- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

In an America starved for cars by World War II, long waiting lists formed at virtually every dealership across the country. Civilian car production came to a halt in February 1942 and only resumed with the cessation of hostilities.

Moving to the head of the line to purchase a new car was a rare privilege accorded to only a few. Ace Rosner, a severely wounded war hero, was accorded such an honor in Baltimore.

His choice was a new 1946 Chrysler Town & Country wood-bodied convertible equipped with Fluid Drive. For myriad reasons he kept the car only one year, but during that time he became hooked on wood-bodied Chrysler Town & Country convertibles.

More than 40 years had passed when in early summer 1989 Mr. Rosner attended the Guernsey Auction in Greenwich, Conn. There he saw a maroon 1949 Chrysler Town & Country convertible cross the auctioneer’s block.

The 40-year-old car with only 20,000 miles on its odometer had spent the previous 30 years in a garage.

With the knowledge that only 1,000 such cars had been manufactured, he decided that he had to have the car and, as other bidders discovered, he meant business. When the gavel fell, Mr. Rosner was the owner of the 1949 Town & Country convertible.

He left the car in the Greenwich, Conn., garage of his brother, Larry, for the remainder of the summer. When autumn arrived, Mr. Rosner retrieved his Chrysler and motored home to Washington, D.C. On the trip he heard the speedometer cable snap with 22,887 miles on the odometer, which is where it stands today. “I had the car up to 90,” Mr. Rosner says. The speedometer can register speeds up to 110 mph.

The straight-eight-cylinder engine produces 135 horsepower out of 323.5 cubic inches to move the 4,630-pound car, which measures 18 feet, 3 inches long. “Nobody cared about weights in those days,” Mr. Rosner says. “There’s nothing light on that car.” The massive rear bumper stretches from the back of the rear wheel well on one side to the other with an interruption at the rear of the car where a separate short piece connects the two.

The rear of the Chrysler has the appearance of a period motorboat. The heavy wood-lined trunk lid is held open by two hydraulic lifts. The trunk itself is more of a well than a typical automobile trunk. Below the trunk are a pair of backup lights. With wood occupying all of the rear quarters, the taillights, by necessity, are mounted on the sides of the rear finders. Each one is capped by a red reflector.

When new, the Chrysler carried a base price of $3,970. It has a two-piece windshield, two fog lights on the front gravel pan and two side mirrors that blend into the side trim. “From the driver’s seat,” Mr. Rosner says, “you can’t see the right one.” The rear bumper is protected by a pair of guards; the front bumper has four bumper guards.

After Mr. Rosner reached home, he determined that the all-original Town & Country, in otherwise good condition, needed to be reupholstered. “The mice and moths had a great party for 30 years,” he says. The padded maroon leather dashboard remained, but the tan whipcord/maroon leather seats were replaced to original specifications.

In 1949, Mr. Rosner explains, Chrysler Town & Country convertibles were offered with tops of red, black or tan. The original top was tan, but Mr. Rosner opted for a red vinyl top to closely match the color of the car. The remainder of the car is original with the exception of a few of the smaller wooden pieces near the rear window that were replaced in Pennsylvania.

The 131.5-inch wheelbase offers Mr. Rosner a cushy ride whenever he is inclined to climb behind the three-spoke steering wheel with its chrome-plated 360-degree horn ring. The Fluid Drive reminds him his first wood-bodied Town & Country convertible 58 years ago.

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