- - Thursday, May 10, 2012

A third of a century ago, a young engineer named Alan Hais needed some personal transportation to get around the D.C. area.

In the autumn of 1971, Mr. Hais answered an ad offering a 1953 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe convertible for only $300. The seller of the then-18-year-old car said he was its second owner and he lived in Fredericksburg, Va. The elegant convertible, one of only 950 made, was built in May 1953 and was purchased new by an embassy from Royal Motors. The base price was $3,945.

Mr. Hais rode to Fredericksburg with his friend, John Stamberg. Once he found that the handsome car with the one-piece windshield had been driven 97,000 miles, he began to have second thoughts and headed back home.

He got halfway there when he had Mr. Stamberg turn the car around, and they went back and bought the car. ‘I had to think twice about it,’ he says. ‘It had been repainted, but it was a mature car that appealed to me.’

Besides, how wrong can you go for $300?

He climbed behind the three-spoke steering wheel, fired up the still-powerful 331-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 and, with 180 horsepower at his command, he steered the 4,295-pound convertible north. ‘I made it home with no trouble at all,’ he reports. Mr. Stamberg followed, just in case.

During the next three decades, Mr. Hais slowly accumulated parts that he knew would be instrumental for restoration. The catalyst for that task came in 2002 when the power brakes were barely functional.

When a shop in Frederick, Md., agreed to do the work, ‘It was like having a child accepted at a four-year college,’ he says.

The two-barrel carburetor was rebuilt, a new exhaust system was fabricated and the steering drag link was replaced. ‘Piece by piece,’ Mr. Hais says, his car was restored. ‘There was very little rust,’ he says. ‘It is a solid car.’

The poor quality ‘Korean War-era’ chrome was sent to Pennsylvania for replating. The Chrysler then was stripped down to bare metal before being repainted in the original maroon hue. The maroon leather upholstery was replaced, as was the maroon carpeting. The maroon padded upper dashboard remains original as do the black painted lower dashboard and the window frames.

The original black convertible top was replaced by a tan top. A maroon leather boot was made to dress up the car’s appearance when the top is down.

Courtesy lights illuminate the rear passenger compartment. The big car is moved by a Fluid Drive transmission. Operation is eased by a Safety Clutch.

The shift pattern from the left is Park - Low - Neutral - Drive. The handbrake serves as a parking gear.

Optional equipment on the big car includes:

• Heater.

• AM radio.

• Fog lamps.

• Air conditioner.

• Power steering.

• Outside mirrors.

• Locking gas cap.

• Power Vacu-Ease brakes.

• Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels.

This was the third year that Chrysler offered the Hemi engine. Five quarts of oil keep it lubricated while 26 quarts of coolant keep the temperature under control. On the floor between the Safety Clutch and the Vacu-Ease brake is the windshield washer activator.

Although the speedometer is ready to record speeds up to 120 mph, Mr. Hais says, ‘I can cruise at 80 mph and it’ll probably do 100 mph.’ A cowl ventilator draws cooling air into the passenger compartment.

In August 2004 Mr. Hais received word that the restoration of his Chrysler convertible was complete. The odometer now reads 105,000 miles.

Just as he had done 33 years before, Mr. Hais called upon Mr. Stamberg to drive him to get the Chrysler. ‘I was a tiny bit nervous the first time and more nervous the second time,’ Mr. Hais says.

With Mr. Stamberg trailing behind, Mr. Hais comfortably cruised home in the Chrysler on its 125.5-inch wheelbase.

Looking at the restored car, Mr. Hais says, ‘gives me a great sense of accomplishment.’

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