Bruce James with the restored Chrysler, taken a few weeks ago on Bribie Island.
Bruce James with the restored Chrysler, taken a few weeks ago on Bribie Island. Contributed

Reunited after 53 years

INDIVIDUALS and families get through cars at an astounding rate these days, with few ever holding on to their vehicles for more than a couple of years before an inevitable upgrade.

This 1930 Chrysler 66 Tourer was a true family survivor, however, being the only car driven by five drivers in three generations of Bruce James’s family between 1930 and 1968.

Bruce no longer owns the Chrysler – but a chance meeting a few years ago reunited the Maleny resident with the car he learnt to drive in when he was 16 years old.

The car’s gone through a few changes, too, thanks to a colour change during restoration – but both car and man are still recognisable as old friends, even after a gap of 53 years between meetings.

“It was bought second-hand when only a few months old, by my grandfather in Brisbane,” Bruce said.

“He drove it until the 1950s, sometimes with great difficulty, as he never learned to double de-clutch the three-speed crash gearbox.”

In the 1940s, Bruce’s mother drove the car – the only one she did in her lifetime – and by the late 1950s, 16-year-old Bruce was at the wheel.

“I think in the opinion of the local constabulary, this was a good thing, as my grandfather’s advancing blindness meant he didn’t see the drivers he inadvertently forced off the road!” he said.

Bruce took over maintenance of the by-then old car, keeping a log book of its running costs between 1960 and 1968.

“This came to a grand total of four cents per mile for more than 100,000 miles of almost trouble-free motoring,” he said.

The family connection continued, with Bruce’s younger brother also learning to drive in the Chrysler 66 – before Bruce’s wife Lynda joined the list of family drivers, with their son Michael the fourth generation carried in the car from 1966.

In 1968, Bruce regrettably sold the old Chrysler 66 to replace it with a Valiant. But in 2001 he was reunited with his old mate, after it had been restored, served as a wedding car and finally found living a relaxed life with vintage plates on Bribie Island.

It was emotional for Bruce to drive his old 66 again and despite its age, it’s still a competent performer.

“It was the smallest in the Chrysler range at the time but the engine was powerful and the car surprisingly light,” he said.

“Its bigger brothers – the Chrysler 72 and 73 models – raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, coming third and fourth in 1928.

“The car’s played a huge part in my life – and perhaps in the long term, I’d like to own it again. For now, I do hope the old Chrysler is keeping to itself all the family secrets held in that expansive back seat!”

VITAL STATISTICS

Current owner: Bob Ashcroft

Owner 1930-1968: Bruce James and family.

Model: 1930 Chrysler 66 Tourer.

Details: Four-door sedan produced between 1924 and 1931.

Country of origin: USA

Engine: 3.2-litre in-line six cylinder side-valve generating maximum power of 68bhp (50kW) @ 3300rpm.

Transmission: 3-speed manual, non-synchro.

Performance: Top speed 66mph.
 


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