- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2011

The first Chrysler automobile to appear on American roads was a 1924 model.

Walter P. Chrysler’s new car was successful right out of the barn and became firmly established before the stock market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

On July 8, 1931, a new Chrysler Model CM6 rolled out the factory door in Detroit on its way to a dealer in Philadelphia. A total of 1,492 Model CM6 Chryslers were manufactured.

That particular convertible coupe wore a shiny coat of black paint highlighted by orange pinstriping. It was a four-passenger car with room for two on the bench seat inside and space for an additional pair of passengers in the open rumble seat. Passengers could enter the rumble seat via the step plates on the right rear fender.

Chrysler introduced this “New Series Six” as a midyear model that really was new. It had a 116.5-inch wheelbase and weighed 2,750 pounds. All that mass was propelled by a new six-cylinder engine of 217.8 cubic inches that developed 70 horsepower with the help of a Stromberg carburetor. The base price of the well-equipped Chrysler was $935.

The convertible coupe featured refinements such as a V-shaped radiator as well as vertical louvers along both sides of the engine hood. At each end of the windshield a cowl light was added and on the cowling in front of the windshield are two cowl ventilators that can be opened to draw more fresh air into the cockpit of the car. Of course, for those desperately in need of even more air, the windshield itself can be swiveled open.

At the time, the sporty new Chrysler had the appearance of being low-slung compared with its contemporaries. This was achieved by designers who built the car on what Chrysler described as a double-drop frame. The car was delivered with Chrysler’s “Floating Power,” which meant the engine was installed on rubber-cushioned motor mounts.

Six years ago next month Michael Mote came across the aforementioned 1931 Chrysler convertible coupe for sale. The car looked great in pictures and was described as a vehicle that would improve his life, more or less. The car was in Austin, Texas, and he bought it sight unseen. When the car arrived in Virginia it was all there but, he says, “I had to redo everything.”

The first two problems quickly became apparent. Every time he shut off the engine a pint of oil would leak onto the ground. “The other problem was the brakes weren’t any good,” Mr. Mote says.

The situation wasn’t totally bleak.

For the next four years, off and on, Mr. Mote worked on his Chrysler. A compression test showed all six cylinders in good condition. The clutch was also in good condition.

However, the new owner replaced the points, plugs and installed a new wiring harness and rebuilt the engine. He also rebuilt the fuel pump. Mr. Mote finds much less play in the three-spoke steering wheel after he installed new kingpins.

Mr. Mote’s brother, Chris, performed needed body work and painted the Chrysler’s fenders maroon and the body tan with tan pinstripes highlighting the graceful curves of the fenders.

While the body work was being accomplished, Mr. Mote sent off the radiator grille and a few smaller pieces to be replated with chrome. A new tan fabric convertible top with a glass rear window proved to be a finishing touch to the sporty Chrysler.

It is the details on the car that amaze everyone who sees it. Both spare tires, mounted on 40-spoke wire wheels, are secured by a built-in locks on each front fender. Even the two rear-view mirrors on pedestals strapped to the spare tires, reflect style. The auto industry in 1931 hadn’t quite figured out how to illuminate the instruments on the dashboard so a pair of small lights, shielded from the driver’s eyes, cast light across the dashboard.

By the middle of 2005 Mr. Mote had his car in the condition he wanted. “It’s about 95 percent done,” he says, “and it’ll probably stay that way.” He doesn’t want a show car, he wants one he can drive and enjoy around his Locust Grove home.

He has never occupied the rumble seat. “It’s too much trouble,” he explains. “It’s for the grandkids.”

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