- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

After a tentative start with tail-fin styling in 1956, Chrysler pulled out all the stops and for five years flamboyant fins were the outrageous rule.

Robert Flynn was aware of that long-ago five-year period when he set out on a quest in the waning days of the 20th century. “If it doesn’t have tail fins, it’s boring,” he says. Any Chrysler product from that era would have satisfied him, be it Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler or Imperial.

He had decided that they were superior in both interior and exterior styling to the befinned offerings from Ford and General Motors. He didn’t want a restored car. “Original cars run best,” he says with conviction.

Guy Zegar, of Mercersburg, Pa., must have shared that philosophy because on March 9, 1961, he purchased a Sahara Sand over Tahitian Turquoise Chrysler.

He selected a New Yorker four-door sedan, one of 9,984 such models built that year and the most popular New Yorker in 1961. The 4,055-pound Chrysler carried a base price of $4,123.

The well-kept car didn’t change hands until November 1996 when a broker in antique automobiles became its second owner. After about a year, a second broker bought the Chrysler. Like the first one, the second put next to no miles on the low-mileage car.

In March 2000 Mr. Flynn’s search for a befinned Chrysler led him to the car in Baltimore that had been purchased new 39 years earlier. During that time it had been driven about 46,000 miles.

He like everything about it, especially the outstanding canted fins that echoed the angle of the canted quad headlight treatment at the other end of its 18-foot, 4-inch-long frame.

Mr. Flynn became the fourth owner, but didn’t drive his pristine prize back to Washington. He had a friend do the honors while he followed at the wheel of his friend’s car.

He thought there wouldn’t be a better opportunity to observe his Chrysler in action.

“You can’t see the car when you’re driving it,” he explains with unassailable logic.

The big 413-cubic-inch V-8 with the Golden Lion decals decorating each valve cover eagerly fired up, producing 350 horsepower, more than sufficient to get home. A single four-barrel, downdraft carburetor drinks from a 23-gallon gasoline tank and delivers mileage of 10 in the city and 17 on the highway.

Originally, 8.50x14-inch Goodyear bias-ply tires supported the Torsion-Aire suspension on a 126-inch wheelbase, but better-handling P225/75R14 radial tires now do the job.

Once Mr. Flynn was back home, he found both good and the bad news. All the car needed was a thorough cleaning and detailing.

The bad news, he says, “In D.C. you have to find two adjoining places to park and feed two meters.”

The solution was to move to Bowie where a spacious garage and lengthy driveway make the living easier.

Before he moved out of the city he drove his Chrysler to the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles Safety/Emissions Inspection Station where his car was put through every test imaginable and passed with flying colors. The official certificate, dated May 14, 2004, is affixed to the right end of the wraparound windshield. “I’m just so proud of it,” Mr. Flynn says.

Settling into the interior of the luxurious Chrysler is like relaxing in a sitting room on wheels. There is a black carpet beneath your feet and a light-gray headliner overhead.

Metallic silver thread woven through the formal black upholstery creates an elegant atmosphere for passenger and driver alike.

While seated behind the two-spoke steering wheel the driver finds the five push buttons to operate the transmission to the left. There is no “Park” button. Instead the Chrysler relies on the emergency brake. From the left the buttons operate Reverse-Neutral-Drive-Second-First.

To the right side of the driver are five more push buttons to operate the heating, defrosting and ventilating systems.

Mr. Flynn is currently gathering the correct air-conditioning equipment to add 21st-century civility to his 20th-century vehicle.

In the center of the padded dark-gray dashboard are five additional push buttons that select stations on the AM radio.

In addition to the dash-mounted mirror this car is equipped with only a driver’s-side exterior mirror. “There’s so much glass you don’t need a mirror,” the owner says.

The Chrysler came equipped with a push-button transmission, power steering, power brakes and a remote control mirror.

Mr. Flynn has added a couple of mannequin passengers to the back seat of his car.

The two “women” are dressed in period costumes and often, he says, confuse spectators at car shows who attempt to speak with them.

With 51,000 miles showing on the odometer, he subscribes to a theory suggested in a 1961 promotional brochure that reads: “The New Yorker combines every excellence known to automotive engineering to carry you quickly, quietly, effortlessly anywhere.”

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