Monday, July 30, 2018

Parading in style

Queen Elizabeth may have her gilded carriage for those fancy state processions, but when New York throws a parade for you, you get to ride in imperial splendor, 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton splendor to be exact.
It is not built for speed. It burns through gas. And it is too big to park on any street.

But none of that matters when it is a 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton.

The open-air car in glossy black with red leather seats is New York City’s official parade car and the grande dame of the 30,000 vehicles in the nation’s largest municipal fleet. It stretches 20 feet from front to back to seat up to eight passengers, and it comes with its very own red-carpet floor. It has only one job: ushering V.I.P.s through blizzards of ticker tape on Broadway.

For more than six decades, its back seat has been filled with a who’s who of world leaders and celebrities. It gave rides to the Apollo 11 astronauts, the American hostages freed from Iran and the Yankees fresh off a World Series win — and another and another. It introduced the city to Van Cliburn, escorted John Glenn twice and ferried the kings and queens of Greece, Denmark, Thailand and Nepal through the streets.

“It’s really a piece of city history,” said Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of the Citywide Administrative Services Department, the official caretaker of the parade car. “It’s a touchpoint. It puts New York City at the heart of world events.”

The 1952 Phaeton was one of only three that Chrysler made — part of a tradition of custom-made parade cars that once carried the newsmakers of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s in grand style, all while showing off Chrysler’s latest design in the ultimate bit of product placement. No need to advertise with Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Joe DiMaggio in the car.

“Cars are artifacts, just like pre-Columbian pottery and Impressionist paintings, but we understand that they have a functional component — which is the reason they were built to begin with,” Mr. Kendall said.

New York’s Phaeton is so prized that it is housed in its own shed in Brooklyn and has its own entourage. It is escorted at all times by a car in front and in back, to ensure no one runs into it. A flatbed truck is sent along when it goes to other boroughs and beyond, in case of a breakdown.
That beautiful Phaeton has seen its share of celebrities and it has broken down on duty only once, when Rudy Giuliani was in it. 'Nuff said.


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