Chrysler with the 1924 Chrysler Six
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Chrysler’s best from past to present

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

With the help of three ex-Studebaker engineers, Kansas-born Walter Chrysler’s first car went on sale in 1924. Priced at $1,565, the Chrysler Six had “a light, powerful, high-compression six-cylinder engine and the first use of four-wheel hydraulic brakes in a moderately priced vehicle,” according to the Chrysler media site. The company would later be the umbrella for classic American labels like Plymouth, DeSoto, Dodge, Jeep and AMC.

As we watch Chrysler struggle to survive, we enlisted the help of Phil Skinner, collector car market editor for Kelley Blue Book, to take a look at some of Chrysler’s more memorable moments. (Chrysler)
“The Airflows, produced by both Chrysler and Desoto from 1932 to 1937, were really ahead of their time, too far ahead unfortunately,” Skinner said. “They were the first to successfully use uni-body construction, and they epitomized the Art-Deco school of design in automobiles. They represented the strongest integral bodies ever seen on a car up to that time, plus with the body and chassis being of one piece, the streamlining of the sheet metal came off so very well. “ (Chrysler)
“The Airstream was a more conventional car [thank the Airflow],” said Skinner. The Airstream was released in 1936, a year after the Airflow’s launch. " It would help get people to come back to Chrysler that had been scared away.” (Chrysler)
Among Chrysler’s fold are Dodge trucks, “like this example from 1939, which was a styling trend-setter for commercial vehicles when new,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
“Considered a member of the “low-priced 3" for many years, Plymouth presented fresh and contemporary styling in transportation for the masses, such as this 1939 Deluxe sedan,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
“One of Chrysler’s first concept cars was the 1941 Thunderbolt retractable hardtop-coupe, of which five were produced,” Skinner said. “Today they fetch well over $1 million apiece.” (Phil Skinner)
“Recently recognized as a full classic by the Classic Car Club of America, the Chrysler Town and Country from 1941 -- often called the barrel-back -- was a station-sedan, and today commands prices approaching the $300,000 mark,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
Manufactured from 1941 to 1945, the Willys, made by Willys-Overland Motors, were perhaps best-known as World War II transportation. In 1963, Willys-Overland became the Kaiser-Jeep Corp., according to Chrysler. In 1970, American Motors Corp. bought it for $70 million. Chrysler bought AMC in 1987. (Chrysler)
Along the way, the Chrysler “picked up a lot of baggage, like this 1950 Nash Rambler convertible that came into the fold when American Motors was purchased in the late 1980s,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
“Marketing on the postwar seller’s market, the first Dodge Coronet from 1951 came in many body styles, including a convertible big enough for a family of five,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
Another piece of baggage related to Chrysler was Kaiser Corp.'s automotive concerns, “which had this sharp 1954 Kaiser Darrin as part of its portfolio,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
“Created as the Dart concept car in 1957 and reworked into the Diablo for 1958, this Chrysler show car is valued at close to $2 million today,” said Skinner. (Phil Skinner)
“Another marque from within the Chrysler fold was the Desoto from 1928 to 1961,” said Skinner. “Always known for their “toothy” grilles, this 1954 Firedome convertible is a prime example of” the brand’s looks and styling. (Phil Skinner)
“One of the mainstays of Chrysler Corp. from 1928 to 2001 was the Plymouth line.” said Skinner. “It produced many memorable models such as this 1958 Belvedere Sport Wagon.” (Phil Skinner)
“One of the most potent of muscle cars, and with a very aggressive front-end styling theme, the Dodge Coronet R/T with a big 440 Magnum V8 was not for the faint of heart ... especially when painted factory Plum Crazy!” said Skinner. (Phil Skinner)
In 1950, the Italian design house Ghia created the first of many “Idea Cars” for Chrysler. This included long-wheelbase Crown Imperial cars, made from 1957 to 1965. (Chrysler)
“A major contender during the 1960’s drag scene, the Lil Red Wagon -- sponsored by Los Angeles-area Dodge dealers -- would thrill crowds across the country as drivers could make them do a wheel-stand at nearly 200 mph down the entire quarter-mile drag strip,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
“In 1963, Chrysler itself had the honor of pacing the Indianapolis 500 and produced a limited number of Pacesetter convertibles,” Skinner said. (Phil Skinner)
“One of Chrysler Corp.'s first entries in the muscle car field was the 1966 Dodge Charger,” said Skinner. “It was a medium-size fastback hardtop that could be fitted with the legendary 426 cubic-inch Hemi V8.” (Phil Skinner)
“Not exactly tame in its looks, the 1969 Dodge Daytona, and later the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, represented the height of NASCAR racing come to the streets,” said Skinner. “Fueling muscle-car mania, this was one of Chrysler’s best marketing efforts ever.” (Phil Skinner)
The Plymouth Barracuda was introduced as a 1964 model -- two weeks prior to the Ford Mustang. Much like the Dodge Challenger, the third-generation ‘Cuda (seen here) had an “E-body” short-deck and long-hood platform. They also had optional 425-hp Hemi V-8 engines. (Chrysler)
Introduced in 1996 as a 1997 model, Chrysler labels the Plymouth Prowler “the world’s first production hot rod.” It was also the most aluminum-intensive car built in North America. (Chrysler)
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