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Lot 20
1932 Chrysler CH Imperial Cabriolet


Selling on Wednesday

One-Off Coachwork by Bohman & Schwartz

CHASSIS NO: 7900825

• Historically significant as the first car crafted by famed coachbuilders Bohman & Schwartz
• Immense history and presence in concours-level condition; Original engine, chassis and body
• Former Pebble Beach Best in Class Concours winner, poised to join the Concours circuit once again
• The catalyst of a movement from old-world craftsmanship to the ignition of the unquenchable flames of hot rod fever
• Originally owned by noted Hollywood actor, Lincoln Perry
• A vestige of automotive history; Featured in The Classic Car, published by the CCCA and edited by celebrated historian Beverly Rae Kimes

384.84 cid L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, 125 HP, four-speed manual transmission, solid axle front and live axle rear with leaf springs suspension, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase: 135"

This one-of-a-kind 1932 Chrysler Imperial Cabriolet, bodied by Bohman & Schwartz, is poised at the intersection of superlative old-world craftsmanship and the bellwether spark that would ignite the unquenchable flames of hot rod fever. The first known car crafted by the celebrated, European-born duet, Bohman & Schwartz, this collaboration would kick off a fifteen-year partnership that would see them ascend to unrivaled coachbuilders for the stars. This is not merely a one-off custom done well. It is the catalyst of a movement that would influence automobile history on our shores. For a one-off with this much historic weight that also drives as incredible as it looks is truly something special. One of one, chassis #7900825 is a high-water mark for the Classic Era.

To put the provenance and artistry of this singular car in perspective, it’s crucial to understand the scope and importance of the Bohman & Schwartz legacy and the history of their origins. Maurice Schwartz was born in Austria and gleaned his knowledge of old-world craftsmanship through formal apprenticeship. He then was employed with the prestigious Viennese firm that crafted carriages for the Kaiser. Royal coachwork was quite the resume builder, and it wasn’t long before opportunity came knocking. He left the shores of Europe behind in 1910, armed with world-class knowledge of woodworking, patternmaking, and casting, for a position at the Springfield Metal Body Company in Massachusetts. He served as a craftsman there for a while then moved on to upstate New York’s Willoughby then Detroit’s Fisher Brothers before finally settling in 1918 at what would be his life-long home, Los Angeles, California. He studied under Harley Earl, the future head of design for GM, then worked for an early coachbuilder to the stars, Walter M. Murphy Company, known for their Duesenbergs. It’s here where Maurice Schwartz first met Christian Bohman, who was then the chief body assembler for Murphy.

Like Schwartz, Bohman hailed from the old world and was schooled in traditional European craftsmanship. Christian Bohman was born in Sweden and worked as a coachbuilder’s apprentice in Stockholm where he gathered secrets of the trade that had been passed down through generations. He moved to New York City and immediately began working with interior woodwork and hardware for multiple Manhattan coachbuilders. He developed a reputation for excellence. Murphy landed Bohman when he purchased rival coachbuilder and Bohman’s employee on the East Coast, Healey & Company. Bohman was quite an asset at Murphy’s operation, but he soon grew eager to start his own firm and left not long before Murphy was forced to close due to the increasing strain of the Great Depression. Free to pursue his own dreams after the shop’s closure, Schwartz joined forces with Bohman in late 1932. And man, was the force with them.

Before the talented partners could become the biggest name in Hollywood, Bohman & Schwartz had to drum up some business first. They started out offering repairs and repaints to pay the early bills, but they both knew that it was going to take something special to attract the clientele they were hoping for. This car was their answer. They crafted this 1932 Chrysler Imperial CH Cabriolet on spec to showcase their prowess as coachbuilders. The tactic proved successful, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood royalty came calling. This was the first automobile Bohman & Schwartz crafted as partners and it brings with it a compelling history in its own right. Once Bohman & Schwartz worked their inimitable magic, this Imperial landed where most of their cars inevitably would – in a celebrity’s garage.

Actor Lincoln Perry, a famed Hollywood actor and the first known African American millionaire, showcased this automobile as the centerpiece in his dozen-car collection for many years. It rolled through owner, Sam Bergman then Gordon Apker before it fell into J. Martin Anderson’s hands. A serious enthusiast and restoration specialist, Mr. Anderson set to work restoring this car to its illustrious roots in his Kent, Washington restoration shop. He was quite faithful to the history of the vehicle and the famed Bohman & Schwartz vision of the car. It was during this painstaking process that Mr. Anderson uncovered myriad details that revealed just how far back in Bohman & Schwartz’s careers this car was built. The Imperial is a 1932 chassis. Bohman & Schwartz only went into business at the end of 1932. The chassis they selected was a “CH,” this means the chassis they opted to use in the build was more affordable at the time than the longer CL Chrysler chassis but was also much more sporty. The shorter chassis lends itself to the aggressive, sleek silhouette that makes this car so striking today, and was a perfect financial solution for a couple of coachbuilders that were just starting to build their own business. Another interesting discovery was found in the asymmetry of the woodworking from the right to the left side of the car’s interior. In a Classic Car Club of America article, Mr. Anderson talked about the hand-worked wood that was unique to each door panel and said, “Bohman must have worked the right side of the car and Schwartz the left side.” Each artist had his own style and left their mark on the woodworking; it doesn’t get much more bespoke than that. The earliest known build of Bohman & Schwartz, this car is a monumental piece of American automotive history.

