Back in June of 2013 the Antique Automobile Club of America decided to have their Grand National Meet right here in the Quad Cities, in downtown Moline. I was excited, because in general, AACA shows have some pretty cool cars, and no hot rods or customs. Ha ha! No 2016 Mustangs, Resale Red 1969 Camaros, and restomod Challangers would be there! Excellent. There were many fine cars at this event, but my favorite car is the subject of today’s post: The fin-tastic 1961 New Yorker Town & Country.
The ’61 Chryslers were facelifted versions of the all-new ’60 models that brought unibody construction to the entire corporate line. It was a big change at at time when most cars on the road still had full-frame construction, save for those funny little foreign cars that were starting to appear. Chrysler was ahead of the pack!
Naturally, the wagons were new as well, and they introduced a neat new feature: pillarless styling. Yes, you could get your Chrysler wagon as a hardtop model! In fact, that was all you could get, as no pillared version was available. It made the 1960 and later models look a bit more dashing than the previous pillared 1957-59 models.
Today, everybody seems to hate wagons (well, not me, but the public at large), and I just don’t understand why. They were cool! And what’s the deal about the next generation automatically rejecting and hating what their parents like? I rode in Volvo wagons all through my childhood, and I bought an “Ovlov wagon of my own in 2007, and drove it until a fantastic, low mile Autumn Red 2004 Town Car Ultimate appeared at Strieter Lincoln in late summer of 2015. Are some folks so knee-jerk that they can’t see a good thing for what it is? Or are Americans just getting too fat for the traditional station wagon? Gotta have the butt-booster, tippy-toed, exceptionally unappealing and sometimes morbidly ugly combover-with less utility than a minivan, but dude, like, they’re cool!-and a higher center of gravity leading to sucktastic handling and generally less favorable fuel economy. Whoops. Kinda went off on a tangent there…never mind! Where were we?
Well, what can I say? You can’t change the public’s love for boring, reliable, silver-silvermist appliances. The public wants what the public wants-until it doesn’t any more. You can look at cool and interesting cars all day, just to take your mind off all the Dramamine-influenced modern vehicles you see on the way to the office each morning, all very, VERY unlike this 1961 Chrysler, which has style in spades! These wagons were the last Mopars to sport large fins without apology. “I’m a wagon. I have big ass fins. I have STYLE! Deal with it.”
While the 1962 models were largely the same, they became “plucked chickens” with fins surgically removed. All things considered, they actually looked pretty good, but I love the fintastic 1960-61 Town & Countrys!
A Newport T&C was also available, but the crème de la crème was the plusher New Yorker version, which retailed for a then-princely $4,764 (six-passenger) and $4,871 (nine-passenger), and tipped the scales at 4,425 and 4,455 pounds, respectively.
As you’d expect, New Yorkers got lots of extra trim, and fancier interior appointments, including bright rocker and wheel lip trim, gold-accented wheel covers and emblems, and other chrome-encrusted finery. They were among the most expensive Chryslers as well; only the 300G “Letter Series” hardtop and convertible were pricier. They’re also among the rarest ’61 Chryslers. Only 676 six-passenger and 760 nine-passenger versions were built. And that’s why you don’t see these at every car show!
The inside was just as fancy as the exterior, with cloth-and-vinyl seating, a clear Lucite steering wheel rim, and the most excellent Astro Dome instrument cluster–the coolest dash of the ’60s, in my opinion. And don’t forget the push-button Torqueflite automatic! I really liked the sapphire-blue and light-blue color combination of this particular T&C-and its matching interior.
This car also has rare factory air conditioning, according to the barely visible announcement on the rear-quarter window: “Air Conditioned by AirTemp.” The option cost $714 on wagons–nearly 15% over the price of the car!
The biggest difference over the ’60 model was the slanted headlights, similar to 1958-60 Lincolns. Unlike the fins, these would return for ’62. Under the hood was a 413 CID V8 with a four-barrel carb, good for 350 horsepower. Dual exhaust was standard on wagons and optional on other New Yorkers.
This was such an excellent wagon. I wish the weather had been nicer, but unfortunately, intermittent rain spoiled the show. But it was still worth the trip! Heck it was a five-minute drive from home base. How could I not attend, weather notwithstanding?
It was just starting to rain harder when I spotted this beautiful Town & Country. I had never, ever seen one of these in person before, and the odds are I won’t ever see another one. They didn’t exactly grow on trees when new, and fifty-odd years of attrition has probably done in most of them. But I found one!