Remember, this was 1942, America was going to war on two fronts, and nobody could predict how long it would last. Effective February 1, the car-making prohibition pushed every factory in the country to focus solely on making war machines.
Before pulling the plug on its beautiful Airflow-styled automobiles and turning tank-suitable wrenches, Chrysler managed to build 80 Saratoga Highlander Business Coupes. Apart from the catchy name, the car was a masterpiece of early-forties automotive engineering.
The war took a heavy toll on all the industries, but the carmakers got the heavy blow – and had to deal with it. So, on January 29, 1942, Chrysler rolled out the last pre-war automobile (see it in the gallery) and switched to making tanks and whatnot for the Europe and Pacific fronts.
The Saratoga nameplate would outlive the armed conflict; perhaps no other car in the corporation’s lineup is as symbolic as this 1942 model featured in the video. Its current owner – the aforementioned Dennis Doerge – is a massive gearhead. Nine classic Buicks and a ’59 Bel Air have starred on Lou Costabile’s YouTube channel in the past two years.
This second attribute is also the result of a frame-off restoration performed by a previous proprietor of this ’42 Saratoga – and it's obvious the project was a money-no-object endeavor. The Chrysler looks and drives like it’s 1942 again. Frankly, given the traffic in this video, we can get a pretty accurate idea of how deserted American roads were during the war.
The war effort was only part of the problem for American drivers. One crucial impediment against free motoring was a crippling shortage of rubber. After the raid on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese army conquered the Dutch East Indies and British Malaysia (present-day Indonesia and Malaysia). Incidentally, these two regions were the source of almost all natural rubber on the planet at the time.
This Saratoga survived the war, the following long years that saw the rebirth of Detroit’s civilian production, and everything else that has happened since. It became a veteran of the attrition war in its own right, although it never saw combat in the classic, fire-spitting sense of the word.
However, Chrysler had a Spitfire connection: the Straight 8 motor that still purrs like it would have done eight decades ago. 324 cubic inches (5.3 liters) send 140 hp (142 PS) to the Fluid Drive semi-automatic four-speed gearbox.
Every single mechanical component has been rebuilt to make the last known surviving 1942 Chrysler Saratoga Highlander Business Coupe a shiny example of motoring mastery. According to the previous owner – and confirmed by Mr. Doerge – the car can easily cruise at 85 mph (137 kph). Judging by the sound of the engine, we can only agree.
That Hoover Dam-sized radiator under the enormous hood could single-handedly fend off global warming. The only possible aspect that could make a joyride less than perfect would be the Radio Delete option. Then again, a radio receiver wasn’t a cheap option even thirty years after the moment this Chrysler left the factory.
With fenders and headlights tightly integrated into the body and concealed running boards for a sleeker stance, the Saratoga Business Coupe was adorned with five chrome bars across the grille and wrapping the front clip. Designer Gil Spear penned the idea – and the gallery shows the original sketch that inspired the broad, low, wrap-around Streamline Moderne grille of this beautiful 1942 Chrysler.
The gentleman who owns this automobile treasure trove deserves a medal for bravery behind the wheel, as he isn’t shy of putting the illustrious vehicle on real roads. And we can only understand and support him. After all, if his wife asked him to buy the Chrysler – despite their impressive collection – then Dennis Doerge has every reason to enjoy it to the fullest.