Courtesy of Bonhams

A woodie with Full Classic status

This 1948 Chrysler Town and Country shows only 77,630 miles, which is believed to be from new. The interior is finished completely in striking blue leather upholstery, a rare option in 1948 (supposedly only 10% were ordered with the leather option). It is complemented with gray Wilton wool carpeting and is well appointed with a plethora of factory-correct accessories including the dual-cowl-mounted spotlights, dual side-view mirrors, dual amber-colored fog lights, rear-view mirrors, a deluxe push-button AM radio, a clock, optional dual Mopar Model 54 heater units, front and rear bumper guards, and wide whitewall Firestone Deluxe Champion tires.

This car was reported to have been the subject of a restoration prior to arrival in this ownership a decade ago.

In 2007, this attractive convertible woodie was shown at the Newport Concours in Rhode Island, where it rather appropriately received the Best Newport award. That same year, it gained second in the Post War Convertible Class at the Stowe Fall show. More recently, it was exhibited at the 2012 Boston Cup, garnering the City of Boston Commissioner’s Cup.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1948 Chrysler Town & Country
Years Produced:1946–48
Number Produced:8,373 convertibles
Original List Price:$2,725–$3,420
SCM Valuation:$115,000–$160,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Left front door hinge
Engine Number Location:Left side block between 1 and 2 cylinders
Club Info:National Woodie Club
Alternatives:1946–48 Ford Sportsman, 1941 Chrysler Town
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 364, sold for $126,500, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Greenwich, CT, sale on June 2, 2013.

A top-shelf wagon

In 1940, Chrysler president David A. Wallace set his design team to work developing a tight and streamlined station wagon that was a step ahead of the “clumsy, boxy creations” being offered at the time. The result was a wood-bodied station wagon with a white ash framework and Honduras mahogany paneling that had the look of a fastback sedan.

It was based on the Chrysler Windsor, and the engine was the L-head 112-horsepower inline six with Fluid Drive. Wallace was also the president of Perkin Wood Products in Helena, AR. I’m sure the contract to supply the wood paneling for the cars entered into the equation as Wallace shepherded the project through the approval process.

Production began in March of 1941, and the Town & Country — a name credited to Paul Hafer of the Boyertown Body Works, who said, “The front looked ‘town’ and the rear looked ‘country’” — was the first luxury station wagon that appealed to the more affluent upper-crust buyers. In the model year, 997 were built. Another 1,000 were produced the following year before Chrysler shifted production toward the war effort.

Post-war boom

As the country returned to more normal footing at the war’s conclusion, the automotive industry faced tremendous pent-up demand, and Chrysler was set to offer an entire series of the Town & Country line, complete with the inline eight offered in the New Yorker series. But for some undocumented reason, they dropped the station wagon.

Only the convertible and the sedan made it to dealer showrooms, although seven prototype hard tops were also built in 1946. As an aside, David Wallace for many years drove what is thought to be the fifth one produced before returning it to the Chrysler Motor Pool. It survives today, and is thought to be the only one that does.

Production continued through 1948 with few changes. They did, however, stop using real mahogany for the inner panels, switching to Di-Noc decals. 1948 was the last year for the full wood body, as for the final two years of production, they simply trimmed the doors with wood.

High maintenance

From 1946 to 1948, 8,373 convertibles were produced, with a rather low survival rate due to the high maintenance requirements. Of the 3,309 convertibles produced in 1948, it is thought that only 195 survive today.

The Chrysler Town & Country owner’s manual stated, “You can keep your car looking new with very little trouble… Under ordinary conditions, a good varnish job will last a year, but we recommend that it be varnished every six months so to preserve the wood and retain for many years the sparkling beauty of the rich ornamental woods.”

The novelty of varnishing your car every six months wore off rather quickly, thus resulting in the very low survival rate.

Joining the ranks

In 2010, the Classic Car Club of America, after prolonged debate and gnashing of teeth, elected to grant the 1946–48 Chrysler Town & Country Full Classic status. The process produced long-lasting ill will with members rumored to have resigned over the inclusion. The Classic Car Club of America recognizes automobiles that were “built in limited production numbers and were quite expensive when new. As a group they represent the pinnacle of engineering, styling and design for the era.” The net of it all is that some members didn’t think the Town & Country lived up to that definition.

Full Classic status often comes with financial benefit, as values tend to appreciate with the newly granted prestige. The example Bonhams offered appeared to be exceptional, with low mileage. It had a long list of desirable options including leather interior, dual Mopar heaters and deluxe push-button radio. It also had numerous awards, albeit from second-tier events, in the back seat.

The ACC Premium Auction Database lists dozens of recent sales of these cars, and the cream of the crop sold between $132,000 and $159,000. But going back to sales in 2008, we see the same range, so the Full Classic status does not seem to have had much influence here.

It does show, however, that this T&C convertible was very well bought indeed.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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