Amelia Island

9 March 2013

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Lot 161

1932 Chrysler CL Imperial Convertible Coupe by LeBaron

  • Chassis no. 7803368
  • Engine no. CL 1067
  • Body no. 171-24

$550,000 - $650,000

135 bhp, 385 cu. in. high compression Red Head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid axle front suspension with leaf springs, live axle rear suspension with leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 146 in.

  • “The Denver Car”; one of 28 built
  • Show-winning restoration
  • One of the most beautiful two-door Chryslers of the Classic Era

As Chrysler rolled into the 1931 calendar year, it mounted a serious assault on the fine-car market by offering a more affordable luxury car that still offered bountiful styling and performance. With its long-wheelbase chassis, flowing fenders, and smart LeBaron-designed coachwork, the Imperial was among the most beautiful classics of its era. While its chassis and drivetrain was certainly conventional, the car was quick, with its 385-cubic inch, nine-main-bearing straight eight producing 125 horsepower.

For 1932, the original CG Imperial was refined into the CL, with enhanced front end design, an extended hood with ventilation doors rather than louvered, and new bodies. Many of the bodies were “semi-custom” designs by LeBaron Carrossiers, the prestigious coachbuilding firm established in 1924 by Thomas Hibbard and Raymond Dietrich. By the time of the CL Imperial, the company was an imprint of Briggs, the large Detroit body firm, and was led by Ralph Roberts, an equally talented designer.

Unfortunately, by the time the Roberts-styled CL Imperial appeared in 1932, the fine-car market had all but disappeared. As a result, today these are among the most rare and desirable Chryslers of the era—just as they were when new.

The car offered here was one of only about 220 Chrysler CL Imperials built in 1932, and it is one of just 28 fitted with the sporty convertible coupe bodywork. Delivered new in Portland, Oregon, it eventually wandered south to North Hollywood, California, specifically to the Atlantic Wrecker Company, the fabled junkyard of Mike McManus, from which numerous classics were rescued during the 1950s.

In the case of this Chrysler, the rescuer who eventually came for the car was a young man from Denver, Colorado. The car returned to Colorado with him, and it was, in short order, reportedly engaged in a wild and hectic police chase—so wild, in fact, that the new owner missed a turn and rolled the car into a ditch by the side of the road. The reason for the chase has never been confirmed, but it has always been rumored to have been a bank robbery—perhaps he had trouble paying for the car.

The car was damaged but not severely, and it was put away in a garage for several years. It eventually made its way through Nebraska ownership and eventually found its way into the noted collections of Don Sears and Knox Kershaw, and then was acquired in 2002 by Joe Martin. After examining all of the serial numbers and body tags, Martin satisfied himself as to the car’s authenticity and endeavored to continue the restoration that Kershaw had begun and to return the car to its original beauty.

The car’s nut-and-bolt, body-off restoration was completed by Richard Fass’s Stone Barn Restorations, of New Jersey, whose cars have won many awards at concours events nationwide, including multiple Best of Show awards at Pebble Beach. It should be noted that Fass executed a total rebuild of the engine and that the spectacular interior was done by Sharp Automotive Upholsterers, of Ohio. The large binder of documentation that accompanies the car thoroughly documents its restoration and the lengths that Kershaw and Martin went to in order to ensure the authenticity and excellence of all components.

Since completion, the stunning Chrysler has also been very successful on the show field, winning several Best of Show awards itself. Finished in a simply spectacular two-tone green, “The Denver Car,” as it is known among CL enthusiasts, remains an outstanding, show-quality automobile with its original engine, and it has been properly cared for by its collector caretakers. Like many other early Imperials, it sports a desirable three-speed gearbox that has replaced the troublesome four-speeds with which these cars were originally equipped; it also has a trunk rack, wire wheels, and wide whitewall tires, as well as dual side-mounted spares with hard covers. Above all, it has the thrilling kind of stories that make wonderful conversation in one’s garage or in the driver’s seat of one of America’s grand pre-war autos.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more