- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

As the golden anniversary of Brook Grove Foundation approached in 1998, Keith Gibb, organization president, decided that a car from that long ago era would be a nice commemorative icon.

All the foundation officers agreed and the search for an appropriate car from that period began.

Initially, a number of antique cars were located that were for sale, most of them locally. They all were deemed inappropriate because of condition, style, model or cost.

As the hunt continued, pay dirt finally was struck in the unlikeliest of places the Rocky Mountains.

Before Information Services Manager David Benton visited his father, Elvin, in Buena Vista, Colo., for Thanksgiving, he telephoned ahead, telling his father of the quest for an old car. His father passed the word along to his "Old Goats" group.

A member of the Old Goats just happened to have a 1948 Chrysler limousine and Mr. Benton was encouraged to investigate during his visit.

Traveling with his son, Jesse, to Colorado, Mr. Benton investigated old Colorado cars. He found the 1948 Chrysler perfectly acceptable even though the Fluid Drive transmission wouldn't shift properly. The spacious limousine body with jump seats was a big plus.

He repaired the disabled turn signals and managed to get the 250-cubic-inch, six-cylinder, cast-iron block churning out 114 horsepower.

While his dad was checking out the Chrysler for the Brook Grove Foundation, Jesse found a very serviceable 1941 Chevrolet pickup in the neighborhood.

Following foundation approval, the Chrysler was purchased and made roadworthy more or less for the 1,700-mile trip to Maryland.

Meanwhile, Mr. Benton, after purchasing the truck for his son, made preparations for the long road home.

With the lengthy Chrysler's 19-quart cooling system full as well as the crankcase topped off with five quarts of oil, Mr. Benton filled the fuel tank with 17 gallons of gasoline.

The odyssey began, with the son at the helm of the truck and the father commanding the Chrysler.

"We drove about 55 mph most of the time," Mr. Benton said. Even tough the speedometer tops out at 110 mph, "It'll probably do 85 mph or something like that. It can be driven comfortably at 70." He reports mileage of about 15 mpg.

The trip home consumed four full days of motoring, but the first one was the worst. Crossing eastern Colorado and western Kansas at 55 mph, Mr. Benton remembers thinking, "This is never going to end."

The optimistic pair persevered.

"Every couple hundred miles the car would break down," Mr. Benton recalls.

Among the maladies that were corrected were a bolt in the hand brake cable, clogged fuel line and dirty air cleaner. The drooping headliner flogged Mr. Benton from Colorado to Maryland.

Between mechanical malfunctions the 114-horsepower engine easily propelled the 4,000-pound Chrysler. The Fluid Drive has two gears in both high and low ranges of which the uppermost functions almost as an overdrive.

Everyone at the foundation was happy to see the Chrysler and relieved that Mr. Benton was home safely. The car was declared perfect for its assigned tasks.

Incidentally, son Jesse's truck made the trip with no difficulties.

However, the Chrysler first had to visit the fountain of youth. After 1,700 miles in the car, Mr. Benton knew exactly what was required to make the car reliable.

"The wiring was wrong, the carburetor was wrong and the inside was ragged," Mr. Benton remembers. That was just for starters.

From stem to stern, Mr. Benton went over the vehicle, both mechanically and cosmetically.

The dashboard is a visual delight with the three-spoke steering wheel highlighted by a full horn ring. The speedometer is color coded with lower speeds recorded in green. As speed increases, the numbers turn to a cautionary amber. If the driver is so reckless as to drive faster than 55, the numbers glow red.

The two-piece windshield is cleared by two-speed electric wipers. "That's a nice touch," Mr. Benton said, sounding like a man who has struggled with vacuum wipers.

When new, the luxurious Chrysler sold for about $2,500. It was fairly well equipped with a radio, heater and turn signals. A spotlight was added later.

Three bumper guards on the massive front bumper protect the intricate egg-crate grille.

Now that the mechanical work in complete and the interior re-upholstered (including the jump seats), Mr. Benton said, "It's nice and reliable."

Rolling on soft 7.60-by-15-inch tires, the Chrysler is seen in parades, proms, weddings and often taking foundation residents on outings.

The car, popular with the elderly residents, divides its time between the Williamsport campus and the Sandy Spring campus.

The very recognizable 1948 Chrysler limousine not only is a reminder of the days when Brook Grove Foundation began, but it also is the perfect car for its intended use.

"We wanted to be able to take the residents on outings in it," Mr. Benton said with satisfaction, "and we do."

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