Sunday, April 20, 2008

As many of you know, I am currently writing a book about a road trip that Harry and Bess Truman took in the summer of 1953. For some time now I have been searching for Harry’s 1953 Chrysler New Yorker, which, the Truman Library tells me, is in the hands of a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous. I have contacted Chrysler clubs and posted enquiries on Internet news groups, all to no avail. But my search has not been fruitless; it led me to a very nice guy named Alan Hais, who owns a 1953 New Yorker much like Harry’s. Today I visited Alan (and his Chrysler) at his home in Maryland.

Alan’s New Yorker is a maroon two-door convertible. Harry’s was a black four-door hardtop, but in most every other respect the cars are identical. Alan bought the car for $300 back in 1971. Back then, of course, it was only 18 years old – just another used car. It now has 108,000 miles on it, but it still runs like a charm. It’s massive – 18 to 19 feet long, 4,500 pounds – and safety features are practically nonexistent (though the previous owner did install seatbelts). The car is gorgeous. I especially like the instrument panel. That’s a cigarette lighter above the ignition (and check out how small the key is):

Alan was even nice enough to let me drive the car for a couple miles. It certainly didn’t handle like the rented Toyota Corolla I’d driven over to his place. It has an early version of power steering, but when I moved the steering wheel, it seemed to take the car a moment or two to respond. Alan agreed there was a certain “vagueness” in the steering. I admit I was relieved when I safely pulled the big car into his driveway. The car has an early version of Chrysler's famous “Hemi” engine, but when Alan lifted the hood, I was most surprised to see that it also had windshield washer fluid:

Many thanks to Alan for sharing his beautiful car with me. In the meantime, my search for Harry’s 1953 Chrysler New Yorker continues. If you happen to see one tootling around, please let me know. I’m even thinking of hiring a private investigator to help me find it. Can anybody recommend one – preferably a cheap one?

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