In many ways, the very rare car shown in this article, the Chrysler C-24 Custom Parade Phaeton, was all about the 1939 World's Fair held in New York City. In fact, it's said that the car was created for the World's Fair.
The Derham Body Company
The Chrysler C-24 Phaeton was a seven passenger limousine. The coach builder was Derham. Three different cars were built on the C-24 frame. These were the Convertible Town Car, the Convertible Sedan and the Turing Phaeton such as the one shown here. The Derham Body Company was founded in 1887 in the western Philadelphia suburbs by Joseph Derham, an immigrant from Ireland. His first custom car body however wasn't built until 1907, some twenty years later. Some of his very first customers were wealthy residents of north Philadelphia.
Derham Body Company had such a great reputation for quality that they even built auto bodies for some of their competitors. Derham's popular slogan was "Your choices are limited only by your imaginations and desires. What you want, we will build."
Chrysler and the 1939 World's Fair
The Transportation Zone at the fair was a popular area. As with all commercial exhibitors at the fair, one goal was to sell the company's products. Another aim was to introduce potential customers to new methods of production as well as new materials used. Automakers utilized the 1939 World's Fair as both a selling and educational venue.
Chrysler was very involved and noticed at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Remember, this was the tenth year after the infamous 1929 stock market crash. The country was limping through the 1930's with high unemployment and various civilian government work programs. Chrysler, for it's part, survived the toughest of the Great depression years by doing a good job selling it's lower cost Dodge and Plymouth models.The Chrysler models were perceived as mid-size automobiles which competed against Cadillac.
Several automakers had elaborate exhibits at the 1939 World's Fair. General Motors had a 36,000 square foot pavilion called "Futurama" . Here visitors were taken over a large diorama of part of the U.S. which highlighted highways, towns and homes, all in miniature. The Ford Pavilion featured race car drivers on a figure eight track on the building's roof top. The driving went on continuously.
Chrysler embraced the World's Fair with several unique exhibits. One was a 3-D film requiring the viewers to wear the special 3-D glasses. It was estimated that some one and one-half million people saw the film that was titled, "In Tune With Tomorrow". The special eyeglasses were in the shape of a Plymouth automobile. The film was recognized as the first time that a mass audience was exposed to a 3-D film. Viewers of Chrysler's film were also sitting in air conditioning which was rather new for the time.
The 1939 Chrysler Custom Phaeton shown here was on display at the World's Fair at the Chrysler Pavilion. Total Chrysler production for the 1939 model year was 67,749 units. Out of this number there were 117 limousine sedans built. 95 seven passenger sedans and only one of the C-24 Custom Phaeton Limousines which is the one shown in this article. The most popular selling model during Chrysler's 1939 model year was the six cylinder Royal 6. More than 50,000 of these were built. The average Windsor Royal 6 sold new for between $1,000 and $1,300 depending upon options. Manual transmissions were standard equipment. The six cylinder engines provided 100 horsepower.
1939 Chrysler C-24 Phaeton Limousine Specs
The 1939 C-24 Chrysler Custom Imperials had essentially the same trim lines as the C-23's. The car was powered by a 324 CID L-Head Inline Eight Cylinder Engine. This produced 132 horsepower. The engine had a total of sixteen valves, two per cylinder. The transmission was a three speed Fluid Drive and the brakes were four wheel hydraulic drum. The C-24's had larger tires than the C-23's and also had better inside trims and features.
The 1939 C-24 had a wheelbase of 144 inches.
The Chrysler limousine's weight was about 4,600 lbs.
(Photos from author's collection)