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1942 Chrysler Barrel Back Town and County Estate Wagon

The Rare Chrysler Town and County Barrel Back Estate Wagons

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  • A 1942 Chrysler Barrel Back Town and County Estate Wagon.

By Steve Natale:  Chrysler is famous for their wood-paneled Town and County models, with the well-known nameplate appearing on many different vehicles for decades. Most collectors are familiar with the wood-bodied Town and County sedan and convertible produced from 1946 to 1948, but many have never seen a 1941 or 1942 model. The rare and valuable Barrel Back Town and County Estate Wagon is one of the most coveted of all wood-bodied cars, and for good reason.

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The brainchild of Chrysler designer A. B. Buzz Grisinger *, the 1941 Town and Country was a clear departure from conventional thought as to how a station wagon should look, was engineered, and presented. Station wagons offered by other manufacturers of the era had bodies made almost completely out of wood from the cowl back and were boxy in appearance. By comparison, the Town and Country was sleek and modern, more like a fastback sedan. The rear cargo doors opened like a clamshell, as opposed to the traditional and more utilitarian tailgate design.

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It was also the first woody to have an all steel roof, which added structural integrity and enhanced the streamlined look of the car. Priced at $1475, they were marketed to an upscale clientele looking for a vehicle that would be at home at the country club or in front of a luxury hotel, plus have the utility of carrying up to nine passengers and luggage.

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Both six-passenger and nine-passenger models were offered, and two different engines were available. One could choose either the standard straight six L-head engine, or the optional straight eight L-head, backed up by Chrysler’s famous fluid-drive transmission. Less than 1,000 of these Barrel Back beauties were produced each year, with production totaling just 1996 units for the 1941 and 1942 model years. *Source: Chrysler Corporation

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  • A 1941 Chrysler Barrel Back Town and County Estate Wagon.

Editors note: Both the 1941 and 1942 Barrel Back Town and County Estate Wagons were photographed by Steve Natale at the 2014 Carmel Concours on the Avenue and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. You can view more of his work at fineartamerica.

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7 responses to “The Rare Chrysler Town and County Barrel Back Estate Wagons

  1. I can’t understand how some old California cars are allowed to use the old black and orange license plates.
    Or are they still available from the DMV for a extra fee like a vanity plate?

      • In California, the plate stays with the car permanently. If it’s been continuously registered in CA since new, it will retain the originally issued plate through any change of ownership, unless it was lost or replaced for some other reason (such as purchase of a personalized plate). That’s why “original black plate” and “original blue plate” California cars have extra collectable value. It’s an aspect of the “only original once” ethos. Once it’s gone, there’s no going back.

        There’s also a program now which allows owners of period cars to apply for “period look” plates, but that’s not what’s on these cars.

  2. I went ahead and looked at California’s DMV website.
    The old plates are available thru special order(called “Legacy Plates”)
    Thats good.The old license plates of almost any state look better than the current ones.
    It looks like New York sort of realized that with their new plate which looks kinda like their old one.

  3. Fact is, California DMV doesn’t particularly care much about the age, flavor or generics of any given (California) plate.
    They are mainly concerned with the number/alpha combination and if it’s being currently used by any other (registered) vehicle. Might be true elsewhere, too.
    Many companies (in California & elsewhere) sell older plates to match your particular need(s).
    BTW: The vast majority of older sequenced plates (in California anyway) have fallen off the DMV radar because of non-use.

  4. Beautiful photos. Knew a guy growing up who had a very very rare “blackout” ’42 Town & Country – it’s pictured in Don Narus’s Woodies and Wagons in the Crestline series.

    A particularly clever part of these wagons is the steel roof came from Chrysler’s 8-passenger sedans, hence the fixed rear window.

  5. Stunning car. I can only dream of how it would be to own a specimen like this. thanks for the opportunity to see it.

    BTW, Many states allow what is called “year of manufacturer” (Y.O.M.) plates to be used on classic vehicles. There are many vendors and license plate restorer who have singles or sets for sale. Look on the internet for these vendors. Just be prepared for the prices charged for these restored plates. I have Y.O.M. plates on my three Model A Fords, much better than the modern plates.

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