1924 Chrysler Model B-70

The 1924 Chrysler rode a 112 3/4-inch wheelbase, a bit on the short side for its price class. The five-passenger phaeton seen here listed at $1,395. See more classic car pictures.
©Nicky Wright

The story of the 1924 Chrysler B-70 begins with one man who started out as a railroad man. And Walter P. Chrysler might have remained in that line of work had he not visited the 1908 Chicago Automobile Show.

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On display there was a huge Locomobile touring car, finished in ivory white with red leather cushions. Chrysler was smitten on the spot. But the Locomobile was one of the most expensive automobiles on the market: $5,000, more than enough in those days to buy a comfortable four-bedroom home. And Walter, with a wife and two little girls to support, had $700 to his name. He was employed at the time as Superintendent of Motive Power for the Chicago Great Western Railroad, at a salary of $350 a month.

Nevertheless, to Chrysler it wasn't a question of whether, but rather of how, he was going to buy that car. In the end, he managed to persuade one of the railroad executives to co-sign his note, and the Locomobile was duly shipped to the Chrysler home in Oelwein, Iowa.

It should be noted that, so far as is known, Walter Chrysler had never driven an automobile. Presumably he didn't know how. One might expect, then, that his first order of business would have been to learn how to operate this big machine in which he had invested so much. But he didn't. Rather, he had the car delivered to the barn behind his house, and immediately set about disassembling it. For three long months he repeatedly took it apart and put it back together, studying every part of that Locomobile until he was sure he understood thoroughly how it worked. And then, at long last, with a cigar clenched between his teeth, he cranked up the car, drove it out of the barn, and took his family for their long-awaited first ride.

Three years later, Chrysler was drawing an annual salary of $8,000 as works manager for American Locomotive, and he had been promised a raise to $12,000 -- a king's ransom in those times. But when Charles W. Nash, president of Buick, offered him a job as Buick's works manager at half the salary he had been promised by his old employer, Chrysler took it. The lure of the automobile industry was irresistible.

On the next page, learn how Chrysler began designing cars.

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