Richard Grenon and his son Nicolas have invested 6000 hours in the restoration of what could be the most beautiful American car of all time.
Yet, during his 50-year career, the restorer has seen some beautiful cars come and go. If he chose to tell us specifically about the 1931 Chrysler Imperial Convertible Victoria, it is because of its rarity, its remarkable elegance, but also because of the challenge that its restoration represented for him and his son.
An early passion
A mechanic in his father’s garage, young Richard was only 14 years old when he modified a 1940 Willys Coupe into a Hot-Rod. He will work for his father until 1981, when restoring antique cars becomes his trade. He quickly realized that it was more interesting for his company, Au Temps Tic Auto, to work on rare classic cars, “plus the fun of restoring. “The Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar of the 1950s to 1970s followed one another in his workshop, as well as a hallucinating array of luxurious American pre-war models. His reputation is built on the rhythm of deliveries and contacts made throughout America and Europe. His son Nicolas is now his partner.
In 2009, the duo bought the Chrysler Convertible from its New York owner. Only three such cars would remain in the world. This luxurious model is all the more interesting because of its European influence, especially in terms of bodywork. The four-passenger car with two wide doors features several avant-garde accessories, such as interior lighting, two side spare wheels and a rear trunk rack.
50 years in a barn
She slept in a barn for 50 years and while all the wooden structures had to be reproduced by hand, the aluminum body, a rare Waterhouse livery, was in relatively good condition. Only the bottom of the panels had to be redone.
For the parts, everything is original except the engine and transmission, taken from another 1931 Chrysler Imperial purchased at the same time.
It took a total of 6000 hours for the restorer and his son to put this extremely rare car in impeccable condition. The entire body was sandblasted bare and covered with a sealer before being covered with several successive coats of primer. “With this treatment, the body is good for 200 years,” says the expert. The final layers of paint are black with a burnt orange cutout. The same color is found in the interior upholstery, hand-stitched by Mr. Grenon.
The car spent two years in the shop before being sold at a specialized auction in 2012 for US$525,000, a price that seems like a bargain for Richard Grenon. “When you calculate the number of hours spent restoring a car, you can see that our job is first and foremost a matter of passion,” he concludes philosophically.