1962 Chrysler Newport

One of the first cars I ever fell for was a white ’61 or ’62 Chrysler Newport that lived on the corner of 7th and either C or D back in my hometown of Davis.

 

I’d take a long detour on my way home just to pass by its never ending white form, and I always had time to stop and gaze at its slanted, unreal front. I never stopped any less than fifteen feet from the car – it was so imposing, so otherworldly I dared not even come right up to it. Sometimes I might have biked especially close to its long sides and got a genuine thrill. I was just learning about cars back then; I was without a camera and I couldn’t quite understand what it was about cars that I liked, or why their details were so gripping, or why such plain metal machines could be so mysterious.

That solitary Newport left town before I was at all comfortable with obsessing over automobiles, and I would often reflect on what a blessing that old Chrysler was. It parked on such a long, empty, leafy block and there never was another car within fifty feet from it – on my ten or fifteen minute detours I’d have it all to myself, never having to shy away from some passing pedestrian, silently noticing (I was sure they were judging) the kid on his bike, just staring at some old car.

I knew that obsessing so much over a rusting, slow, obscure American car was far from cool and far from the social norm, but the white Newport was always alone, and half welcomed me with its bizarre unique lines.

To me, back then, it was completely and utterly unidentifiable. I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at, but it struck me somehow, left me puzzling all through my way home.

Years later, fully able to recognize and identify anything from a Starliner to a Gran Fury from blocks away, now in possession of a camera and a Murillee-inspired pursuit to photograph all the old cars of Davis, CA, I missed that Newport for its then-unrecognizable, alien, innocent shape. I needed to find one to photograph and I only turned up one, on the far side of town, always parked in a driveway and far enough out that my camera battery would have run out taking pictures of all the Mazda Pickups and Ford Thunderbirds along the way. I was very thorough back then and just about anything with some dents and a few splotches of rust stopped me in my tracks for a short set of photos.

Finally in midsummer ’09 I found it parked on the street and was able to get these few shots before my camera whirred shut with no more charge. Still, they’re some of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken.

I have no idea whether they’re good or mediocre – I am utterly blinded by sentimentality. Running around the car, certain I had just a few minutes to take all the pictures I could, all those bends and creases called out with such a familiar voice. I felt like I had known them for years, but I had never approached them; I had never come so close and the blue Newport welcomed me, sheltered me, cosseted me in the bosom-like curves of its unforgettable front end.

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2 Responses to 1962 Chrysler Newport

  1. Bob says:

    what a lovely description and photographs of an automobile that fell into obscurity because it had the misfortune to have one foot in the past and one foot in the future.

    desperately trying to be “space age” while clinging to the design school of the fifties. Compared to the 1962 Ford Galaxy and Chevy Impala, the style was out of date almost immediately…. so many were turned into scrap metal.. so few survive.

    To me (and clearly to you) they are so alien to what we think of, when we conjure up a image of the 60’s American automobile, a tear in the fabric of automobile design continuity, the ’62 Chrysler holds a special place in my heart as well….

    If you are ever in Omaha and would like to photograph my “Plucked Chicken” (name given to the ’62s) drop me a note. Here is a picture of the convertible I am in the process of saving

  2. Ben Orlove says:

    My undergraduate advisor, an anthropologist who taught in an urban planning department, once described having a crush on a small house in Cyprus. Simple, unadorned, but with well-proportioned rooms and roof, an engaging relation to the sloping hill it was built on, and a glimpse of the Mediterranean. That conversation has stuck in my mind all these years. It had never occurred to me that people would ever have crushes on anything other than another person. And here you express so well your crush on a car.

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