Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
As noted in the No Place Like Home series of posts on this blog, for many people through the 1920s their two most prized material possessions were houses and cars. Photographs routinely show proud owners posed with the two and this installment of From Point A to Point B is certainly no exception.
This snapshot from the Homestead’s collection shows one person in the front passenger seat and what appears to be a trio in the rear seat of a handsome Chrysler 65 sedan with 1929 license plates parked along the curb of a street in an unidentified residential area of Los Angeles.
Chrysler was a relative newcomer to the crowded field of American automobile manufacturers, having issued its first vehicles in 1925. Walter P. Chrysler (1875-1940) started in railroad work as a machinist, mechanic and works manager and then went to work as a production chief for Buick automobiles for several years, followed by a short stint at Willys-Overland.
After taking a controlling interest in the Maxwell firm, Chrysler created his namesake corporation in Detroit. Three years later, he bought the Dodge Brothers and soon added the Plymouth and DeSoto brands to his growing empire as the 1920s came to a close.
His meteoric rise to automobile fame was capped by the construction between 1928-1930 of the famed Chrysler Building, an Art Deco landmark in Manhattan, as well as his being chosen as Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” for 1928.
Chrysler remained in control of his company until 1936, but his health failed not long afterward and he died in 1940 at age 65. Today, the company is owned by the Italian automotive giant Fiat.
As to the 65 sedan, the 4-door, 5-passenger vehicle retailed for about $1,100 in 1928, a little less than half the average American income. To get an idea of scale, gasoline was 12 cents a gallon on average, a loaf of bread was about 9 cents, and a gallon of milk some 57 cents. The average house ran just under $8,000 and and the average price of car was $525. So, clearly the 65 was marketed for a middle class clientele.
The 2,730-pound vehicle had a 6-cylinder, 3.2 liter engine and generated 65 horsepower. There were three manual shift controls in the floor. By far, Chrysler’s most popular vehicle, production of the 65 totaled about 116,000 units of a total of nearly 168,000 for the firm’s output. It also became the company’s entry-level Chrysler, because the 4-cylinder cars were re-branded as Plymouths for 1929. The cars that were the next levels up were the brand-new 66, 70, and 77 models, as well as the existing 75 and the Imperial.
While there was no identification on the snapshot of the people or the specific location, it can be assumed that the owners well fairly well-to-do, though by the end of the year, the Roaring Twenties gave way to Black Thursday’s crash of the stock market on 24 October 1929, ushering in The Great Depression. It would be interesting to know whether these folks were still driving their Chrysler a year later!