Chrysler Corporation was just six years old in 1930, yet the firm had already built a solid reputation for quality, style, and value. The ambitious Mr. Chrysler added Plymouth, Dodge, and DeSoto to his portfolio to fill the entry-level and mid-priced slots, providing the financial stability to move the Chrysler marque steadily upward. In the late 1920s, Chrysler was busy making a name for itself on the international motorsports stage. The quick and durable 70-series roadsters racked up tremendous sporting accolades – including high finishes in the Mille Miglia and Le Mans, against considerably more exotic, purpose-built machinery.
The new Chrysler Series 77 arrived for the 1930 model year, featuring a host of improvements, including a double drop chassis, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, and a four-speed gearbox. New styling features included a thin-edge chrome grille with body-color slats, and on early cars, unique pennon-shaped louvers on the hood sides, giving the design a distinct Art Deco flair. Power came from the robust 268 cubic-inch L-head inline-six, rated at 93 horsepower. Like its predecessors, the Series 77 also proved to be a formidable competition car, and the factory entered two 77 roadsters at Spa in 1930, eventually finishing 5th behind three Alfa Romeos and a Bugatti. Chrysler also repeated their superb 5-litre class win at the Mille Miglia the same year.
For those customers not out to win the Mille Miglia, Chrysler offered a wide variety of coachwork options to suit individual tastes and desires. Nine standard bodies were available, including a roadster, coupe, phaeton, tourer, and others. As part of the strategy to move Chrysler up-market and compete with LaSalle and, eventually, Cadillac and Packard, buyers were offered select semi-custom options from Locke and Brewster.
This lovely Chrysler 77 is an exceptionally rare coachbuilt model, wearing an elegant Town Car body by the prestigious Brewster & Co. of New York. Frank Kleptz acquired this extraordinary Chrysler in the late 1970s from another well-known and respected collector, Roger Ritterbeck. In typical Brewster fashion, the design is minimally adorned, with elegant proportions, exquisite detailing, and superlative build quality. The pennon-shaped hood louvers identify this as an early production model, as later cars switched to a more conventional, though less attractive vertical design. It wears a well-preserved older restoration, finished in a handsome color scheme of burgundy with subtle light accents, matching wire wheels, and a black upholstered roof. As with nearly all of Frank Kleptz’s cars, the restoration is expertly finished, as evident by the AACA National First Prize award from 1980.
The Brewster Town Car was aimed at the wealthy big-city dweller seeking a luxurious automobile with superior performance and maneuverability compared to larger machinery. Like most chauffeur-driven cars of the era, this Chrysler features a businesslike driver’s compartment trimmed in hard-wearing black leather. Rear passengers enjoy more opulent trimmings of maroon broadcloth and matching carpet. Appointments include a glass partition, folding opera seats, and braided grab handles. The soft trim remains in good order, though some minor moth damage is apparent on the rear seat upholstery.
Under the hood resides Chrysler’s legendary “Red Head” six. It is very well detailed, with the proper dark green finish on the block, bright red cylinder head, and black enamel ancillaries. Likewise, minor fittings and plumbing are period-correct, with authentic tags and decals on the accessories. Some flaws and blemishes are noted in the painted surfaces, primarily from this car’s extended storage period. Following a basic service with new fluids and fuel, it now runs quite well, and the gearbox exhibits smooth, effortless changes. Even the thermostatic radiator shutters still function as they should. Some additional attention is warranted to the braking system and elsewhere; however, once sorted, this will make a delightful tour car eligible for a wide variety of events.
This extremely rare Series 77 is a fine example of Chrysler’s unique blend of quality, luxury, and performance. With the added cachet of the Brewster nameplate, it is easy to see why Frank Kleptz was so taken by its charming character.
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