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Chrysler of Bulgaria

by Peter Panov; courtesy of the Walter P. Chrysler Club

Ed Note: Peter Panov is a young Chrysler enthusiast from Bulgaria, formerly behind the Iron Curtain. How Chrysler products wound up there is beyond me, but I am glad to see that these fine cars are appreciated wherever they are found.

Bulgaria is a small country situated in the southeast part of Europe. Its neighbors are Turkey and Greece to the south, Yugoslavia to the west and north. The eastern boundary is the Black Sea.

Bulgaria is a nice country with a population of 8.5 million people. It was among the countries behind the "Iron Curtain." That's why until 1990 there were not many Western automobiles in my country. The ones people that had used them for tens of years since such cars were extremely expensive and were superior to Eastern cars. The owners of Western cars tried to do everything and made amazing changes to keep them in moving condition for as long a period as possible. Even when the cars stopped moving, their owners continued to keep them for raw materials (there were no car cemeteries until 1991).

height=202Many of the Eastern cars have the same frame. The only car our family has is a 20 year old Lada (based on a Fiat). The average age of the cars in Bulgaria is 14 years old. But there are many cars older than 20 years. That's why may be 80% of old US cars made after 1950 still exist.

I've seen mostly GM and Ford cars but there are Chrysler cars also. The Chrysler Corporation cars in Bulgaria I've seen: 1949 Dodge limousine, 1937 Plymouth, 1959 Plymouth Belvedere 4 door sedan, 1958 Dodge Coronet 4 door sedan, 1958 Imperial 4 door sedan, 1959 Dodge Coronet 4 door sedan, 1964 Chrysler 300 door hardtop.

These are the cars that I have seen produced before 1975. There are plenty of Chrysler cars made after 1980. I have no details on these. Many of these cars have recently been for sale. The 1949 asking $14,000 is all original. The Imperial has no engine or transmission. The 1959 Belvedere carried an asking price of $750, it doesn't run either. The original engine has been replaced be a diesel engine built by Leland that develops 80 horsepower.

The 1958 Coronet also carries a non-MoPar engine. It is from Varshava and develops 70 horsepower and the piston displacement is 127 cid. The Varshava was produced between 1959 and 1970. This Dodge is an excellent runner, isn't it? The odometer shows only 6 miles.

The 1959 Coronet runs too, it is a 6 cylinder. The 1964 Chrysler 300 is in the best condition of the above mentioned cars. It is restoration and has a new engine. Unfortunately it is from a Volga (Russian car) that develops only 22 horsepower, 151 piston displacement. So you can understand how this car will move.

height=211This is the first Chrysler product seen by our author at age 4, parked outside his kindergarten. He was much impressed with it. Since then he has fallen in love with the American built cars, especially those designed by Virgil Exner. This car dropped from sight for some time before it was tracked down to another village.

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