1949 Chrysler: Wood-Bodied Town & Country

VERN PARKER
Motor Matters

In car-starved America after World War II, virtually every dealership across the country had long waiting lists. Moving to the head of the line to purchase a new car was a rare privilege accorded to only a few.

One wounded soldier was accorded such an honor as an injured war hero. Ace Rosner was permitted to purchase a new 1946 Chrysler Town & Country wood-bodied convertible equipped with Fluid Drive. He kept the car only one year, but during that time he became hooked on wood-bodied Chrysler Town & Country convertibles.

Forty years later Rosner attended an auction and saw a maroon 1949 Chrysler Town & Country convertible cross the auctioneer’s block with only 20,000 miles on its odometer; it had spent many years slumbering in a garage.

With the knowledge that only 1,000 such cars had been manufactured, Rosner decided that he had to have the Chrysler — and as other bidders discovered, he meant business. When the gavel fell, Rosner was the owner of the 1949 Town & Country convertible with a wooden body.

Rosner retrieved his Chrysler and motored home. On that trip in the 4,630-pound car he heard the speedometer cable snap at 22,887 miles recorded on the odometer. “I had the car up to 90,” Rosner says; the speedometer can register speeds up to 110 mph.

The straight-eight-cylinder engine produces 135 horsepower out of 323.5 cubic inches. “Nobody cared about weights in those days,” Rosner says. “There’s nothing light on that car.” The massive rear bumper stretches from the back of the rear wheelwell on one side to the other with an interruption at the rear of the car where a separate short piece connects the two.

The rear of the Chrysler has the appearance of a period motorboat. The heavy wood-lined trunklid is held open by two hydraulic lifts; the trunk itself is more of a well than a typical automobile trunk. Below the trunk is a pair of backup lights. With wood occupying all of the rear quarters, the taillights, by necessity, are mounted on the sides of the metal rear fenders; a red reflector caps each one. When new, the exclusive Chrysler Town & Country convertible carried a base price of $3,970.

It has a two-piece windshield, two fog lights on the front gravel pan and two side mirrors that blend into the side trim. “From the driver’s seat,” Rosner says, “you can’t see the right one.” While a pair of guards protects the rear bumper, the front bumper has four bumper guards.

As soon as Rosner had driven his 18-foot, 3-inch-long Town & Country home, he determined that the all-original car, in otherwise good condition, needed to be reupholstered. “The mice and moths had a great party,” he says. The padded maroon leather dashboard remained, but the tan whipcord/maroon leather seats were replaced to original specifications. In 1949, Rosner explains, Chrysler Town & Country convertibles were offered with tops of red, black, or tan. The original top was tan, but Rosner opted for a red vinyl top to closely match the color of the car.

The remainder of the car is original, with the exception of a few of the smaller wooden pieces near the rear window that were replaced by a shop in Pennsylvania.

The 131.5-inch wheelbase always offers Rosner a cushy, comfortable ride whenever he is inclined to climb behind the three-spoke steering wheel with a chrome-plated 360-degree horn ring. The Fluid Drive reminds him of his first wood-bodied Town & Country convertible of years ago.

The rear of this 1949 Chrysler has the appearance of a period motorboat. The heavy wood-lined trunklid is held open by two hydraulic lifts; the trunk itself is more of a well than a typical automobile trunk. Below the trunk is a pair of backup lights. With wood occupying all of the rear quarters, the taillights, by necessity, are mounted on the sides of the metal rear fenders; a red reflector caps each one. When new, the exclusive Chrysler Town & Country convertible carried a base price of $3,970.