A vintage Chrysler makes good

Plenty of opportunities exist for people who own well-kept vintage automobiles to exercise them competitively in wonderfully idyllic settings. One such stratagem exists in the United Kingdom in the form of Bespoke Rallies, which organizes very high-end motoring events on several continents. One of them that just concluded was the Highland 1000 across the moors and mountains of Scotland, which just concluded last month. When the field had fully navigated the 60 control points, the team of Andrew and Anne Davies emerged as the overall victors, driving a 1929 Chrysler Series 75 roadster. They outpointed a 1972 Jaguar E-Type entered by Andrew Taylor and Janet Lowe, and a vintage Mini Cooper shared by Edmund Peel and Sarah MacDonald. This was cool, no less so because it provided a reminder of a long-ago episode of another strong American showing in the long history of European motorsport.

This image immediately directed our thoughts to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1928, when Chrysler entered a four-car factory team at the Sarthe, with the Grand Prix legends Louis Chiron and Robert Benoist as two of the drivers. The team cars were Chrysler Series 72 roadsters, very similar to the Highland 1000 winner, all of which were powered by L-head straight-six engines displacing 248.9 cubic inches. All four Chryslers were painted cream with black trim, kind of like a New Jersey license plate. Two of the team cars were DNFs, but Le Mans turned into a race-long duel between the surviving Chrysler roadsters and the works team of brand-new 4.5-liter Bentleys, with a single Stutz Black Hawk also in the mix. Bentley emerged with the win, led by “Bentley Boy” (and the marque’s majority shareholder) Woolf Barnato, logging eight more miles than the Stutz, but Chrysler took both third and fourth spots, with the third-place car about 50 miles in arrears. This helped immeasurably in providing Chrysler, which had only been in existence for four years, with an international performance pedigree. If you’ve really got game, Bespoke Rallies has a field of events set for 2021, including rallies in Cuba, the Amazon, Tasmania and a huge competition running through Russia, Poland, the Baltic states and southern Europe.

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