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1948 HEMI-POWERED CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY RESTOMOD
This beautifully restored 1948 Chrysler Town & Country “Woody” convertible represents a wonderful blend of original appearance and the drivability and performance of a powerful, late model Chrysler. When the current owner, an avid collector of classic American cars of the 1950’s – 1960’s acquired the car in 2011, he initially chose to retain the original configuration including stock 323cid V8 engine and 3-speed fluid-drive manual transmission. After investing a considerably amount, in addition to his purchase price of $97K, to sort the car, he decided to upgrade the Woodie as it did not satisfy his requirements as a reliable, nice performing car in stock configuration.
Between 2011 and 2014, the comprehensive conversion to late model mechanicals was completed by Hot Rods and Hobbies (Signal Hill, CA), the same custom builder that upgraded the 48 featured on Jay Leno’s show. While retaining the charming exterior and interior appearance of the car, the restoration replaced the original driveline with a 5.7 liter Hemi engine, a 5-speed late model transmission, along with suspension, braking, cooling, and other upgrades at a reported cost of ~$125K. The Chrysler Town & Country now represents what most consider the best of both worlds, an elegant late 40’s classic that offers modern performance, handling, reliability, and elegance.
Mechanical Upgrades / Improvements
Details of the conversion include power by a stock 5.7 liter Hemi V8 transplanted from a late model Dodge Ram coupled to a 5-speed late model automatic transmission, the original chassis transformed into a modern chassis with Wilwood 4-wheel disc brakes & stainless steel lines, front & rear coil-over suspension, 9” Ford rear, triangulated 4-link rear, independent front clip, custom exhaust system, 12 volt conversion, and wire wheels with wide whitewalls.
The factory steel body was retained, stripped down to bare metal and the wood was restored by Wood n’ Carr, Signal Hill, CA. at a cost of $23,922.00. Finished in deep Newport Blue paint and with Navy Blue leather/Tan Broadmoor Cord cloth interior, the interior was refurbished including a new wiring harness that converted all gauges to 12-volt including, exterior lighting, interior lights, interior, GPS speedometer and other electrical items. The dash and interior remain in stock configuration with refurbished Wilton wool carpet, interior, dash knobs, switches, and other dash trim. An updated AM/FM/CD/XM player is installed in the glove compartment, and for safety, color coordinated seat belts are fitted front and rear.
The body received a wood restoration, high quality respray in Newport Blue with a blue and tan interior and color coordinated top along with replacement rubber trim. Exterior features include re-chromed driver and passenger, dual-cowl-mounted spotlights, dual mirrors, front grille, fender moldings, front & rear emblems, bumpers, hood ornament, front, rear, side, and other trim at a cost of $8,840.00.
Chrome 16″ wire wheels wear 215/70-16 3” wide whitewalls. The custom original frame was strengthened/reinforced and modernized with front & rear coil-over suspension with braking being handled by Wilwood four-wheel discs.
The restored stock steering wheel fronts original instruments include a stock 110-mph speedometer and readouts for fuel level, voltage, oil pressure, and coolant temperature. The odometer shows 43K miles, though total chassis mileage is unknown due to the age of the car. Ignition and glove box keys were re-keyed, custom fabrication of the hood latch release and throttle pedal assembly, heater and ductwork installed and interior stripped and fitted with new carpet, padding and other items as needed. The trunk is electrically operated by a switch under the dash.
The Hemi 5.7-liter engine remains in its stock condition and produced 340 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm when new. The engine is mated to a late model Dodge Ram 5-speed transmission and a Ford 9″ rear end. Additional upgrades include pairing the engine to a factory correct cooling system, new custom exhaust system, and considerable chassis and suspension fabrication to accommodate the replacement engine and driveline.
A summary of features and information on the Town & Country includes:
- Chassis: 7407633
- 43K Miles Shown, TMU
- Chrysler 5.7-liter fuel-injected Hemi-V8
- 5-Speed Automatic Transmission
- Original chassis with considerable modifications/strengthening
- Ford 9″ Rear Differential
- Wilwood four-wheel disc braking system
- Front & Rear Coil-over suspension
- Front & Rear sway bars
- Conversion from 6 to 12 Volts
- Newport Blue Exterior with all refinished wood and chrome
- Navy Blue leather & Tan Broadmoor Cord cloth interior
- Power soft Top (hydraulic cylinders, top, padding & stringers replaced 4/2022)
- Navy Blue Wilton Wool carpeting- interior and trunk (trunk power operated)
- Wire wheels with 3” wide white wall tires
- Restoration documentation / receipts and “before” restoration photographs
This 1948 Chrysler Town & Country Convertible, (Model C-39), is presented in deep Newport blue with contrasting navy blue leather/tan Broadmoor Cord cloth interior, and fitted with a tan canvas soft-top. The initial presence of this car instantly puts a smile on your face. The sheer scale and magnitude of this car is almost beyond description. The lavish art-deco chrome trim and crisp whitewall tires are wonderfully contrasted against the rich wood finishes and deep blue paint. The paint is in beautiful condition overall with very high gloss throughout. The chrome and stainless trim are equally as good. At the time of the restoration process, the car was very well-sorted and the wood was properly finished. The wood finish has been exceptionally well maintained and shows virtually no signs of damage, excessive finger-joint gaps, joint failures, or flaking in the finish. The doors open and close perfectly with excellent gaps. Prior to restoration, the car appears to have been very well cared for by enthusiastic owners. Both light and dark wood finishes are well maintained and retain the glossy varnish in keeping with the elegance of these handmade cars. The glass and various exterior lenses are all in good condition, and the optional dual spotlights rotate smoothly.
