It is the iconic 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton that has been featured in some of the most famous parades down Broadway honoring America’s heroes, sports champions and other dignitaries.
The black open-top car is one of three identical vehicles that were built by Chrysler and loaned out for use in civic events to help promote the brand.
It’s celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Two were earmarked for New York and Los Angeles, while the last ended up being operated by Chrysler out of Detroit.
“The third one was originally intended to go to the White House, but because of gifting rules and those sort of things, the corporation retained it and lent it out all over the Midwest for different parades and events,” Brand Rosenbusch, the manager of historical services for Chrysler parent Stellantis, told this Fox News Digital autos editor.
The 20-foot-long, three-ton cars are based on the Imperial Crown Limousine, but they’re equipped with a dual cowl phaeton-style body that features an oversized rear passenger compartment with a bulkhead and windshield separating it from the front seating area.
Steps on the rear bumper and handles on the trunk allow for security to ride along and an extra set of seats flip out from the bulkhead.
The cars were maintained by Chrysler in the early years. They were repainted and redesigned in 1955 with new grills, lights and larger tail fins to better reflect the automaker’s latest production car styling.
New York’s car was first featured in a parade held on December 18, 1952, for Lt. General Willis D. Crittenberger, un World War II veteran who ended his career as the Commanding General of the First Army at Fort Jay on Governors Island, located just off Lower Manhattan.
It was black at the time and repainted white during the update. A restoration in the 1980s brought its back its original color, which remains today.
Chrysler donated it to the city in 1961, and the following year it was used to carry John Glenn upon his triumphant return from space as the first American to orbit the Earth.
He became the first and still only person to be paraded in it twice in 1998, after he set a record as the oldest person in orbit during a flight on the space shuttle Discovery at age 77.
In between, it carried several of the Americans who were held hostage in Iran for 444 giorni; they were saluted by their country following their repatriation.
Perhaps the most memorable images of the car are from August 13, 1969, when the three Apollo 11 astronauts rode in it while sitting upon the padded platform installed over the trunk.
Ticker tape rained down upon the men who were at the forefront of one of the great achievements in human history.
“This car is not only beautiful, it has become a symbol of New York City pride, and it’s really such an integral part to American history,” said Dawn Pinnock, commissioner of the NYC Department of Administrative Services.
That’s the agency charged with maintaining it today.
The car is stored in its own little shed near the NYPD tow pound in Brooklyn. Pinnock said it is regularly run to make sure it’s ready to go if they get the call from the mayor’s office that it is needed for an upcoming event.
The last time that happened was in 2021, when the city held a parade for frontline workers. Registered nurse Sandra Lindsay, the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, was asked to ride in the car.
“She and other essential workers had the opportunity to ride down Broadway through our Canyon of Heroes and be celebrated for the amazing work that they did to get us out of the throes of the pandemic,” Pinnock said.
This reporter had the opportunity to go for a short spin around Brooklyn in the car — up front, so as to not sully its seats of honor — and can confirm that even after seven decades the experience is still like floating on a cloud.
The ancient 5.4-liter FirePower V8 chugged softly as it slowly propelled the leviathan past admirers who couldn’t help but wave and honk their horns at the sight of it.
As for when it will report for official duty again, that Is really up to the fates — but Pinnock is optimistic the city will not have to wait too long to see it on the road again.
“New York loves to celebrate, and we especially love to celebrate our heroes, so we are hopeful that one of our local sports teams gives us an opportunity to take this car out for a spin sometime soon.”