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1951 Chrysler runs in World Race

by Bill Cawthon on

A 1951 Chrysler New Yorker Club Coupe is making history by recreating it. Yesterday, it completed the U.S. portion of World Race 2011 a modern recreation of the Great Race of 1908. The World Race began in April 14 in New York City and headed west with stops in Buffalo, Sandusky, Detroit, Warsaw, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dodge City, Denver, Gateway, Salt Lake City, and Reno. Yesterday, the cars arrived in San Francisco. Today, those cars continuing on the International segment of the race will be loaded into containers and transported to China. There, they will begin the second, and longest leg of the competition, starting in Beijing on June 4 and ending in Paris on July 21.

The Chrysler is owned and driven by Jonathan Auerbach, a partner in Auerbach-Grayson, a New York City investment firm. Auerbach’s navigator is Bill Seacrest, a retired pilot from South Shore, Kentucky. The two met at the Great Race (formerly known as the Great American Race) some years ago.

The latest chapter in the two-door sedan’s life began ten years ago when it was found in a Missouri barn. There have been a few changes made: the two-tone paint is original, but what’s under the hood certainly isn’t. The original 180-horsepower 331 CID Hemi V8 has been replaced by a modified 354 Hemi pumping out 450 horsepower. The interior has also been changed to meet the needs of competition. The original split-back bench seat has been replaced by competition bucket seats and a new row of instruments runs beneath the original instrument panel.

The Auerbach Chrysler has successfully completed the Carrera Panamericana and finished first in its class in the Chihuahua Express. It raced at Pike’s Peak and in National Vintage Stock Car competitions.

The vintage New Yorker is running in the Schuster Class, named for George Schuster, the winner of the original 1908 race. Schuster, who was chief mechanic at the Thomas Motor Company, was actually a last-minute entry in the competition. There wasn’t going to be an American participant until President Theodore Roosevelt called E.R. Thomas, president of Thomas Motors, and told him to enter a car. Thomas’ entry was a 1907 Thomas Flyer. With Schuster at the wheel, it finished the Great Race 26 days ahead of its nearest competitor.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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