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Big Hemi: 1953 Chrysler Town & Country Wagon

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This is a great find sent to us by reader Charles H, a 1953 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country Station Wagon for sale at auction on eBay. As of this writing, with four days left in the auction, bidding is at $3,050, reserve not met.

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I don’t know why I have grown to like these particular wagons so much. No one in my family or circle of friends growing up ever could afford one of these luxury wagons.

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These are big, elegant cruisers that were not very common on the roads when I was a kid in the fifties (in 1953, Chrysler sold only 1399 New Yorker wagons with the 331 hemi V-8 and 1242 Windsor wagons with the 265 cubic inch L-head straight six). While the Town & Country label originally was applied to wood bodied station wagons and even wood bodied sedans, by the early fifties, as the wood bodied cars fell out of favor and were replaced by less expensive, easier to maintain steel bodies, Chrysler used the well established Town & Country brand name for all its station wagons all the way into the seventies and then, of course, Chrysler applied the T&C name to its minivans starting in 1990 and continues to use the name for them into the present.

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If you’re interested in Chrysler wagons of the fifties, there is a nice article about them here on Hemmings.com and complete specifications for the 1953 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country Model C56-1 here.

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The car up for auction here is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but it is wearing a Texas license plate, so perhaps came from dry west Texas to dry New Mexico at some point in its history.

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The seller provides a nice set of photographs, but says almost nothing about the car. In fact the description is limited to the following: “Runs and drives. Needs some rust repairs. All original car.”

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One of the auction viewers asked the seller if the car could be driven 100 miles home. The reply is actually longer than the ad description: “It runs and drives but has been out of service so long it will require a full going over before a road trip. It has brakes and lights. I recommend trailering the car home.”

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This car looks like it is indeed very original and complete. It will need a complete restoration as well.

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The wood flooring in the back is very cool and looks to be in surprisingly good condition.

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The auction listing shows mileage on the car as 11,969, but one has to assume that means 111,969 and I’m guessing the engine may be in need of a rebuild. The fluid drive transmission will likely need a going over, along with the brakes, exhaust, electricals and upholstery. And don’t forget the rust, which doubtless extends beyond the areas pictured.

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The interior does look very decent, especially the dash and headliner. This car is definitely rare, and seems to be unusually complete for a non-runner of this vintage. But with the amount of work this car will need, you have to buy it right to not get quickly upside down. Top dollar for this car in concours condition is right around $30,000. I’d love to see this car restored and looking new again, though it might be made into a fine cruiser with just a mechanical refreshing and some rust repair. What would you pay for this one, and what do you think the seller is aiming for with the reserve? Might this be your next restoration project?


  1. Howard A Member

    This car has been flipped and re-flipped. I’ve seen it before. Such a nice car, too. Truth be known, the hemi here, isn’t the fire-breathing monster of today, it was an oily, gas guzzlin’, slug, at least the ones I dealt with. I had a friend with several cars like this. I’d almost prefer the flathead 6. I just think of this car new, this was no Rambler wagon, this was high class. Lot of work, I hope it finally finds a home.

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    • Jim Mc

      “This car has been flipped and re-flipped. I’ve seen it before.”

      If this is true, I’d like to know why. Is each owner finding something wrong with the car that’s beyond their ability? Or are they just getting their miles out of it and moving on. Yeah, there’s bad rocker rust. And I’d like to know exactly what the frame looks like. But this could still be a great driver. Maybe that’s what each owner is doing. I have no big bucks so that’s what I would do. Drive it until I can’t anymore. And then hope that there’s someone out there who has the big bucks to restore it to the level it deserves. But until then, it should be maintained and driven (reasonably, modestly) like it’s supposed to be until it can’t. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Or should they all be parked in barns to rot waiting for rescue?

      Sorry. As the SO would say, I’m prob overthinking it.

