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1950Dodge

First Retail Powerflite Chrysler

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In doing some research on early '50's Chryslers, I learned that President Harry Truman took delivery of a brand-new 1953 Chrysler New Yorker in late February 1953. I also learned through further research that this car was equipped with the Powerflite automatic. This appears to contradict what I've seen concerning when and how Powerflite was introduced to the public. Everything I have read says that the Powerflite was a late (May 1953) introduction on Imperial Models only, and then sometime after that, it began appearing on Chrysler New Yorkers. If that is true, how did Harry, who bought his '53 New Yorker from a Missouri Retail dealer, get his Powerflite-equipped car in February 1953? There is no indication that he did or said anything special when he ordered his car, or even that he was aware that the fully automatic transmission was available. The history I have says that both he and Mrs. Truman had to get special instructions on how to drive the car when they took delivery, because they only had experience with "clutch" cars up to that point.

Can anyone shed light on this?

:confused:

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Apparently Truman was a long time Chrysler owner. I have seen pictures with him and Bess with his n hers 1940 Chryslers. Whether they had other cars in between I don't know but it is possible he could not get a car during the war years, and did not need a car afterwards while he was President. This would make the 53, his first new car since 1940. But, wasn't Fluid Drive standard equipment in 1940? I know it was available from 1939 and was soon made standard equipment but, did the 1940 models have it as standard?

It would not surprise me if the dealer told Chrysler who the car was for, and that they decided to slip him one of the new transmissions that were just going into production.

An interesting question for sure. Does the car still exist, in a museum or collection somewhere? If you had the serial number, Chrysler should be able to look up the original order and build sheet.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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Would appreciate knowing the source of the information on the Truman car's Powerflite. I owned a '53 New Yorker coupe, late year build, with Powerflite. Perhaps the current owner can post its build date.

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I own a 1953 Imperial Newport, one of 823 built. As I understand it these were the first cars to receive the Powerflite with the exception of a few special built cars later in the production year. My car was built June 25, 1953 which is later than the Truman example. I'd also like to see some documentation to support the Powerflite on the former President's NY.

Regarding checking with Chrysler Historical I'd be cautious as they have sent me documents showing where my car was shipped before it was built. I had to contact them for corrected documentation. Also, they advise people that Chrysler offered Kelsey Hayes wire wheels when the reality is MotorRim was the source.

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If you follow the link below, you will see the dashboard/driver's side floorboard of Truman's Chrysler. If you look carefully and expand the image, you can see that the shift indicator on the steering column shows RNDL, clearly a Powerflite indicator. The M6 cars had indicators showing RLND. Further, look at the floorboard and you will see no clutch pedal, nor is there a hole where one should be. Further, the history I have says that both Harry and Bess had to be instructed as to the operation of a fully automatic clutchless car because every car they had prievously was either a standard manual or the M6 (their 1941 Chryslers were fluid drive/vacamatic models), all having clutch pedals. This is all proof enough for me that his 1953 Chrysler had the Powerflite.

http://jalopnik.com/5791608/the-secret-of-harry-trumans-lost-1953-chrysler<o:p></o:p>

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I do see what you are stating and it does appear to be a Powerflite. With that said I find something else interesting in the short video. Note the driver's door and the panel around the door handle. Those were only used on Imperial and not NYer to my knowledge. I learned to drive on a '53 NYer with Fluid Drive. So this must be a special order car and it would be very interesting to see more details of the car along with documentation.

The dash-steering wheel are the same colors as my '53 Newport except ours is in far better "original" condition.post-90971-143142635683_thumb.jpg

post-90971-143142635678_thumb.jpg

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I’m going to go with what Rusty said. They knew the car was for Truman, and it was specially supplied. K.T. Keller and Truman were acquaintences, Keller having served in the Truman Administration during WWII. When the ex-president needed a car in 1953, he asked Keller what he recommended from the Chrysler line. Following Rusty’s idea, and based on the fact that Keller was aware of Truman’s desire to buy a Chrysler, it is more than likely that when the order was placed it got special attention and probably the order from Keller was to install the PF transmission, which surely was available in February, but not yet released to production. I’m going to guess that Truman got the first PF-equipped Chrysler delivered to a retail customer.<o:p></o:p>

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Well, I got so inspired reading all of this that I got Gracie (our '53 Newport) out and will be driving her this weekend. She started right up with a fresh battery. Had great oil pressure and you can hardly hear her purring as she idles. Drove her home from our storage and she shifted perfect.

Gracie has a story of her own and has had a notable owner in the past, but that is another story. :)

One other note I forgot to mention is I thought I saw wire wheels on Truman's NY. Seems a bit flashy for a man with his reputation, but he was one of the great Presidents in our countries history IMO....

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