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Pre-War Project: 1932 Chrysler CI Rumble Seat Coupe

The story of the first Chrysler car began with Willys. In 1919, three Studebaker engineers went to work for Willys developing a six-cylinder car. These three – Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton, and Carl Breer, aka the Three Musketeers – were toiling away when Willys’ factory was auctioned after its bankruptcy; both Walter Chrysler and William Durant (fired for the second time from General Motors) participated in the auction. Chrysler lost the bidding battle, but as it turned out he won the war. Zeder, Skelton, and Breer joined Chrysler, and the ill-fated Willys Six instead became the first Chrysler-badged vehicle, the B-70. From the B-70 sprang most of Chrysler’s pre-war cars, including eventually this 1932 CI coupe, for sale here on facebook Marketplace with an asking price of $8900. T.J. found this listing for us – thanks T.J.! The car and a few parts can be retrieved from Calvert City, Kentucky.

The quest for a “six” was rampant in the early 1900s. With Henry Ford so dedicated to his flathead four, other car makers saw a way to differentiate their wares. Oakland’s Six helped launch the luxury Buick Six; Studebaker followed with its Big Six, and shortly just about everyone had an entry on the field. Except Chrysler – a galling circumstance, no doubt, since Walter Chrysler was a former employee of Buick and eager to show his ex-boss a thing or two. The B-70 was a spectacular success, breaking new-model sales records. Over the next decade, Chrysler developed multiple versions of the B-70, innovating nearly every year. The C-series was launched into the Great Depression as a downsized platform with the entry-level CJ receiving a 3.2 liter in-line six. Later, the CJ was updated to the CI; the motor now displaced 3.7 liters and made about 80 hp. The three-speed manual gearbox could be optioned with overdrive. The seller indicates that this car is missing carburetor parts. The listing is also missing an engine bay photo!

The oval instrument panel was new for ’32. Other features included a dual split windscreen, dual side mount spare tires, two cowl vents for improved airflow, and twin cowl lights (included in the sale but not currently mounted.) Hydraulic brakes were becoming standard equipment in the US by the late 1920s (except for one maker; anyone know which that was and what year the company finally gave up on mechanical brakes?) Chrysler was early to innovate in this arena, incorporating hydraulic brakes on its very first model in 1924.

The rumble seat coupe is one of the most desirable of the confusing array of body styles offered during the pre-war years. Still, I am curious about what informs the seller’s asking price. Very nice pre-war Chrysler sixes sell in the mid-teens. Is it possible that the demand for pre-war parts would justify this price, or perhaps the seller is hoping this car will inspire a hot rodder somewhere?

Comments

  1. HoA Howard A Member

    What an interesting writeup. Never knew that about Chrysler. I know, to many, me included, all these cars look the same. Not much has changed to today, however, even though all they looked similar, mechanical advances were coming fast. The 6 was indeed a big deal. I read, the Ford V8 also came out in ’32, and finally gave Ford the upper hand, but for the most part, any old car for the masses had a 4 cylinder. Outside differences were subtle from make to make, a different grill or bumpers, but people were venturing farther and a 4 cylinder just didn’t cut it.The car here? I wish there was someone who would still restore this, but why bother, I mean, watching tv auction from Vegas, it’s pretty clear, most today want bastardized $200,000 ’67 Mustangs with chrome alternators and wheel cylinders. Once in a great while, a full classic will roll through, in spotless shape, and still garners big bucks, for now, but never a basic car like this, and with hot rodding all but gone, sadly I see no future for this car.

    Like 20
    • Sam61

      Howard, great comments as always. The listing is marked as “sold”. The hobby is aging out with “hobbyist” interests being squeezed into the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It’s hard to soothsay what interest there is in domestic collectibles from the 80’s and 90’s. Hopefully the subject car found a good home. I can envision a restomod with a Jeep straight 6, 4 wheel disc brakes, automatic transmission….maybe AC. Keep it stock looking with a tasteful two-tone paint job, big white wall tires, painted spoke wheels, nice leather and a stereo. It takes a special person with big bucks and vision. No investment upside…just love of the vehicle.

      Like 11
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    I’m inspired! This car would make a great street rod. It already looks like the top has been chopped and the overall shape of the body needs nothing but derusting and paint. Howard, unfortunately, is right on the car’s lack of status in the rare old car world.

    Like 10
  3. Jack M.

    Where have you been T.J.? Used to see dozens of tips from you every day and then a long dry spell.

