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Lindbergh and Chrysler?

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This photograph is of Charles Lindbergh and (I think) a Chrysler at what I suspect is the San Diego airfield. I'm looking for the year and model of the car in the picture. The photo likely hung in my grandfather's Chrysler dealership in the 1920s-30s. I have no idea where he might have acquired it from.

A photography expert confirmed it as a vintage print dating from the 1920s, and an official at the Lindbergh house museum in Minnesota said she'd never seen this particular photograph but that it was Lindbergh in it.


Thanks for the help!



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I'm going to call it as a 1928 Chrysler.


It's either a convertible coupe (Dodge made the first one in 1927 so Chrysler could have followed suit), or a coupe that's had the top cut off.  The heavy windshield frame and visor were not standard on a roadster.


My thought is that it's a car that's been chopped and modified for airport use, including the addition of the spotlight.


Very interesting picture, there has to be a story behind it which we may never know...

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It was a 1927 Chrysler Imperial 80 convertible coupe, new to the line that year.  The early Imperials are easy to identify by their Vauxhall-style radiator shell and hood shapes.  The body maker is unidentified in my source but is similar to those built by Philips of Warren, Ohio that specialized in convertible coupes and convertible sedans.  It was the only style in the Imperial line with front-opening doors.  The heavy windshield frame and even a visor was common on many of the 1920's convertible coupes. 

'27 Chrysler Imperial 80 convertible coupe & Lindbergh.jpg

Edited by 58L-Y8 (see edit history)
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Great information! Thank you so much.


I hadn't noted the windshield frame or visor until you pointed it out and that's a great detail about the doors.


I really deep dive might trace the license plate to ID the owner, but that's a project for a long retirement.


As an aside, a reporter from the San Diego Union did a story on a Stutz that Lindbergh allegedly owned:


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  • 5 months later...

I think it was May of 1927 when Charles left New York in the Spirit Of St. Louis. The plane was built in San Diego in 1927. It makes sense that the photo could have been taken in 1927 when he picked it up. 


Copied from Wikipedia:

"Lindbergh arrived in San Diego on February 23 and toured the factory with Mahoney, meeting Bowlus, chief engineer Donald Hall, and sales manager A. J. Edwards. After further discussions between Mahoney, Hall and Lindbergh, Mahoney offered to build the Spirit for $10,580, restating his commitment to deliver it in 60 days. Lindbergh contributed $2,000 toward the cost of the Spirit that he had saved from his earnings as an Air Mail pilot."


Did you know that there was no front windshield? Only view was out the sides of the plane. There were extra fuel tanks up front , and an oil tank where normally there would be a windshield.



Edited by keithb7 (see edit history)
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Thanks to the ID of this photo as a 1927 Chrysler 80 from the knowledgeable folks in this thread, I was finally able to find a contemporary publication of the photo. It appeared in several newspapers after Lindbergh's historic flight (as well as in Italian magazine ads for Chrysler). This was from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on June 12, 1927. It was probably put out by Chrysler PR people but was not identified as an ad. The text remains the same across several newspapers, with slight editing. Thanks for helping me solve this mystery!

Screen Shot 2020-11-06 at 6.02.55 AM.png

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  • 4 weeks later...

The newspaper clipping raises an interesting distinction by its reference to the 'North Island flying ground of the United States Navy'.  The plane was built at Ryan Aviation which was located roughly just north of the current San Diego/Lindberg Field airport.  North Island is across the bay, next to Coronado Island, and remains a USN airbase to this day.  I have seen photos in the past of the Spirit flying over San Diego on test flights so there is no reason it could not have relocated to North Island before the flight to NYC.  I note that the license plate frame seems to say something--perhaps 'San Diego'--those frames from the late 20s are incredibly scarce.  Finally, in response to Keiser and Arkopolis' comments, the original San Diego Aerospace Museum did burn down in the late 70s.  It was replaced shortly thereafter at its current location, the old 'Ford Building', also in Balboa Park but in the portion that was part of the 1935 Exposition.  Ford used the building to showcase its new 1935 models, including in a test track located behind the building to give visitors a chance to ride in the 'new Ford' over various terrains, etc.  The Aerospace Museum is WELL worth a visit.  Fantastic collection of aircraft (including another rebuilt exact replica of the Spirit of St. Louis) and original building with murals depicting the history of transportation.  Just next door is the San Diego Automobile Museum which is also worth a visit. 

Ford Building.jpg

Ford Building 8.jpg

san diego spirit.jpg

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