- - Thursday, May 31, 2012

During the latter half of the 1970s, Scott Trenner was working his way through college by mowing lawns.

For years he cut the grass at a house in Baltimore where nobody lived. The last occupant had died and his son had hired Mr. trenner to keep the landscaping looking presentable.

Parked in the garage was a 1935 Chrysler Airstream that got Mr. Trenner’s juices flowing whenever he saw it. Instead of sending a bill each time he mowed the lawn, he would drive clear across town to present the bill in person and to inquire if he could buy the car.

This regular little drama played for years until 1979, when the owner acquiesced and agreed to sell his father’s then-44-year-old car to the persistent grass cutter.

Mr. Trenner couldn’t afford the Chrysler, had no need for it and had no place for it, but knew he had to buy it. He towed the Chrysler to the Towson home of his benevolent parents, where he parked it for almost seven years. With a little effort he soon got the six-cylinder, L-head engine running.

On Jan. 9, 1985, he took his then-50-year-old Chrysler to a restoration shop in Parkton, Md. Amazingly, they completed the job in 18 months. Not wanting to impose anymore on his parents, he then imposed on his grandmother, who let him park the newly restored black Chrysler in the parking garage in her retirement condominium building.

That move proved to be a bad idea as a number of the residents there tended to drive by the Braille method. Mr. Trenner returned to find his car had been hit twice, once in the right rear fender and once in the driver’s door.

He retrieved his dented car, had the damage repaired, and thereafter stored it in a private facility until 1999 when he moved to his own house in Fulton.

Mr. Trenner is quick to point out that his handsome Chrysler is an Airstream model and not an Airflow model. In 1934 Chrysler enthusiastically introduced the Airflow, a dramatically different streamlined car with every advanced concept available at the time. It proved to be too innovative and was a sales disaster.

By 1935 Chrysler realized the public was not embracing the new Airflow design and quickly resurrected the more traditional design, dubbed it Airstream and salvaged sales otherwise lost to the competition.

The Chrysler Airstream touring car blended in nicely with other cars on the streets in 1935. It sold with a base price of $860, weighed 3,048 pounds with an all-steel body and 12,790 were manufactured. As with all Chrysler products from the beginning, this car featured hydraulic brakes.

The one-piece windshield can be hand-cranked open at the bottom for fresh air, just in case the cowl vent isn’t sufficient.

Because of that arrangement, the vacuum-operated windshield wipers must be suspended from above the windshield.

Chrysler designers didn’t go wild with the use of chrome, but they did install five vertical strips of strictly decorative chrome under the chrome dual trumpet horns under the chrome-plated headlight buckets.

‘I love this thing,’ Mr. Trenner says.

Riding on a 118-inch wheelbase, the car, an inch longer than 16 feet, is supported by 6.50x16-inch-wide white sidewall tires. Passengers in the Airstream Chrysler cruise in luxury.

A single taillight on the left rear fender was standard equipment on this car in 1935. Inside the touring car’s trunk is a horizontal platform near the bottom. The spare tire, jack and tools are stored beneath the shelf, while the shelf provides a level place for luggage.

Chrysler boasted of ‘floating power’ in 1935, which really amounted to rubber motor mounts. In order to be content, the 93-horsepower engine needs 6 quarts of oil and 4.25 gallons of coolant.

Below the 100-mph speedometer is the odometer, which is approaching - after 70 years - 96,500 miles, or an annual average of less than 1,400 miles a year going back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term in office and the beginning of Social Security.

As he makes himself comfortable behind the three-spoke steering wheel, Mr. Trenner is cognizant that he is sitting above the battery under the driver’s seat.

A confident Mr. Trenner says: ‘It always starts.’

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