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  2. dutchb340

    Here we go again, “the hemi here, isn’t the fire-breathing monster of today, it was an oily, gas guzzlin’, slug”. The Hemi here IS the original “Fire Breathing Monster”. Regardless of what you may have experienced with some 60 plus year old examples today, these were performance engines of their day. Yes they made low horsepower versions with two barrel carbs for station wagons, and they made Dual Quad versions with high horsepower that dominated racing in their day. If you want an honest opinion of how these “oily, gas guzzlin slugs” ran in the 50’s, I invite you to stop by the Museum of Drag Racing just outside Ocala Florida (http://garlits.com/) and ask Don Garlits how they ran, say compared to a flat head 6.

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi dutchb340, all good points, but you are missing my point. Yes, older hemi’s could be made to run, however, most everyday, people and plywood haulin’ cars, like this, were the norm, and not dual quad hemi’s. I just remember working on these, and they were always a neglected mess. I’d prefer the 6, not for it’s blazing hp, but it’s simplicity.( I’m an old man now) BTW, I have been to the Museum of Drag Racing. While Don Garlits wasn’t there that day, it is an awesome place, and also recommend it to any gearhead in the Ocala area.

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      • dutchb340

        Hello Howard, I think I get your point, but I read it as a blanket statement about gen I Hemi’s. Being a life long Mopar guy I could not let that pass without comment. I had the pleasure of bumping into Don Garlits multiple times while I lived in Florida. A great guy to bench race with if you get the chance. Don just turned 84, I think that qualifies him as an “old guy” now, he still appears to like the high horsepower cars. Maybe you just need a new Challenger R/T to give you some good memories with the latest Hemi ;-)

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      • Keith

        Where were you “I’d prefer the 6” guys a couple years ago when I had my 51 Windsor 2 door hardtop with the straight 6? I couldn’t GIVE that car away, even though it was a one owner in #3 condition and a good running car. All I ever heard from prospective buyers was “too bad it doesn’t have the 8”. I actually liked the 6 myself, easy to work on and a lot (relatively speaking)of low-end torque.

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  3. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    Good post Dutch…
    We just finished this early ’53 . Was 331 built here to 354 and it does have factory dual quads, tho’ shown here with a 4v for break-in……

    Just left for Germany ,installed in a Glaspar G2 Roadster

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  4. grant

    The only reason a modern Hemi is a Hemi is because Chrysler trademarked the name and decided to call it that. It doesn’t truly have hemispherical combustion chambers.

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    • John

      True enough. But I’m quite happy with my ’05 Hemi with 216k on it.

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  5. DENIS

    I like these old wagons..I wouldn’t do a high-buck restoration, however. I’m pretty handy and would do a backyard restoration to make it nice without spending a fortune and just drive it. Based on that, it would always be worth 12-15g and I’d drive it til I was tired of it. Would like to score some REAL Chrysler wire wheels though.

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  6. Van

    I like this one, the white walls give it character. Could you shoot a thin coat of white on the bad spots. Not completely covering the patina.
    Wife says looks to much like ambulance.

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  7. Mark S

    I just love any of these old post war era Mopars. There’s a lot of people that think that they are to frumpy ( tall hat cars ) and that maybe true but they were also incredibly well made cars that were easy to work on. Simple straight forward mechanics that just about anyone can work on.i have a 1951 dodge Mayfair that is in year 6 of my restoration and is not to far away from paint as well as some mechanical things to do. So I can say with all honesty that it’s been enjoyable to work on. Finally a small point of interest I have discovered, Chrysler has been using the same wheel bolt pattern spec from 1938 right up to date, and it’s looking like I’m going to be able to install front brake rotors from any late model caravan onto my 1951 wheel hubs. And with some fabrication will be able to mount the calipers to the 51 spindles where the backing plate bolts up for the drum brakes. I’ll let you guys know how well it works out after after I try it.

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  8. Paul Bellefeuille

    The same car shows up at the bottom of this page in the “Recent Finds” section..

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