1931 Chrysler CG Imperial Phaeton by LeBaronSOLD
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Estimate: $300,000-$500,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $572,000

125hp, 384 cu. in. nine main bearing inline eight-cylinder engine, four-speed synchromesh transmission, leaf spring suspension with beam front axle and live rear axle and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 145"

When Walter Percy Chrysler assumed the position as president of Buick, yearly production was less than 20,000 cars; within ten years that number had risen to nearly 120,000. In 1919 Chrysler left his former employer, General Motors, with a cool $10 million in GM shares and an unfulfilled dream. Although he waited several years before setting out to create the company in his own name, when he did he was well prepared to take on the rather overwhelming task.

Chrysler introduced its first car, the Model B-70, in 1924 at the New York Auto Show. While it was a modest car in most respects, it did the job and Chrysler quickly began to accumulate market share from his competitors. For 1926, Chrysler expanded its offerings both up and down the scale. A lower-priced six on one end (transformed into the Plymouth in 1928) was accompanied by the 92bhp Imperial, a car designed to compete in the luxury market.

When Cadillac introduced their V16 in 1930, they commenced the multi-cylinder race that would transform the upper echelons of the automobile market. While Packard, Pierce Arrow, Lincoln and even Marmon would follow that trend, Chrysler took a safer route and in 1931 introduced an all-new straight eight. The 384.8 cubic inch, side valve L-head engine was rather conservative in design, but with nine main bearings and 125 horsepower at only 3200rpm it offered very respectable performance for the time. With the engine under hood, the new CG series Imperial was capable of a top speed of 96 miles per hour, again narrowing the margin between itself and its multi-cylinder brethren.

The remarkable styling of the CG series Imperials was the work of LeBaron, one of the greatest design firms of the classic era. Founded by Thomas L. Hibbard and Ray Dietrich, and later joined by Ralph Roberts, the company established itself as innovative, creative, and responsive. Although Hibbard and Dietrich later left the firm to pursue other opportunities, the company flourished at the hand of Ralph Roberts.

Probably the most striking design in existence at the time was Al Leamy's L29 Cord, so when Leamy was hired to style the Imperial, it is not surprising that the Chrysler would bear some resemblance to the Cord. Like the L29, the CG was long and low, featuring gracefully swept fenders and a vee-shaped radiator. LeBaron improved on the design, however, with a longer hood, a swept back grille, and a more elegant bodyside treatment.

All Chryslers had a reputation for performance, and the CG Imperial did not disappoint. With 125 horsepower on tap and a four-speed transmission, the cars were very quick. Chrysler's "Floating Power" and well-tuned suspension ensured that they were also quite refined to drive. The cars were technically interesting as well, featuring a new automatic spark advance mechanism and freewheeling, both of which were firsts for Chrysler.

The Imperial's powerful new engine, when combined with the very light roadster coachwork, created one of the fastest cars money could buy. In 1931, Billy Arnold, a well-known race car driver of the period, used just such a car to capture several stock car records at Daytona. While the roadster was without question the sportiest body style available, the dual cowl phaeton was the most elegant, as displayed by the example presented here. Featuring a semi production body by LeBaron, only 85 examples were built.

In 1990, the 1931 Chrysler CG Imperial Phaeton pictured here began an extensive restoration by Joe Morgan in New Jersey to absolute concours quality condition. Upon completion, Mr. McMullen and the stunning Phaeton were invited to participate in the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it commenced its impressive show career by wining a Best in Class award. In line with this outstanding achievement came a series of First in Class finishes at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance and the Willistead Classic Concours d’Elegance. The Imperial Phaeton received its AACA Senior National badge and scored 100 points at the CCCA Grand Nationals.

The CG Imperial Phaeton is equipped with dual side mounted spares with hard covers and mirrors, chrome wire wheels with wide whitewall tires, a body colored radiator and chrome frame, twin front-mounted Pilot Ray driving lights as well as a pair of cowl lights. The exterior is deep shade of red, bordering on burgundy, and is accented with gold pin striping. The interior, upholstered in supple leather hides, is a shade darker than the exterior and is sheltered by a black Haartz cloth top with body colored piping. The rear-mounted trunk is also finished in black and, like the rest of the car, was meticulously restored with the aim of impressing judges.

Although several years have passed since the restoration of the Chrysler was completed, the Dual Cowl Phaeton maintained its top point condition throughout its extensive show career, which spanned through 1999. There are only 39 miles registered on the odometer, which is accurate since the restoration was completed. Although some small signs of ageing are exhibited in areas of the car, such as oxidation on some minor hardware, there is nothing that could not be corrected with a modest investment, in order to elevate the vehicle to top show quality condition once again.

With its remarkable 145-inch wheelbase, the CG chassis provided the room to allow designers to craft bodies with superb proportions. Many consider the Chrysler CG Imperial to be among the finest looking cars of the period. This example, fitted with dual cowl phaeton coachwork by LeBaron, wears one of the most appealing body styles. The subject of magazine articles and an accomplished competitor, there does not exist a more desirable CG Imperial than the Phaeton presented here.

Reference Number 8662

as of 4/17/2007

Car 1931 Chrysler CG Imperial Phaeton by LeBaron
VIN CG2737 
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