As the son of Edith Chase’s chauffeur and longest-serving employee, her cars are one of my favorite topics. This month I’ll begin with my recollections of her three Packards, and then the cars that replaced them in the fleet. Next month I’ll share a complete list of the automobiles she and her mother owned, and a description of the layout of the garages at the Chase’s home in Waterbury.
First, you must know that Miss Edith loved to drive. When she drove, it was often too fast. She liked cars and devoted a significant amount of effort to researching and selecting new cars. I believe she got her driver’s license around the time that she graduated from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington.
The first cars that I remember were the trio of the Packards that she purchased in early 1941. One was a Model 180, a Formal Sedan. This was the top-of-the-line model for Packard. It was meant to be chauffeur-driven, having a separate compartment for the driver, separated by a glass window from the rear passenger compartment which was semi-enclosed. The formal sedan had rear door windows, but no rear side windows, and the top was covered in leather. The cost was about $3500, in the days when a Ford cost about $500. Its license plate was CT 2601. She always had that number on her car. Dad thought the plates might have been issued in numerical order in the early days of automobile registration, and that the number 2601 was issued either to her or a member of her family.
She traded this car in 1956 for a Chrysler Imperial sedan, and the Packard was acquired by a local Waterbury car collector, then, later sold to a gentleman from Trumbull CT who bought it for his wife. It was kept by him until his death and then sold to a gentleman in Ohio, who I believe still owns it.
The Chrysler Imperial was originally painted white which she had the dealership repaint a medium gray. She traded a ’56 Imperial in 1964 for a gray Cadillac Fleetwood 4-door sedan. This was the last formal car she owned. I gave the sales brochures for the 1956 Imperial and the 1964 Cadillac to Topsmead State Forest for their archives.
The second 1941 Packard I remember was a two-tone green, model 120 convertible coupe. It was a beauty, with green leather upholstery and a matching convertible top. Miss Edith purchased it for about $1200 to $1300 and was for Miss Mary’s use. It bore the license plate number MB33. (Mary Burrall, 33 Church St.) Miss Edith kept this car all her life and willed it to my dad upon her death. Dad willed the car to me, and I sold it about 10 years ago to a gentleman in the Chicago area who is taking good care of it. I now use the MB33 license plate on my car. It was a delight to own.
The third Packard purchased in early 1941 was a model 110 Packard “woodie” station wagon. This was a practical vehicle for Topsmead Farm use. It cost between $700. and $800. This was Packard’s lowest-priced model. Its license plate was EC10. On both front doors was painted, “TOPSMEAD FARM”. This logo was also painted on all subsequent station wagons. It was traded in 1955 for a blue Chrysler station wagon, then in 1960 for a maroon Pontiac station wagon, and, finally in 1969 for a burgundy Pontiac station wagon. Upon Miss Edith’s death, Dad took the license number EC10 for his own car and kept it until his death. I still have the plate in my collection of Edith Chase memorabilia.