1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt
Walter P. Chrysler built his company
on the principles of engineering excellence and
innovation which had distinguished his career in the
19th century railroads, at Buick and Willys Overland.
The first Chrysler featured an
efficient and powerful high compression six-cylinder
engine, force-feed lubrication, tubular front axle and
four-wheel hydraulic brakes, refinements then
unprecedented in series production automobiles at the
The success of these and other
innovations in 1934 culminated in Chryslers introduction
of the Airflow, a streamlined, unit body breakthrough in
Its timing could hardly have been
Mired in the dashed expectations of
the depression, customers were loath to experiment with
something so new and intuitively untried and risky.
Sales plummeted and Chrysler quickly
reverted to making more conventional looking
Their mistake may largely be traced
to springing the dramatically different air
flow with its
distinctive appearance upon an unprepared audience.
But one remained immediately
The Copper Car.
It was built by LeBaron with a copper
hardtop, sill trim and bumpers.
It survives in this unique,
distinctive configuration today. After its round of appearances it was
sold to actor Bruce Cabot (First Mate Jack Driscoll in
King Kong among many other roles).
In 1954 its engine was replaced by a
Chrysler Hemi V-8. It was acquired by the Harrahs
Collection in 1960 and was bought during its 1985
dispersal auction by the most recent owner who two
decades later commissioned a complete restoration by
Chris Kidd's Tired Iron Works.
During restoration the original
Spitfire Eight engine was returned to its home under the
Thunderbolt's hood along with a dual carburetor induction
system. The drive system powering the
retractable hardtop was re-engineered for smooth,
Completed in 2009 it debuted at the
Amelia Island Concours d' Elegance where it won the
Camille Jenatzy Award for the Most Audacious Exterior,
then took third in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'
Elegance in August and a class win (scoring 100 points)
at the Newport Beach Concours at the St. Regis Resort.
Everything about this car, as its
recent 100 point score confirms, is to the highest
standards of materials, craftsmanship, historical
accuracy, fit, finish and function. A dramatic statement of vision and
innovation, with its brilliant copper hardtop and trim
it is one of a kind, a dramatic statement of leadership
in engineering, design and creativity in the 1940s, and
no less a statement today.
thought the 57 Ford was the first retractable
hardtop. One piece windshield was rare in 1941.
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