Their arrival on the scene in Hollywood coincided with the sweeping devastation of the Great Depression, but instead of floundering due to the economic strain, they thrived. Just like the lavish productions and glitzy Busby Berkeley musicals the public was clamoring for in the early '30s, Bohman & Schwartz captured the magic of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Celebrities and the public alike wanted to escape from the dreary and desolate; the swagger and elegance of this beautiful prestige automobile was just the ticket. Soon the inimitable team was injecting much-needed glamour all over Hollywood. They built custom cars for Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Errol Flynn, and countless others. Everyone wanted one of their coachbuilt one-offs. Together, they brought a level of artisanship that was rare and that has been all but lost to esoteric pockets of the old world, but they were also visionaries with regard to style and their aesthetic design. To say that Bohman & Schwartz’s debut in Hollywood was something of a bellwether moment for automotive history on our shores would be quite accurate, but few were ever able to execute their level of artistry. According to the coachbuilder’s encyclopedia, they “knew old world woodworking, patternmaking, brass and aluminum casting,” on a level that is practically a lost art. Schwartz and Bohman were arbiters of style that were direct ancestors to the hot rod fever that was about to explode in the Golden State and catch fire across the entire country.

The talented partners would inevitably go their own way and set up their own operations in the late 1940s, but they remained friends and worked on different floors of the same building. Bohman formed a coachbuilding business with his son while Schwartz became a very successful solo act. Schwartz continued to build cars for myriad celebrities and politicians and was commissioned to build a series of six Cadillac Woody Limousines for MGM, which remain among the most stunning Woodies even produced. Nevertheless, their greatest legacy would be what they created together as well as the impact they left on the generations to follow.

Their legacy is lauded in the annals of automotive history today, but this singular car is the one that truly started it all. Upon completion of a thoughtful and correct restoration, Mr. Anderson brought his Bohman & Schwartz Imperial to the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where the one-of-a-kind automobile brought home a Best in Class victory. The unforgettable 18th green overlooking the crashing waves of Monterey Bay was where the next owner of the car fell in love. He saw the car at the show and made an offer soon thereafter. The car remained in his world-class collection for nearly twenty years. There, the Bohman & Schwartz first resided in a climate-controlled showroom and was merely driven for just the right amount of healthy exercise prior to being acquired by the current owner nearly 10 years ago. It has lived the ultimate life of care and a pampered existence.

The current custodian has recently ensured that this famed Cabriolet presents as it would have when it rolled off the Bohman & Schwartz floor. Although Mr. Anderson’s restoration was world-class and the car has the Pebble Beach victory to prove it, a few cosmetic changes were made that were not as original. For instance, the wire wheels and radiator shutters were chromed in the '90s restoration. However, original photographs show that they were actually black, which gave a provocatively elongated look to the cowl, so the wire wheels and radiator shutters have been properly painted black once more. With an expert eye, a taut black leather convertible top was installed, wrapping up this car's impressive stance and look. The predominantly black body with highlights of chrome detail offer sweeping grandeur that culminates in a pertly curved back end that conceals a rumble seat. Inside, the chesterfield-style, leather upholstery and clean black interior are enhanced by a beautiful linear, machine-turned dash with original black and white dials. Overall, this original Bohman & Schwartz offers a look that delivers an aggressive elegance that few automobiles of its era can muster. The result is a sleek silhouette with the glossy black leather top running parallel to the seemingly elongated hood and body; the staggering work of art gives off an audacious feeling of inherent motion that quickens the pulse and never goes out of style.

Beneath the hood, Engine No: CH1977 was equipped to perform quite as impressively as she looked. With power churning out of a 384.84 cubic-inch L-head, straight-eight cylinder engine, at 125-horsepower, the four-speed manual transmission shifted through an exceptional amount of power considering a 1932 Ford V-8 was packing 65 horsepower. The engine is supported by Chrysler’s innovative floating power engine mounts. The solid-front suspension with leaf springs and a live axle rear suspension with leaf springs was designed to handle beautifully down the Sunset Strip or up the switchbacks of Pacific Coast Highway 1. Four-wheel hydraulic brakes could stop the black wire wheels inside 17-inch tires with ease. Her entire powertrain has been recently serviced and she drives as any matching-numbers, concours-level beauty should – with ease, grace, and just enough heart-pounding rumble. This is the cure for the doldrums of your sleek, quiet Tesla in the garage.

This 1932 Chrysler Imperial CH Cabriolet not only carries all the swagger and allure of its time, it’s an example of unrivaled provenance with matching body, chassis and engine numbers as well as the legacy of being Bohman & Schwartz’s first joint build. Their name is not merely a brand that drives up a car’s value, it’s historically important and carries with it substantial worth for myriad reasons. Their work essentially bridges the gap between the grand carrosserie traditions of Europe with American’s custom hot rod mania that would set the Salts of Bonneville ablaze. But Bohman & Schwartz cars, like this one, are all handmade originals without replicate. This level of world-class artistry was rare on our shores back in the 1930s and it’s even more so today. The old adage, “they don’t build them like they used to,” could have been coined for this car. A genuine concours-proven vestige of American automobile history, this Bohman & Schwartz first, is undoubtedly at the pinnacle of Chrysler Imperials in existence as well as all one-off Clasiscs from the era. It is as timeless today as the moment they crafted her to launch their now-illustrious careers.

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