Chrysler is famous for their wood-paneled Town and County models, with the nameplate appearing on many different Chryslers for decades. Most collectors are familiar with the wood-bodied Town and County sedan and convertible produced from 1946 to 1948, but many have never seen a 1941 or 1942 model. Rare and valuable, the “Barrel Back” Town and County is the most coveted of all wood-bodied cars, and for good reason.
The brainchild of Chrysler designer A. B. Buzz Grisinger*, the 1941 Town and Country was a clear departure from conventional thought as to how a station wagon should look, engineered, and presented. Station wagons offered by other manufacturers of the era had bodies made almost completely out of wood from the windshield back, and were boxy in appearance. By comparison, the Town and Country was sleek and modern, more like a fastback sedan. The rear cargo doors opened like a clamshell, as opposed to the traditional and more utilitarian tailgate design. It was also the first woody to have an all steel roof, which aided structural integrity and enhanced the streamlined look of the car. Priced at $1475, they were marketed to an upscale clientele looking for a vehicle that would be at home at the country club or in front of a luxury hotel, plus have the utility of carrying up to 9 passengers plus luggage. Both 6 passenger and 9 passenger models were offered, and were powered by a six cylinder as standard, or optional eight engine, with Chrysler’s famous fluid-drive transmission. Less than 1,000 of these Barrel Back beauties were produced each year, with production totaling just 1996 units for the 1941 and 1942 model years.
Widely considered the most desirable of all wood-bodied cars, collectors have shown their admiration for these cars at auction. When they are rarely offered for sale at auction, they sell from about $200,000, to as much as $572,000 (2012 RM Auctions). Recently a 1942 model sold for $462,000 at the 2014 Gooding auction in Scottsdale.
*Source: Chrysler Corp.