by Kendra Cook, Curator
Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles
There’s something especially regal about the wood-bodied Chrysler Town & Country on display at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. Large and imposing, the Town & Country is still a welcome site for visitors, with its rich colors and nostalgic lines. Though built in Detroit, the Museum’s 1948 Chrysler Town & Country has a local connection, and it serves as an excellent way to introduce people to the Museum’s founder, Paul Hafer.
In 1939, coachwork builders across the country were asked by Dodge to submit concept drawings of wood constructed station wagon bodies on a ‘39 Dodge chassis. Boyertown Auto Body Works designer Paul Hafer created three: the Country Club Sport with rear folding top design, the Country Gentleman with full streamlined body, and the Town & Country with an open cab area. The designs all incorporated wood into the steel bodies, and each had a kind of English countryside feel about them.
The project was transferred to Chrysler, which picked up where Dodge left off and introduced these ‘estate wagons.’ Though Chrysler received Hafer’s designs, the company decided to manufacture the bodies on their own rather than contracting out the work to a firm like the Boyertown Auto Body Works.
Hafer’s work did not go unnoticed, however. Chrysler informed him later that though they did like his concepts, they would not use his designs specifically. Instead, they would use one of the names he devised—the Town & Country. In 1941, the Town & Country estate wagon was introduced. Only 200 were built in this early phase, however. Later that year, the United States entered World War II, and civilian car production halted soon afterwards.
After the war, people were starved for new car designs. Five different Town & Country models were offered in 1946 with a six cylinder L head engine, such as the one in the Museum, or a Straight Eight. The Town & Country was a popular line for several years until the public became aware of the need to revarnish the wood trim twice a year. Production would quickly dip to just under 700 units in 1950. All metal-bodied station wagons became the norm in the Town & Country line. In the 1980s, plastic trim resembling woodgrain was applied to Town & Country models as a callback to the 40s styling. Chrysler later used the Town & Country name for the minivan line.
The Chrysler Town & Country—a nationally known name invented right here in Boyertown. And its history is preserved at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.
The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles is located at 85 South Walnut Street in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The Museum is open from 9:30am-4pm Tuesdays through Sundays. Visit www.boyertownmuseum.org or call the Museum at (610) 367-2090 for more information. Please note that the Boyertown Museum is TEMPORARILY CLOSED for March and April 2017 due to renovations. Please check the Museum website at www.boyertownmuseum.org for up-to-date information on our re-opening.