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1932 Chrysler CL Imperial Dual-Windshield Phaeton by LeBaron

Lot Location: Amelia Island, Florida

RM | Sotheby's - AMELIA ISLAND 22 MAY 2021


Serial No.
Engine No.
Body No.
7803371
CL 1081
172-25
  • Only three owners since 1948; single ownership since 1987
  • The famous Robert J. Gottlieb Imperial: Among the first Classics to be “restored”
  • Still wearing its enthusiast restoration in very charming condition
  • One of only three extant 1932 Dual-Windshield Phaetons
  • Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic

There was a time—long enough ago now to be easily forgotten—that the great Full Classics of today were not classics at all, but simply used cars. Yet there were a handful of men who knew better, and Robert J. Gottlieb, a young attorney in Southern California, was one of these. In 1948, he bought a 16-year-old Chrysler off the lot at the Greene-Warner Hudson agency on Hollywood Boulevard for the grand sum of $225, becoming, he believed, its third owner. An earlier caretaker, likely the second, had been Joe Reindl, the famous Mercedes-Benz mechanic known as one of the drivers in the Duesenberg-Mercedes “match race.” Chrysler guru Joe Morgan notes that the car was originally finished in Everglades Red, an unusually colorful livery for these often sober-hued automobiles.

In a letter to the current owners in 1989, Mr. Gottlieb noted that the Chrysler “was the first classic as we know them today, to be restored in California.” Following completion of the work, the car was featured in several magazines, and in the 1954 Popular Mechanics book, How to Restore Antique & Classic Cars. Mr. Gottlieb would himself go on to write about the cars he loved as the long-serving “Classic Comments” columnist for Motor Trend. In that capacity, he is often credited with being the first to apply the term “classic” to automobiles.

The Chrysler remained in his good care until August 1963, then was sold to Vernon Jarvis and exhibited at his family’s Early American Museum at Silver Springs, Florida. After nearly a quarter-century, it was acquired by the current owners in 1987, and has been displayed as-acquired in their private collection ever since.

The car’s historic, largely cosmetic restoration remains intact, with its richly patinaed maroon finish, dark red leather interior, and tan cloth top; even the Gottlieb monogram, replacing the original Chrysler logo on the radiator shell, remains intact. The engine is equipped with the correct Silver Dome cylinder head, and retains its original block stamping, while the original body number tags are both still in place as well. Accessories include dual sidemount spares with their original covers, original side curtains, twin taillights, dual trumpet horns, and a Motorola radio. Further, the car is accompanied by an impressive roster of spare parts, including two unrestored Stromberg DD-3 carburetors, N.O.S. manifold gaskets, correct zerk grease fittings, and original taillamp lenses.

Especially interesting are five blank hubcaps, believed to hail from a second 1932 CL Imperial dual-windshield phaeton; this car, also owned by Joe Reindl, had been used by Charlie Chaplin in the 1940 film The Great Dictator. Robert Gottlieb was quite clear, in his letters on the subject, that his was not the Dictator car – but he may have acquired some trim pieces from it. For a full list of accompanying spares, please view the car’s files either at rmsothebys.com or via inquiry to an RM specialist.

It is often said, of an unrestored Preservation Class automobile, that “it would be a shame to restore it.” This is one of the few older restorations for which the same is true: the restoration is, itself, historic, and has developed a charm, character, and richly worn-in history all its own. It is an automobile that stands as happy tribute to one of the early figures of the hobby, who saw fit to buy, for $225, a used car...which in the last 72 years has become so, so much more.


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22 May 2021