Auctions and Brokerage
Henry Shipley, Middlesex, New Jersey (acquired by the late 1960s)Jim Kafka, Toms River, New Jersey (acquired from the above in the mid-1970s)Private Collector (acquired from the above circa 2010)Denny Harms, Poplar Grove, Illinois (acquired from the above)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
This stunning Newport Blue Chrysler Royal Town and Country “Barrelback” is one of 996 such wagons produced for 1941. Today, only 24 of these magnificent, hand-built automobiles are known to survive, according to Harold Mermel, president of the Town and Country chapter of the National Woodie Club, who has been tracking each of the known examples for over 50 years.
In the late 1930s, the Chrysler Corporation was in search of a glamorous new vehicle to draw attention to its brand. Chrysler designer Arnott “Buzz” Grisinger responded with plans for the Town and Country. A woodie with the appearance of a stylish and thoroughly modern sedan, the Town and Country was a total departure from the wood-bodied offerings of other manufacturers. It featured a long, sloping roofline ending in rounded clamshell rear doors, which earned the model its nickname: “Barrelback.”
The Barrelback’s steel components were produced by Briggs Manufacturing Company and showcased an all-steel, fastback-style roof, an element never before seen on a wagon. Wood body components were supplied by Pekin Wood Products Company; structural members were of sturdy white ash, while the beautifully contrasting insert panels consisted of Honduran mahogany. The cars were hand-assembled at Chrysler’s Jefferson Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit. With a sumptuous leather interior, striking Art Deco detail, and beautifully conceived brightwork throughout, the Barrelback was available in either sixor nine-passenger versions.
The car on offer was purchased from a large collection in Pennsylvania, where it had been stored for many years in unrestored condition. Harms Distinctive Restorations in Poplar Grove, Illinois, renowned for its remarkable Town and Country restorations, was selected to return the car to its former glory. The Barrelback was completely disassembled, researched, and documented to ensure concours-level authenticity. The engine and all mechanicals were rebuilt, and a new wiring harness was installed. The steel body was prepared and painted in correct Newport Blue using single-stage enamel for an authentic appearance, and every fastener was returned to a pristine finish. Reproducing the exquisite white ash and Honduran mahogany elements took more than 18 months, as craftsmen painstakingly matched the wood grain across the convex and concave surfaces of the body. Fresh red leather seating and brown hog’s hair carpeting were complemented by meticulously restored mottled plastic and brightwork details. The car’s chrome was expertly replated and its delicate emblems received new cloisonné. In all ways, it is a spectacular restoration.
Not shown since its completion, this 1941 Chrysler Royal Town and Country Barrelback is likely to be welcomed at high-level concours. In addition, its vault-like solidity, abundant room for passengers and luggage, rebuilt mechanicals, and delightful Vacamatic semiautomatic transmission would make this car an absolute pleasure to drive, tour, and enjoy.