The interior is beautifully appointed with navy/tan seats which create plush “library chair” seating for both front and rear passengers. It should be noted that the seating is wide and comfortable, with both seats capable of holding three passengers in a row. The seat material is in lovely condition with no tears, signs of wear, or other noticeable imperfections. The carpet is also excellent with no stains and is covered by color coordinated mats. The dashboard, instruments, and steering wheel are a visual delight of the period. Chryslers “Juke Box” styling comes to life with chrome plated trim, painted details, and art-deco instrumentation that glows quietly in the evening light. The trunk is properly finished in keeping with visual originality, although operated mechanically by a switch in the cockpit. The convertible top is new as it was replaced this year along with the padding, stringers and both hydraulic cylinders.
The engine compartment reflects the obvious updates and the effort that went into making the installation of the late model 5.7 liter engine and related components fit properly in the engine bay of the Town & Country. The photos show the overall excellent condition of the driveline components and the finishes in the engine compartment. All mechanical features operate as expected. Underside continues the same visual theme as the engine compartment with notable custom alterations to accommodate the improved engine, transmission, rear end, and suspension parts. The condition of the underside supports the owner’s statement that less than 1,000 miles have been accumulated since the mechanical restoration/upgrades.
Driving The Town & Country
The car starts and runs smoothly with a quiet idle and strong performance. Engaging the late model 5-speed automatic Chrysler transmission is smooth and, once in motion, the car shifts and operates as expected for a current automobile. The ride is leisurely and comfortable with acceleration being brisk, especially considering the size and weight of the Chrysler. Braking is significantly improved due to the upgraded Wilwood system offering technological advancements. Steering takes no more effort than any modern day car. The ride is comfortable but not the floaty ride you would expect of a car of this vintage given the entire front and rear suspension has been rebuilt with modern components. Once at speed in the Town & Country, one is reminded that these sturdy cars are lofty agents of tranquility, and with the hemi power the car is capable of considerably higher speeds than posted speed limits.
This Chrysler Town & Country “Woody” is offered with comprehensive receipts and build records, photos of the car before and during restoration, a clean California title in the owner’s name, floor mats, car cover and a trickle charger.
History of the 1948 Chrysler Town & Country “Woody”
The Chrysler was produced in an age of hand-crafted beauty, excellence, and pride, Chrysler built some of the most elegant and affordable luxury cars. For those seeking a car to enhance their sophisticated country lifestyle, nothing could complete with the combination of presence and adventure like the Town & Country.
The tradition of exposed woodwork has been a part of automotive coachwork dating back to the earliest automobile designs. The first automobiles were hand built with wood frames and stretched materials over wooden framework. Over time, as steel production stampings improved and hydraulic presses allowed for mass production, wood became more of a decorative treatment. But in the late 1940’s, wood still offered a mass manufacturer a way to extend model variety using minimal tooling and artisanal hand labor. For wagons, coupes, and convertibles, using wood as decorative structure was both financially viable and market-savvy.
Chrysler introduced the Town & Country in 1941 as a wood-bodied, barrel-back sedan. Offered within their Royal line, featuring the in-line eight-cylinder came loaded with high-end features and refined finishes. Unlike most wood-bodied utility vehicles of the period, Chrysler’s Town & Country sported lavishly varnished woods, quality upholstery, and chrome plated art-deco trim. Chrysler foresaw a market for an upscale production-based automobile that would attract wealthy buyers seeking both the Town and Country driving experience – pre-dating the modern SUV by decades. The Town & Country offered buyers a sophisticated alternative to production models, elegant for city and chauffeur driving yet sufficiently utilitarian for country living. Designers created a wood-bodied car with the same basic lines as contemporary Chrysler steel-bodied sedans, yet with greater refinement, quality and a bespoke interior, reminiscent of wealthy country estates. As Chrysler had done with their prewar station wagons, assembly was achieved using structural white ash, accented by contrasting panels of rich Honduran mahogany. The finishing process was similar to fine furniture with exposed finger joinery, complex contours, and refined but sturdy hardware.
Built on the New Yorker’s 127.5-inch wheelbase, the Town & Country convertible was longer than the sedan, and included all the New Yorker features: Five-main-bearing 323.5-cid, 135-hp straight-eight engine, Prestomatic Fluid Drive semi-automatic transmission and an electric clock. Although production totals were not officially recorded, between 1946 and1948, it is estimated that as many as 8,368 New Yorker Town & Country convertibles were built, but fewer than 150 are known to have survived today. The hand-made process however did not last as demand for station wagons grew and new methods of production had to be developed. By the mid 1950’s and into the 70’s, the name “Town & Country” had become more of a brand name than a statement of elegance, resulting in steel-bodied station wagons and minivans with plastic trim and adhesive wood finishes; a far cry from the handmade offerings of the past.