    Like 3
    • Tony Primo

      Maybe he finished serving the sentence.

      Like 3
  4. Ted

    It has already been sold! Great looking car! Great write up as well!

    Like 5
  5. eric22t

    as per usual, i’m a day late…
    beautiful absolutely beautiful.
    would have kicked everything else to the curb to do this one. and gone on hiatus till it was done.
    only one complaint michelle, there weren’t no litres back then!!! just them cubic inches, lol
    as always great job on the out there stuff.

    Like 8
  6. JamesHGF

    Michelle,

    Stodgy old Buick was still using mechanical brakes in 1932 one year after the Buick straight eight was introduced.

    The Straight eight is an exemplary example of the “American Dream”. Italian engineer John Dolza arrived at Buick speaking little english and was assigned to a drafting table job. Soon Dolza stepped forward to solve Buicks’ problem with the six eating valves and was rapidly promoted.

    Dutch Bower, Buicks’ stubborn chief engineer, chose Dolza over senior American engineers to design the new eight with a mandate that it had to fit in the engine compartment of the existing six. Twenty Seven year old Dolza designed the new eight and then was given the green light to design two larger displacement eights to complete the product lineup.

    Back to Chrysler, they made their “serious” competition debut at Le Mans in 1928. Four Chrysler 72s with 4.1-litre six-cylinder engines were entered. They were driven by European drivers, chosen not because American drivers lacked the skill, but because the Europeans were familiar with the Le Mans track.

    Like 4
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Great comments – thanks!

      Like 2
  7. John

    A friend of mine in high school had one of these that he dropped a 383 and an automatic in. He was a whiz kid with cars and helped me put a hemi in my ’57 Belvedere and did some fancy welding to make it work. I remember taking a ride in the rumble seat on Homecoming Day, I was sitting with another guy and a cute blond gal I knew from some of my classes wanted to come along and asked if she could sit on my lap while we drove around. I was scared half to death but I told her to hop aboard, and suddenly one of the cutest girls in school (that I could never get up the courage to talk to) was sitting on my lap with her arm around me telling me what I neat guy I was and that she’d liked me for a long time. Who knew.. opportunities missed.. but that’s one day I’ll never forget.

    Like 20
    • Ed

      So…do you get the girl in the end?

      Like 3
      • Uncle Ed

        Ed, don’t be so coarse

        Like 0
  8. Richard C

    Hey All you Eagle Eyes, check the right rear tire, I believe I see a Porta-Wall. Do You remember Porta-Walls??

    Like 1
    • Keith

      Yes they are, but those are the narrow Porta-walls were used in the early 60s and those rear wheels probably never spent any driving time on that car. Truly a great find but it is unfortunate that economics will keep it from a proper restoration.

      Like 1
  9. Lance

    My guess is that this is a flipper. The interior and all soft parts are shot and there is very little surface rust or rot. That tells me this is a western car living in an area with very low humidity. Not Kentucky. Nice piece but would take major bucks to get it back to presentable.

    Like 1
  10. eric schiller

    my 35 ford still has mechanical brakes. they work perfectly and I have no plans to add juice

    eric
    tampa

    Like 1
    • Lion

      ERIC … a ’35 Ford! Lucky man! I had a 2dr flat-back with the spare and locking hub cap on the rear. I didn’t want to try to adjust the breaks myself by adjusting all those rods so took it to a local garage. The breaks were way better for a while then softened up quickly. I crawled under to find out the prick at the garage just bent the rods, likely with a pipe wrench, to take up the slack. I traded it for a ’51 Monarch.

      Like 0
  11. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    It should be noted that there are 2 versions of Chryslers with the CL moniker, the 6 cylinder cars as shown here, and the big Chrysler 8 Imperial CL cars. If this was a big 8 Chrysler CL coupe, it would be worth a whole lot more!

    The new owner really got a great deal! This is the #1 most sought-after 6-cylinder closed-body Chryslers, and with that split windshield making it look like a custom bodied Dietrich car, as pointed out above, it almost looks like it’s had a chop to the roofline.

    Like 4
  12. Phil Maniatty

    I think Ford was the last make to adopt, “juice,” brakes in 1939.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Phil, You are correct as long as we are referring to American cars. There were multiple European cars that had mechanical brakes after WW2.

      Like 2
  13. dogwater

    Sorry these old things are not worth restoring as people find out when they get the price for body and paint interior etc

    Like 0

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