1941 Chrysler Windsor Highlander


Words Jim MacLachlan, photos Chris Penree:

    Pat Abbott of Kirkville, NY was participating in a local car cruise last summer at Lewis Park in Minoa with his 1930 Model A coupe.  As he was listening to the band play, the priest from the church he attends came up to him and asked if he wanted to trade the Model A for the priest’s 1941 Chrysler Windsor Highlander 4-door sedan.  Pat thought he was joking, laughed it off and didn’t give it much thought.

One Saturday evening a bit later in the fall, prior to Pat serving at his church, the priest again approached him about trading the Model A for the Chrysler Windsor Highlander.  The priest explained that he currently had a couple of Model T’s, had a Model A previously and now wanted another one.  He said the 1941 Highlander was too “new” for him.  At this point it became clear that he was serious about a trade.  The two guys talked back and forth throughout the winter and in the spring of this year, after driving each other’s cars, shook hands on an even trade.

For the 1941 model year, Chrysler offered its entry-level, L-head six-cylinder Series 28 in a wide variety of body styles divided up into three trim levels: the Royal, the Windsor, and the Windsor Highlander.  The Windsor Highlander was the most expensive and prestigious of these models distinguished by a trim package shared with the larger Chrysler New Yorker including standard leather interior with inserts of tartan plaid.

Probably the most interesting feature of Pat’s Highlander is the Fluid Drive transmission system that allows the driver to stop and start without using the clutch pedal, or “Safety Clutch” as it is labeled.  The car is not a manual, and not really an automatic.  The column shifter can be shifted into 3 positions: reverse, low range, or high range.  The clutch pedal is required to shift from one of these positions to the other, but not needed after that.  The low range and high range positions each have a low gear and high gear that are automatically shifted by the transmission without any input from the driver.  When driving the car in the high range, stopping requires simply applying the brakes to stop and hitting the accelerator to go, no clutch is needed.  It is interesting to note that there is no park position in the transmission, so the parking brake must always be used, or the car could just roll away.

When Pat received the car near the end of July of this year, other than being repainted to its current color from the original black paint, it was pretty much as it left the factory with just under 30,000 miles.  Pat is the fourth owner of the Highlander, the first being an undertaker that hardly drove the car which is probably the reason why it retains such low mileage today.  The Highlander still sports it’s all original interior including the unusual red tartan plaid cloth and leather upholstery.  Since owning the car, Pat has driven it around 500 miles, rolling the odometer over the 30,000-mile mark.  He is an active member of the Mohican Model A Ford Club and this fall drove it on the club’s fall foliage tour racking up about 100 miles for the day.  Pat plans on driving the car and enjoys demonstrating how the unusual transmission works to anyone that is interested.

Car specs:
Price New – $1,020 – $1,420
Production – between 1000 and 1500 made
Horsepower – 110 @ 3600 RPM
Cubic inches – 241.5
Wheelbase – 121.5 inches
Length – 210.0 inches
Weight – 3,135 – 3,661 pounds

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