- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise in Detroit is the ultimate cruise-in event and draws cars of every type and their owners from throughout the nation and beyond. The miles-long parade begins tomorrow and Mark Sleith will be there driving his Spinnaker White 1976 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham for all to admire.

Chrysler automobiles were a part of life in the Sleith household in Cleveland. At least that’s how Mr Sleith remembers growing up amid a succession on Chryslers. In the early 1980s the New Yorker provided the wheels when the teenager took the test for his driver’s license.

The nostalgia bug bit Mr. Sleith a few years ago and he began the search for an old Chrysler — he would know when he found the right one. The internet in August 2005 provided the answer when he discovered a familiar 1976 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham for sale outside of Chicago. The odometer had recorded only 23,000 miles.

He flew to Chicago after arranging to meet the seller at a mall. “When I sat in the car,” Mr. Sleith says, “it was like erasing 20 years.” With his eyes closed he instinctively knew where the controls were. The brief test drive provided the familiar “floaty ride” and Mr. Sleith bought the car. He left a down payment and flew back home to Northeast Washington, D.C., to make arrangements.

Soon thereafter, he flew back to Chicago to collect his prize. After the paperwork was completed, he slid behind the steering wheel and fired up the monstrous 440-cubic-inch V-8 and with 205 horsepower tugging the 4,950-pound Chrysler he set off for Cleveland. When he arrived at his parents’ house he doesn’t know if they were happier to see him or the twin of their old Chrysler. “I gave them their own 1970s moment,” Mr. Sleith says.

Records indicate that 28,327 four-door hardtop models like Mr. Sleith’s were manufactured and each one had a base price of $6,737. Mr. Sleith is fortunate in that with his car came the original window sticker from Ken’s Auto Service on North Main in Algona, Iowa, which lists not only the extra-cost accessories but their prices as well, which include:

• Air conditioning….$617.80.

• Vinyl roof………..142.80.

• Six-way power seat..132.00.

• AM radio………….99.00.

• Power door locks…..94.75.

• Cruise control……..83.00.

• Tilt/telescopic wheel.83.00.

• Rear defroster……..81.95.

• Tinted glass……….66.20.

• Body side molding..47.30.

• Wheel covers………45.00.

• Cornering lights……43.10.

• Vanity mirror………43.00.

• Power antenna…….42.00.

• Right mirror……….29.55.

• Power trunk release..19.60.

• Door edge protectors.12.70.

With the destination charge added in, the bottom-line price was $8,674.75. Of course the top-of-the-line Chrysler came with the standard 12-month warranty with unlimited mileage.

After impressing his parents with the Chrysler, Mr. Sleith continued on to the District with the 124-inch wheelbase insulating him from the harsh realities of the highway. Overall, the car comes within less than an inch of 19 feet long. Typical of the era, the speedometer only registers speeds up to 100 mph. One large backup light is centered in the rear bumper.

When driving the car, Mr. Sleith recommends mentally regressing to the 1970s. “Keep turning the steering wheel,” he says, “and you’ll start changing direction at one point.”

In the 12 months he has had the car at home, he had rebuilt the four-barrel carburetor and had a new radiator installed along with new belts, hoses and filters for both fuel and air. All the fluids were flushed and renewed and the entire brake system was replaced with new parts on the theory that stopping is even more important than going.

The all-white car has gold pin-stripe highlights and Mr. Sleith saved the original AM radio but replaced it in the dashboard with a more driver-friendly AM/FM/CD unit.

Standard equipment on the Chrysler includes:

• Carpets.

• Dual horns.

• Fender skirts.

• Power steering.

• Bumper guards.

• Power windows.

• Steel-belted tires.

• Cloth/leather seats.

• Left outside mirror.

• Inside hood release.

• Three-speed wipers.

• Electronic digital clock.

• Power front disc brakes.

• Undercoating, hood pad.

• Torqueflite transmission.

• Electronic ignition system.

Mr. Sleith had racked up about 1,500 miles on short trips in the immediate area, pushing the odometer up to about 24,500 miles.

Earlier this week, Mr. Sleith set off in his Chrysler New Yorker Brougham for Detroit with the dream cruise as his destination, as he says, “Chrysler willing.”

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