striking. The 18 inch diameter steering wheel and the leather and medal dashboard are well designed and extremely attractive. The wide pinstriped mohair seats are very comfortable with room for three in both the front and rear seat. There is a center arm rest built in to the rear seat.

Williamson estimated the value of his 1950 Chrysler New Yorker at about $25,000. The owner plans to keep and enjoy the car on bright sunny days until the car has its 100th birthday and then pass it on to his sons. I've made a note in my calendar to do a follow up story on that occasion.

Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com