Although the Chrysler Corporation was still in its relative infancy in 1928, the fledgling company had managed to leap up the sales charts from 32nd place to 3rd in a matter of a few years, buoyed by its rapidly growing reputation for performance and quality. The main ingredient for success came in the form of the L-head, seven-main-bearing inline-six originally developed for the B-70. These engines were rather unusual in the US market in that, at 248.9 cubic inches, they were smaller in displacement than the competition, yet could match or surpass the output of their rivals. The impressive numbers were achieved via a special high-compression cylinder head and lightweight cast aluminum pistons. These early Chrysler roadsters quickly gained a reputation for being some of the fastest cars in their class.
Chrysler also took a unique path in sending a number of its cars overseas to compete against the best Europe had to offer in motorsport. With the high-performance, six-cylinder Series 70-series, Chrysler scored a tremendous 3rd and 4th position in the 1928 Le Mans 24 Hour race. In that same year, Chrysler scored a class win at the grueling Mille Miglia in Italy. Perhaps the most remarkable point about Chrysler’s success in these punishing endurance races is that, at Le Mans in particular, the mid-priced Chrysler was only beaten by much more exotic and expensive machinery. The cars that Chrysler campaigned were only moderately prepared, and they stood up to the might of the Bentley squad’s race-prepared machines which had struggled to keep their big burly cars held together long enough to finish, limping their winning car across the line. A French-entered, overhead cam Stutz Black Hawk took the fight to Bentley for overall honors (finishing second), but Chrysler – in a pair of mid-market roadsters that were essentially unmodified – achieved their remarkable result by managing a steady and reliable race to finish on the podium. Chrysler had achieved what few other American car makers could, using virtually showroom standard machinery.
This charming 1928 Chrysler Model 72 Sport Roadster is a wonderful AACA Senior National First Prize-winning example recently out of a prominent collection. Wearing an older but high-quality restoration performed by the respected experts at Prueitt Restorations of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, it still presents in outstanding condition. This charismatic roadster looks wonderful in its vivid paint scheme, which was part of a marketing ploy used to attract well-to-do young buyers to the sporty Chrysler line. The paint presents in excellent condition overall, remaining quite attractive since the restoration was completed. Body and panel fit is quite good, in keeping with the high quality construction these Chryslers enjoyed when new. Chrome and brightwork is also presented very nicely, with excellent quality plating on the bumpers, radiator, lamps and accessories. Being a deluxe-trim Sport roadster, it is equipped with wire wheels, dual sidemount spares, chrome plated drum-type Depress Beam headlights, dual matching cowl lights, wind-wings and a trunk rack. The radiator is topped with the “Mercury Wing” mascot and the body features a golf-bag door and a generously sized rumble seat with good quality upholstery.
The cockpit is trimmed in tan leather which presents in very good condition, again showing little wear or signs of ageing since this car was restored. Likewise, brown carpeting is in excellent condition. The dash proudly features Walter P Chrysler’s signature embossed on a plate above the gauges, and we particularly love the sleek, minimalist style of the instrument panel which was a new design for 1928. Minor controls are fitted either below the dash or onto the wheel to keep the fascia as clean and uncluttered as possible. The canvas top is in fine order, exhibiting good fit and finishing. The top frame also presents very well, with quality chrome plating and beautifully finished woodwork and full weather equipment is stowed in custom bags which fit neatly in the golf-club compartment.
Mechanically, this Chrysler is in very good order. It is equipped with the rare and desirable high-compression “Red Head” specification engine. The detailing is to a very high standard, with correct porcelain finished manifolds, red-painted cylinder head and properly finished cylinder block. Wiring and plumbing are tidy, with proper fittings and hardware for a clean, uncluttered and period correct look. To cope with the improved performance, Chrysler equipped the Model 72 with hydraulic brakes and an improved front axle for 1928, making it a surprisingly enjoyable car to drive. While this car certainly presents well enough for casual show, it is perhaps best enjoyed on the road where its next owner can fully exploit the potential of that brilliant six-cylinder engine.
Thanks to that reputation for performance and the sporty styling of the roadster, the Chrysler 70-series is a car that is prized by today’s enthusiasts. It is also one of the few American cars of the era that is eligible for both the Mille Miglia Storica and the Le Mans Classic, further enhancing their collector value and opening up amazing opportunities to experience a taste of what Chrysler’s team may have felt from their incredible successes of 1928.