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Amelia Island | Lot 259

1939 Chrysler Custom Imperial Parade Phaeton by Derham

Offered from the Richard L. Burdick Collection

$162,400 USD | Sold

United States | Amelia Island, Florida

9 March 2019


Engine No.
C24-1178
  • Offered from the Richard L. Burdick Collection
  • A unique Custom Imperial created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair
  • Used by King George VI, Queen Mary, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Displayed at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum

This 1939 Chrysler Custom Imperial parade phaeton was constructed especially for that year’s New York World’s Fair. Chrysler Corporation entrusted the project to Derham Body Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania.

Joseph Derham founded Rosemont Carriage Works, in the Philadelphia suburb of that name, in 1887. His carriages were said to be the equal of James Brewster’s. Like Brewster, once the automobile supplanted the horse Derham verged into auto bodies, the first of these in 1907. For customers who could not afford bespoke bodies, Derham commenced building a short-run series of prestige bodies, five to about 40 at a time, marketing them through Packard and Hudson dealers. Unlike other American coachbuilders, Derham survived the Depression by offering modestly priced products and faithful service to all their customers. The firm survived into the 1970s.

This unique Parade Phaeton was first displayed at the Chrysler Pavilion at the Fair. It was then put to a royal task in June when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England came through New York as part of a North American tour. Built on one of 1939’s 310 Custom Imperial 144-in. wheelbase chassis, seven of which were supplied in chassis-cowl form, the car sports dual side-mounts and elongated wind-wings on the front doors. Trippe Safety Lights are mounted to the front bumper. Especially fitted with high glass windows and rear-facing jump seats for the purpose, it served the royal entourage before they departed for Canada, where another Chrysler phaeton, this time a Royal series six-cylinder model, had been built for them.

After the Fair, this car went to a Chrysler executive garage in Detroit, where it was used for official functions. In 1942, it was used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, Michigan Governor Murray Van Wagoner, Chrysler president K.T. Keller and War Production Board chairman Donald Nelson to tour Chrysler’s defense plants. When no longer needed for formal functions, it was donated to the Roose-Vanker Post, American Legion, of which Keller was Post Commander.

It remained with the Roose-Vanker Post until Bruce Thomas, a former Chrysler engineer and historian with the Chrysler Historical Collection, purchased it in the early 1980s, after a 40-year quest to own the famous car! Freshened up and displayed at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, it was honored as the Most Significant Chrysler. Carefully conserved ever since, it shows barely 22,000 miles on the odometer. Its provenance as a parade car for VIPs is evidenced by the brown leather in the rear seat, which shows more wear than the driver’s compartment.

Indeed, it is a car fit for a king.

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