There is something wonderful about a classic car that gets driven. I can appreciate a low-mileage car as much as the next guy, but there comes a point where one wonders, why did I never drive this thing? It almost seems like a waste to have a nice car and not use it for its intended purpose.
This 1957 Chrysler Windsor is no trailer queen. It's yet another member of Fifties Guy's fleet, and it gets around. In fact, my good friend Colin Stacy over at The Automotive Way saw this car before I did. And not in the Bay Area, where it lives, but driving through Minneapolis, Minnesota. Two thousand miles away. Nothing like a little road trip to clean out the engine and test the suspension, eh?
The Windsor, in keeping with Chrysler's 1950s naming scheme of giving their cars the monikers of luxury hotels regardless of their place in the lineup, was the base full-size trim line in 1957. It was the first year for true implementation of Virgil Exner's "Forward Look" design for the Chrysler line and this example looks almost European in its lack of body ornamentation. For the mid-to-late 1950s, this is remarkably restrained design. Of course, swankier Chryslers had more gingerbread. Still, the Windsor bought you V8 power and enough room for six, so why complain?
I'll be honest, 1957 isn't my favorite year for any Chrysler product. They were still getting things ironed out with an all-new car, and it was the first year the feds allowed four headlamps on new cars. The Forward Look Mopars were designed for four lights, but this cheaper Windsor came with only two large sealed beams, mounted in the middle of a bezel wide enough to hold four smaller units.
The front end styling is what always got me about these cars. I'm not particularly fond of it, though I love the rest of the car. (Not everyone will agree with me, but I think the styling pinnacle of the Forward Look was the 1958 Plymouth line, and I'm also a fan of the '58 and '59 DeSotos.)
I like the various items on this car that hint at its history. It has a vintage dealer plate frame from Saratoga, in the South Bay. The parking permit on the rear bumper is from Berkeley, in the East Bay. If it lives in San Francisco (the West Bay?) why not spend some time up in Marin County and get something from the North Bay to complete the set?
Condition isn't concours, but from what I hear, Fifties Guy is more interested in keeping his cars in good mechanical shape. I can understand that, given how many nice-looking cars I've seen broken down on the side of the road. And really, this isn't that bad. There are rock chips on the front end and dents on the body, and the last "R" in "Chrysler" on the hood is missing, but all the other trim and body pieces are present and intact. The paint may well be original, and if it is, it looks remarkable for its age. Much of the chrome looks like it would buff to a showroom shine. There are only two modifications I see that I don't approve of. One is the aftermarket speaker grilles in the back (however, I guess that AM radio coming out of blown-out cardboard speakers would get a little old on road trips). The second is the broken window on the right rear passenger door, likely courtesy of some stupid kid who thought he'd be a punk and throw a rock through a 50-year-old window. Someone did that to the 1956 Continental Mark II I featured about two years ago; they smashed the driver side window out and the owner had to park the car on the street with no window for the better part of a year or more. Do people have any clue how hard it is to find good replacement glass for these old cars?
At any rate, I'm happy to see a lower-trim Forward Look Chrysler in the hands of someone who cares about it. Not enough of the base models have been saved over the years, and I very rarely see Chryslers of this vintage in any condition.