New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents -

You may be for­given for think­ing your eyes are play­ing tricks on you. This very in­ter­est­ing project that the team at Jaguar Work­shop in East Ta­maki has un­der­way at the mo­ment is a 1953 Jaguar MKVII ute. The ve­hi­cle started life as a 3.5-litre man­ual sa­loon that has be­longed to two other well-known Jaguar spe­cial­ists and dis­man­tlers over the years.

It is cur­rently re­ceiv­ing a full ground-up res­ur­rec­tion and is des­tined to be­come the com­pany’s iconic every­day work­horse.

Im­prove­ments and fur­ther mods in­clude a 5.3-litre V12 Jaguar re­power to re­place the orig­i­nal 4.2-litre six-cylin­der en­gine plus an XJS in­de­pen­dent-front-sus­pen­sion up­grade, full body restora­tion, in­te­rior leather re­trim and Bri­tish rac­ing green paint­work.

Meet­ing the chal­lenges of re­build­ing clas­sic trucks and cars has never daunted the work­shop restora­tion crew at Bill Richard­son Trans­port World, and the re­sults speak for them­selves.

But cu­ra­tor Graeme Wil­liams has a real chal­lenge on his hands with the lat­est ar­rival in the col­lec­tion, a 1935 Chrysler Im­pe­rial Cus­tom Le Baron CW, to give it its full ti­tle.

“We are still find­ing out a lot more about this car, and as­sess­ing it. It will be a very big job,” Graeme said.

The very rare Chrysler left the De­troit fac­tory bound for Bri­tain and Chrysler UK in an at­tempt to at­tract lux­ury-car buy­ers. It lan­guished for some time, be­fore Chrysler fit­ted a 1936 grille on it in an ef­fort to raise buyer in­ter­est.

One of the first cars de­signed in a wind tun­nel, it was quite ad­vanced for its time, es­pe­cially com­pared with the square lines of the com­pany’s cars up to 1933. How­ever, Chrysler’s rad­i­cal re­think in car styling was not an in­stant suc­cess with the Amer­i­can car-buy­ing pub­lic, and sales suf­fered.

The car even­tu­ally came to New Zealand in 1971 but fit­ted with a V8 en­gine.

“It’s owner rec­og­nized it for what it was and had the pres­ence of mind to keep the orig­i­nal en­gine, a 385ci (6.3-litre) flat­head straight-eight, so we are for­tu­nate [that] he kept it,” Graeme told us.

A big sur­prise was the con­di­tion of the big straight-eight when it was opened up. “It’s in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion and the car looks like it has done only the recorded 68,000 miles [109,435km],” he said.

Here is a chance for the pub­lic to help out, as Bill Richard­son Trans­port World is on the look­out for ra­di­a­tor tanks suit­able to re­build or pat­tern off for this car.

“A CX ra­di­a­tor is sim­i­lar but four inches [102mm] shorter, but the CW is stepped to fit un­der the Air­flow grille. If any­one knows of tanks we can use, we would be very in­ter­ested,” Graeme said.

It’s an eight-seater, and it should also prove chal­leng­ing to re­store the sump­tu­ous in­te­rior and fit­tings that came in these Im­pe­ri­als. They were the top-of-the-line in Chrysler’s model range, and of­fered many ad­vanced fea­tures for the day.

“The King of Swe­den ran one, and one was known to ex­ist in In­done­sia. Two resided in the US, and the own­ers of these are as­sist­ing Trans­port World with pat­terns for re­place­ment parts and in­for­ma­tion,” Graeme said.

A prod­uct of Chrysler’s Air­flow styling, the art-deco look will fit in per­fectly with the col­lec­tion. An im­pres­sive car even in its un­re­stored con­di­tion, this piece of Amer­i­can lux­ury mo­tor­ing is a su­perb ad­di­tion to the fleet.

If you’d like to let us in be­hind your garage door, send in a few pics and a brief de­scrip­tion of your project to edi­tor@clas­s­ic­

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