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Town and Country

The Best of Both Worlds

Story Kevin Harper / Images Bill Erdman - November 08, 2012 10:00 AM

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With the steel front end representing ‘Town’ and the wood paneled rear representing ‘Country’, it is truly the best of both worlds.

Say the words “Town and Country” today and the first image in your mind is probably a minivan.

Chrysler has been using the name since the 1940s, but since 1989, it has been placed on a van. Prior to that, it endured its legacy as a station wagon until those cars fell from vogue. At the beginning, the Town and Country, which also started as a station wagon, was something to see and seeing one today only draws that point closer to sheer joy.

Auto historians can spend days and weeks arguing how cars would have been different if certain events wouldn’t have taken place. In this case, we’re talking World War II. Chrysler had this new vehicle, which featured wood sides and a spacious cabin. It has sophistication and style and was desired. It lasted only a short while until production had to be stopped. No one was building cars in America since the manufacturing was now dedicated to the war effort.

In 1941 and early ’42 before production was halted, Chrysler produced fewer than 1,000 of the Town & Country. They were an interesting combination of wood and steel. It had a little bit of the Imperial in it with the big steel roof and a limited access cargo bay. The war essentially ended that design. When production was tooled up again in 1946, the name was still there, but the vehicle was a different animal.

Chrysler made the Town & Country as a convertible, coupe and sedan. The convertible and coupe came in two-door models with the sedan as the only four-door offering.

Sal Aniato of Allendale, New Jersey, is the owner of the four-door we see here. This 1948 version, the third model year after the war, is pursued by collectors who fancy the early post-war cars. It was not uncommon just a few years ago to see examples of the 1948 Town & Country bring over $130,000 at auction. Convertibles were a sought after lot, but even the four-door sedan has its following.

Sal’s car has a lot of factory options that make the knowing car guy smile. One of only 1,176 produced that year (total production in 1948 was 2,936), this car came with a fair amount of option boxes checked. There is a roof rack that was very handy for the traveler looking for places to stow the bags for an overnight trip. Inside, there is a radio (and the original radio remains in place) and dual heaters that kept the passengers comfortable. The seats show the Highlander interior upgrade as the distinct pattern fits well in the rest of the cabin. The original owner (Sal is not the original owner) chose to add spotlights and fog lights, apparently anticipating some nighttime driving.

The car retains its original paint in good condition. The original six-cylinder engine remains in the car, along with the factory’s fluid-drive transmission. You will find the original wheels wrapped with Firestone tires. The car is stopped by four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.

The Town & Country was credited to Chrysler employee Dave Wallace. In the beginning, it used ash and mahogany on the body frame. The door panels feature a rich wood to add to the appeal.

It is not surprising to find examples like this Town and Country in museums across the country. Sal enjoys having this car as his own and takes great care of it. He is well aware of the place in history that is reserved for theTown & Country.

If he didn’t, there are plenty who remind him when they see the car. With the steel front end representing “Town” and the wood paneled rear representing “Country”, it is truly the best of both worlds.

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