Car Restoration Projects
A tale of two Chrysler 70s
The 1930 Chrysler 70 Roadster was the result of Walter Chrysler’s instinct for survival. His instincts told him to revamp the product line in 1930; one year after the stock market crash that had not yet affected sales.
These two 1930 Chrysler 70 series are the result of Walter Chrysler’s strategy and are owned by Graham Sawyer of Sussex Inlet in NSW. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of these outstanding machines, some background is necessary.
By 1930, Walter P Chrysler had accomplished his dream: to start his own automobile company. Chrysler was founded by Walter Chrysler on June 6, 1925, when the Maxwell Motor Company (established in 1904) was re-organised into the Chrysler Corporation.
Walter Chrysler had originally arrived at the ailing Maxwell-Chalmers company in the early 1920s, having been hired to overhaul the company’s troubled operations. He’d performed a similar rescue job at the Willys (pronounced ‘Willis’) car company.
In late 1923, production of the Chalmers automobile ended and Walter Chrysler launched his eponymous automobile. Following the introduction of ‘Chrysler’ cars, the Maxwell marque was dropped after the 1925 model-year.
A new, lower-priced, four-cylinder Chrysler was introduced for 1926 year, but it was actually a badge-engineered Maxwell.
The advanced engineering and testing that went into Chrysler Corporation cars helped to push the company to second position in USA sales by 1936, a position it held until 1949.
Walter advertised his success with 15-feet-high, chromium-nickel-steel winged radiator caps shining from the four corners of New York’s then-tallest building.
“The fulfilment in metal and masonry of one-man’s dream,” said one critic, commenting on the completed Chrysler Building.
The winged radiator cap design that figures so prominently on the Chrysler Building was manufactured by George Stant, whose company was known for its meticulously-engineered ornamental radiator caps.
Although frequently referred to as Mercury wings, the Chrysler Corporation attributes the design inspiration to a Viking helmet.
The Chrysler 70
The 70 was the next level up from the lower-cost Series 66 and offered some of the luxury options from the higher-priced Series 77. All Series 70 cars had a narrow-profile radiator and bowl-shaped headlights.
Graham’s cars were produced early in 1930 and have ‘Art Deco’, pennant-shaped (pennon) bonnet louvres and parking lamps mounted on the windscreen posts. The sedan has a local body built by Holden’s Motor Body Builders, but the roadster was imported CBU with a US body.
“Ironically their chassis numbers are only separated by 12 numbers,” Graham told HV.
The Chrysler 70 was a six-cylinder car, designed to provide customers with an advanced, well-engineered vehicle at a more affordable price than they might expect. Interestingly, elements of this car are traceable back to a prototype which was under development at Willys when Walter Chrysler was there.
The original 1924 Chrysler featured a carburettor air filter, high-compression engine, pressure lubrication inside the engine and an oil filter, at a time when most automobiles came without all these features.
Among the innovations in Chrylser’s early years were the first practical, mass-produced, four-wheel hydraulic brakes. The system was almost completely engineered by Chrysler, but with patents assigned to Lockheed.
Chrysler also used rubber engine mounts, to reduce vibration and Oilite bearings for improved bearing life. Oilite is a porous bronze or iron alloy commonly impregnated with an oil lubricant and developed by Chrysler in 1930.
The company also developed a road wheel with a ridged rim, designed to keep a deflated tyre from flying off the wheel. This safety wheel was eventually adopted by the automotive industry worldwide.
The Series 70 roadster featured a leather interior, including storage pouches in both doors. You can see a number of Series 70 options offered by Chrysler on our feature car: front and rear bumpers, dual side-mounted spare tyres, wire-spoke wheels, pedestal side-mount mirrors, folding luggage rack, fog lamps and solid paint.
Chrysler was the first in the industry to use the Stromberg downdraft carburettor, positioned at a level above the fuel tank.
The early 70 used an in-line, L-head, six-cylinder engine, displacing 218.6 cubic inches and developing 75 bhp.
Delco Remy ignition, mechanical fuel pump, hydraulic brakes, four-speed manual transmission, and paraflex springs were standard mechanical features.
The Graham Sawyer story
Graham started his working life as apprentice at the Port Kembla steel works, honing his skills in the fettling and machining of metals, both ferrous and non-ferrous.
Eventually, he opened his own business in the Wollongong area and this company soon gained a reputation for specialist and general machining: skills that would led to the manufacture of automotive road wheels, gaining customers nationally and overseas. Rolls-Royce of England became a regular client.
In 1978 his love of classic cars led him to a 1930 Chrysler 70 sedan that a fellow had bought as a ‘hot rod’ project, but had lost heart, realising just how much would be involved in attempting this feat with a wooden-framed car. So, Graham purchased the car and transported to a new resting place, ready for its journey back to its former glory as a shiny Series 70.
After dismantling the body, Graham found that he’d bought a pile of rotted timber; so, what to do next?
“After some time scratching my head and thinking,” Graham recalled. “ I ordered a quantity of Tasmanian ash timber and started to overcome my inexperience at working with wood, in reconstructing the almost 50-year-old Holden Motor Body Works frame.
“When the ute load of ash arrived, I sat the body on concrete blocks and started re-building it.
“There isn’t a straight piece of timber in the frame,” said Graham.
He retained one piece of the original timber for posterity: the one that sits under the rear window.
“Although I had meticulously matched each side of the frame, when I came to fit the steel body it was slightly short across the body, above the windscreen,’ confessed Graham.
“However, I was able to cover it with the section of external sun visor aluminium.”
Graham also painted the car in red acrylic himself, after some tuition from a local automotive spray painter.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to understudy an upholsterer, because, as you can see from the photos, Holden’s period upholstery was in first-class condition.
Graham Sawyer said it was a two-and-a-half-year journey before he got the old girl back into shape and on the road once more.
Graham’s Chrysler is a magnificent piece of our automotive history and a genuine labour of love.
Then along came a roadster
It was the early 90s when Graham bought the roadster from the widow of an old mate, who unfortunately had died of cancer. He was a fellow Chrysler club member and it was his wish for Graham to have the car.
Chrysler had produced only an estimated 1431 roadsters and sold them for an average price of $1345.00.
While the roadster was in good condition, it needed some Graham Sawyer TLC, so he embarked on another two-and-a-half-year journey. However, this time it was less intense, involving some fine-tuning and ‘Sawyer-izing’.
Although it drove and rode beautifully for a car of its vintage, the roadster was given innovations to make it make it more user-friendly for 21st Century travel: to the many events all over Australia that Graham and wife Kerry have attended, clocking up well over 50,000 miles – not kilometres.
Examples of Graham’s additions are twin Tillotson carburettors that were a standard tune-up kit for this model back in the 1930s.
The distributor is from a VK Commodore, with the vacuum advance connected, making the engine more tractable.
The water pump is a Ford high-flow.
Telescopic shock absorbers were fitted to the rear axle and the differential ratio changed from 3.0:1 to 3.6:1.
Chrysler’s rubber-bushed paraflex front-axle springs were damped by telescopic shock absorbers.
The gearbox is a four-speed, with a planetary gear set on third gear, eliminating the need to double de-clutch when making a shift. It is the same Dana gearbox used in C-series International trucks.
Our thanks to Graham and Kerry Sawyer for their help in writing up these magnificent Chrysler vehicles.