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David Duthie's 1956 New Yorker St. Regis

For many years I’ve wanted to own a car from the 1950s. I have fond memories from 1966 of seeing a 1956 New Yorker St. Regis on the used car showroom floor of Roy Burnett motors in downtown Portland, where my Dad was a salesman. I was impressed by its graceful fins, beautiful dashboard, its quality of materials and appointments, and also by the unmistakable “fifties feel” that the car had. I remember thinking how fun it would be to own and drive a classic like that St. Regis. Looking back now, the St. Regis was only ten years old at the time! But a lot had changed in car design since 1956.

I personally think that 1956 was the “sweet spot” for Chrysler in that decade because it has the height and look and feel of a fifties car. In addition, it was the first year for 12 volt electronics and the first year for the famous push-button transmission. Best of all, it has the 354 Hemi engine (280 hp) and I’d always wanted to own a Hemi-powered car. I also love the “Forward Look” styling of the 56 Chrysler New Yorker, with its “Outrigger front Bumpers”, “Sun Cap Visor”, “Twin Tower” tail lights, and “flight swept” rear fenders, and that big chrome winged “hood bird” ornament.

A few years ago I saw an ad in the WPC News for a ‘56 New Yorker St. Regis – which was in original (well used) condition - and I ended up buying the car. I flew to Fort Collins, Co. and with Byron Richardson’s help, drove the car back to Portland, which was an adventure in itself. The car died twice because the fuel filter clogged up with crud from the gas tank. Otherwise the car ran fine.

The St. Regis was the top of the line New Yorker, and it was named after the glamorous hotel in New York City. This car was built on October 14, 1955 and was one of 6,686 St. Regis coupes built in 1956. It has the 2-speed PowerFlite push-button automatic, power steering and brakes, deluxe steering wheel, clock, radio with rear seat speaker, a tri-tone paint scheme and wide white sidewalls. The St. Regis was the only Chrysler offered in three-tone paint, and this one has one of the most popular combinations (and the colors illustrated in the sales brochure) – Regimental Red on the bottom, Cloud white in the middle with a Raven Black roof.

After a lot of work on the car I was finally able to start showing it in the summer of 2016. To my pleasant surprise, it won awards in four of the five shows I entered it in, including a Sponsor’s Award, a “Favorite American” award, one of 10 “Best of the Best” awards at the Canby Cruise in (600-plus cars), and a Best of Show at the Hot-Dogust Day Cruise-In. It also won Best in Class at the 2017 Portland Roadster Show at the Expo Center. The car attracts a lot of attention every time I drive it. People on the street honk and wave, and when I park it there is often someone taking pictures of it when I come back. Best of all, it’s my time machine back to the 1950s. I never forgot that St. Regis on Roy Bennett Motors used car showroom floor, and now I have one on my own shop floor.

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