New York’s Chrysler Imperial parade car has transported American heroes for 70 years
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The New York City government owns 30,000 vehicles. It’s the largest municipal fleet in the country and includes everything from police cars to garbage trucks and salt spreaders – but one of them is just a bit more special than the others.
This is the iconic 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton that has been featured in some of Broadway’s most famous parades honoring American heroes, sports champions and other dignitaries.
The black open-top car is one of three identical vehicles that were built by Chrysler and loaned for use at civic events to promote the brand.
She turns 70 this year.
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Two were destined for New York and Los Angeles, while the last one ended up being operated by Chrysler out of Detroit.
“The third one was originally meant to go to the White House, but because of the rules on gifts and that kind of thing, the company kept it and loaned it out all over the Midwest for different parades and events. “, Brand Rosenbusch, the director of historical services for Chrysler’s parent company, Stellantis, told that car publisher Fox News Digital.
The 20-foot-long, three-ton cars are based on the Imperial Crown Limousine, but feature a twin-hood phaeton-style body that features an oversized rear passenger compartment with a bulkhead and windscreen separating it front seats. Region.
Steps on the rear bumper and grab handles on the trunk provide safe driving, and an additional set of seats folds out from the bulkhead.
The cars were serviced by Chrysler in the early years. They were repainted and restyled in 1955 with new grilles, lights and larger rear spoilers to better reflect the automaker’s latest production car styling.
The New York car was first displayed in a parade held on December 18, 1952 for Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger, a World War II veteran who ended his career as commanding general of the First Army at Fort Jay on Governors Island, located just off Lower Manhattan.
It was black at the time and repainted white during the update. A restoration in the 1980s restored it to its original color, which remains today.
Chrysler donated it to the city in 1961, and the following year it was used to transport John Glenn on his triumphant return from space as the first American to orbit the Earth.
He became the first and still the only winner to parade there twice in 1998, after setting a record as the oldest person in orbit during a flight on the space shuttle Discovery at age 77.
In between, he transported several of the Americans who were held hostage in Iran for 444 days; they were greeted by their country following their repatriation.
Perhaps the most memorable images of the car date from August 13, 1969, when the three Apollo 11 astronauts boarded it while sitting on the padded platform installed above the trunk.
Tickers rained down on the men who were at the forefront of one of the great achievements in human history.
“This car not only looks good, it’s become a symbol of New York City pride, and it’s truly an integral part of American history,” said Dawn Pinnock, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services at New York.
This is the agency responsible for maintaining it today.
The car is stored in its own small shed near the NYPD towing pound in Brooklyn. Pinnock said he is routinely executed to ensure he is ready to go if they get the call from the mayor’s office that he is needed for an upcoming event.
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The last time this happened was in 2021, when the city held a parade for frontline workers. Registered nurse Sandra Lindsay, the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, was asked to get in the car.
“She and other essential workers have had the opportunity to walk down Broadway through our Canyon of Heroes and be celebrated for the incredible work they have done to lift us out of the throes of the pandemic,” Pinnock said.
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This journalist had the opportunity to take a quick drive around Brooklyn – in the front, so as not to soil his seats of honor – and can confirm that even after seven decades, the experience is still like floating on a cloud.
The ancient 5.4-liter FirePower V8 swished gently as it slowly propelled the leviathan past admirers who couldn’t help but wave and honk at the sight of it.
As for when he will show up again for official duties, that really depends on fate – but Pinnock is optimistic the city won’t have to wait too long to see him back on the road.
“New York loves to party, and we especially love to celebrate our heroes, so we’re hoping one of our local sports teams will give us the opportunity to take this car out for a spin sometime soon.”
“It’s invaluable. It’s an invaluable part of our history.”
New York City Football Club won the MLS Championship in 2021, but only a small rally was held at City Hall due to ongoing pandemic concerns.
The athletes themselves usually do not ride there, preferring to stay with their teammates on a float or bus.
Still, Yankee greats Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra finally got their chance when their successors won the World Series in 1996 and 2000, respectively.
Los Angeles still owns his car, while the third also lives in the city at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Chrysler sold it to a private buyer decades ago, and it changed hands several times before being purchased by the museum in 2001 for an undisclosed price.
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Hagerty’s director of Valuation Analytics, John Wiley, said the cars could be worth more than $1 million if auctioned, but Pinnock isn’t swayed by his agency’s potential budget increase.
“It’s priceless. It’s an invaluable part of our history, and there’s no idea of selling it, at all.”