Three very special Chrysler cars will go on the block at the Mecum auction in Monterey, California. The 1956 Chrysler Plainsman concept car, a 1958 DeSoto Adventurer with a fuel-injected engine and a 1960 Chrysler 300 F Special that set a speed record at Daytona fifty years ago.
Introduced at the 1956 Chicago Auto Show, the Dave Scott-designed Chrysler (or Plymouth) Plainsman wagon concept was supposed to symbolize what styling chief Virgil Exner called the “colorful and casual way of life that typifies the nation’s westward movement.” The Palomino Beige two-door wagon featured a chestnut and white calf hide leather interior, climate control and power windows. The padded white fabric top was decorated with gold Texas Longhorn medallions. Innovative features included a fully automated tailgate, a rear-facing “observation car” third seat, a concealed gas filler inlet hidden within a retracting taillight, and the industry’s first hidden spare tire, which retracts inside the flip-up rear passenger quarter panel. The Ghia-built Plainsman is equipped with a Chrysler 440 CID V8 engine that replaced the original 260 CID engine that was woefully inadequate for the nearly 2.5-ton car. In an interview with Hemmings Motor News, dream car collector Joe Bortz said Chrysler’s policy was to ship all Ghia-built concepts out of the country to avoid paying duty, so the Plainsman was given to the president of the Bank of Cuba, who was murdered by Fidel Castro’s agents while riding in the car. The car then became the property of Elwood Parrish, Chrysler’s export manager, who brought the Plainsman with him when he escaped from Cuba and returned to the United States. Later transferred to Australia, he brought the Plainsman with him, having it converted to right-hand drive as Australian law demanded. Over the years it was owned by Parrish, it was also driven in Mexico and Japan. It was restored to left-hand drive when Parrish returned to the U.S. Bortz bought the Plainsman from Parrish’s grandson, who needed money for a house, but lost the car in a divorce settlement. The Plainsman is estimated to bring between $250,000 and $300,000 when it goes up for bids on Saturday, August 14, at 1:20 PM.
The 1958 DeSoto Adventurer Convertible going up for bids next month was the first one built, a pilot car that was also used for styling exercises. It’s also one of only five built with the 361 CI V8 equipped with the Electrojector fuel-injection system (for more information on the Electrojector, click here). Removed after all the Electrojector-equipped cars were recalled, this car’s fuel injection unit was recovered 44 years later when it was discovered in the possession of the wife of Chrysler representative J. Gerald Cassel, who had removed it in 1959. The Adventurer is in Spanish Gold with matching soft top and interior and includes all the features that distinguished the DeSoto brand, including a Torqueflite transmission, Sure-Grip differential, all power accessories and an opulent interior with signal-seeking radio, Highway Hi-Fi record player and steering wheel watch. It has won the AACA Senior and many other prestigious awards and is documented with a copy of the build card, the original title, original service certificate and original owner reference book. Bidding starts on Saturday at 2:20 PM.
Possibly the most significant of the Chrysler vehicles is the 1960 300F Special. It is one of seven 1960 300 F Specials built by Chrysler to compete at Daytona Beach in the the Flying Mile, which actually was run on the beach – in the sand. Each was taken off the assembly line, a special team of Chrysler’s top Engineers were assembled in a secret and separate location where each was reworked to compete in the Flying Mile. The Daytona rules prohibited direct factory sponsorship; cars had to be by privately owned. This car was purchased by Gregg Ziegler, a Chicago-area hardware store owner and car enthusiast who had entered Chrysler 300s in 1957, 1958 and 1959 trying to break the record set by a 1956 Chrysler 300. His new Chrysler 300F featured an engine with solid lifters, special piston rings, high-lift camshaft, factory headers and specially cast short ram manifolds. A Pont-A-Mousson 4 speed gear box was installed and the rear axle ratio changed to 2.93 for top end performance. The cars were drastically underrated at 400 HP.
Ziegler drove his new car to Speed Week where he set NASCAR’S all-time ” Flying Mile ” record at 144.927 MPH. The other six cars, which included an engineering prototype, took the next six places. It was one of the most comprehensive victories by a single model in the history of recorded motorsports. The competition was cancelled after the 1961 running, leaving Ziegler’s record intact for all time.
This car is unrestored and has 11,000 miles on the odometer. It has been meticulously maintained. The factory spare is in the trunk. Included in the sale are the original GoodYear Blue Streak racing tires and original NASCAR-approved seat belts used in the record run along with a huge archive of documentation. It’s definitely one of the most collectible Chryslers in the world. Scheduled to be auctioned on Saturday at 3:15 PM
Of course, if you’re not bidding, you can still see the cars. They will be on display on the Del Monte Golf Course and there’s no charge for visiting.
Mecum at Monterey, Friday, August 13 and Saturday, August 14, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, 1 Old Golf Course Road in Monterey, California. For more information, visit the Mecum Auctions website.
Thanks to Curtis Redgap for the timely tip.