Don’t jump into a modern Chrysler Town & Country people carrier and think you’re driving the real thing. That was introduced by the Chrysler Corporation in 1941, representing the company’s entry into a burgeoning market sector that would – to the regret of many – last for barely a decade. For this was ‘woodie’ country and Chrysler’s offering was the most elegant example ever – a station wagon with all-steel roof, plus varnished sides and twin side-hinged rear doors in contrasting wood (a light ash frame and darker Honduran mahogany panels).
The rear was curved to mirror the design of contemporary saloons – indeed some describe it as the first hatchback sedan – and the whole thing was built to the highest quality and beautifully fitted out.
Like many new American models, the Town & Country made its debut in 1941 and had barely worked up a head of steam before production ceased by Government order early in 1942. In the case of this handsome wagon barely a thousand were made, though it was well received and sold fast in either seven-or nine-passenger form during the short period it was available.
Happily, the Town & Country returned after World War II. The plan was to create extraordinary wood-trimmed luxury cars that represented a handsome blend of woodwork and metal, consisting of a sedan, brougham, convertible, roadster and pillarless two-door coupe. In the end the new offerings were trimmed to a four-door sedan (dropped in 1947) and two-door convertible – hand-built beauties that took an age to assemble and cost a fortune to buy, but were essentially a marketing tool whose sheer eye-appeal enticed potential customers into Chrysler showrooms.
Although ‘woodie’ production ceased in 1950, the Town & Country name was much too good to abandon and Chrysler has been using it on and off ever since.
The Chrysler ‘woodie’ station wagon was the top-of-the-line model in Chrysler’s popular Town & Country range.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1941 (until 1950)
4.1 l (250.6 cid) Straight Six, 5.3 l (323.5 cid) Straight Eight
PERFORMANCE: Top speed around 75 mph (120 km/h) depending on model
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The wooden body was too difficult for Chrysler’s body provider to fabricate, and cynics suggest Chrysler boss Dave Wallace devised the Town & Country to keep the chosen external supplier in business – this was Pekin Wood Products of Arkansas (whose president happened to be a certain Dave Wallace).