2023 |Estate of Mark Smith Auction
1932 Chrysler CG Imperial Custom Roadster
Coachwork by LeBaron
$800,000 - $1,200,000| Without Reserve
Among the Most Beautiful American Automobiles of the Classic Era
A Bespoke Chrysler; Customized In-Period by Original Owner Dr. William F. Whelan
Known History with Only Five Caretakers in Nine Decades
Carefully Preserved in Marvelous, Largely Original Condition
384.8 CID Inline L-Head 8-Cylinder Engine
Single Stromberg Carburetor
150 BHP at 3,200 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
Front Solid Axle with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Rear Live Axle with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Seldom is an automobile more closely linked with its original owner than this 1931 Chrysler and Dr. William F. Whelan. A respected Philadelphia otolaryngologist, Dr. Whelan served for years both in private practice and as an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School before his retirement in 1963. His success in business and life enabled him to drive a grand automobile, and he did just that, acquiring a new Chrysler CG Imperial Roadster with LeBaron coachwork. While certainly a 1931 model by serial number and specification, the car may have been an unsold model which Dr. Whelan acquired in 1932, and thus has always been titled as that year.
Most men who bought a CG Imperial Roadster new simply drove it. For the first six years of his ownership, Dr. Whelan never left his alone, steadily evolving its appearance to suit his taste. According to a written recollection on file from the car’s second owner, Dr. Whelan’s vision involved chroming the front axle and removing leaves from the suspension to make the body sit lower; installation of a custom hood ornament and Sun tachometer; lowering of the seats; modification of the top well to allow the top to fold flush with the rear deck; and fitting a new dramatically raked and lowered V-windshield, believed to have been courtesy of R.C. Wall Manufacturing of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Some of this work seems to have been supported by ongoing improvements to Chrysler’s engineering which Dr. Whelan admired. Chrysler Airflow taillights from 1934 were fitted, and according to this correspondence, the original powerplant was changed for a CW unit, which displaces the same 384 cid. but produces an additional 25 hp. A photograph of the Chrysler, published in Richard Burns Carson’s The Olympian Cars, shows it with a 1937 Pennsylvania license plate and much of the work already completed, as the car was already modified to its present appearance by that time.
The result was an incredibly sleek, tapered look, reminiscent of the 1928–1929 Auburn Speedsters, with performance to match. In an era when every automotive advertising drawing made its subject appear to move seamlessly with the wind, the Whelan Chrysler, in the metal, looked and behaved the part. That it was no famed stylist’s creation, but rather one owner’s radical vision, making this all the more remarkable.
In 1952, following two decades of creativity, Dr. Whelan sold his prized Chrysler to Thomas Dickinson, then of New York, who had known the doctor while in his own residency at the UPenn Medical School. It was shown that same year at the International Motor Sport Show at the Grand Central Palace in Manhattan, sporting fenders which by this time had been bobbed. The show’s organizers had invited several members of a newly formed organization, the Classic Car Club of America, to take part. Thus, this Chrysler has been taking part in CCCA events, for the entirety of the club’s existence.
Several years ago, automotive historian Jonathan Sierakowski interviewed Thomas Dickinson’s son, who noted that during his father’s ownership the car was involved in a minor fender-bender, and subsequently refinished in its present black over the early blue, traces of which can be seen in rubbed-through areas of the current paint. Around 1965, the car passed to his brother, Richard K. Dickinson, also an automobile enthusiast. In 1981, the second Mr. Dickinson and his wife elected to sell the Chrysler. Determined that it would remain in good, caring hands, he chose Jim Kaufmann of Atlanta, Georgia, as the new caretaker, where it would remain for another 20 years.
Mark Smith was utterly smitten with the Whelan Chrysler, and in 2001 secured the car from Mr. Kaufmann for his collection, in a trade involving a closed Duesenberg – indicative of the esteem in which he held this car. It has remained in the collection now for another two decades, continuing something of a tradition among the car’s owners, and has been preserved in the same patinated condition.
Sympathetic improvements included the replacement of the by-then deteriorated front seat upholstery with distressed leather, while preserving the balance of the original interior including the 1931 blue leather in the rumble seat. Mr. Smith also elected to return the car’s fenders to their original configuration, by acquiring an original black 1931 CG Imperial sedan and appropriating its fenders, which, thanks to their original finishes, look right at home. The original bobbed fenders, long stored on the Smith property, remain with the car and will accompany it to the new owner.
Mr. Smith exhibited the Chrysler on rare occasions, including in 2004 at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, earning a trophy for the Most Significant Chrysler Product, and as an entrant in the Prewar Preservation class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® in 2007 and 2021.
A world of new opportunities remain open to a new owner, to show off one of the sportiest, most dramatic, and exciting Chryslers of the Classic Era – one man’s vision, carefully preserved.
*Please note that this Lot, like all vehicles in this Auction, has been in long-term static storage and may not be currently operational. It will require mechanical attention prior to any road use.
Gooding & Company presents and conducts the Estate of Mark Smith Auction under the authority of John J. Rendemonti, Executor of the Estate of Mark J. Smith, duly appointed by the Circuit Court of the State of New Hampshire, Probate Division, Case Number 312-2022-ET-00072. The Estate has compiled available title and/or registration paperwork for the Vehicles offered in the Auction and will provide such paperwork to the Buyer if it is available. However, as set forth more fully in the Conditions of Sale, neither the Estate nor Gooding makes any representation or warranty with respect to any existing certificate of title or registration with regard to any Lot in the Auction. Any Lot may be sold on a Bill of Sale. By participating in this Auction, all bidders and buyers recognize that Estate and Gooding have expressly disclaimed all such warranties concerning the availability or sufficiency of any title or registration documentation.