Of the 75 or more antique and classic cars on display at the first auto show ever held at the Merchant Marine Academy last week, a black 1937 Chrysler seven passenger limousine built especially for Walter Chrysler was clearly the star.
The car, now owned by North Hempstead town historian Howard Kroplick, was parked at the center of the show against the backdrop of the Chrysler Mansion that now serves as the Academy’s administration building. It marked the first time that the car had been back to its original home since 1941.
Captain Peter Kahl, who has been teaching marine engineering at the Academy for five years and is, himself, a 1979 graduate, and graduating senior Paul Styx, who is president of the on campus Regimental Kings Point Auto Club, were the organizers of the event.
“It was my idea,” said Captain Kahl, a Westbury resident, who advises the club and was among the earliest members of the club when he was an Academy student.
“I kind of planted a seed,” he explained, as he pointed to Styx who was standing next to him in front of the historic Chrysler. “Paul being the leader that he is, he ran with it.” Kahl expects that this will be an annual event and will join Great Neck Plaza’s Fall Auto Fest as the second classic car show on the peninsula.
“I said to him at the beginning of the year that this (the show) was one of the things that I’d like to do,” he added. “Paul arranges all kinds of things. He’s got all kinds of things going on.”
The captain also referred to the show as part of the Academy’s plan to increase community outreach. “This show is a perfect opportunity for that,” he said. “It calls for leadership and we want the public to see a vibrant, active campus.”
One day after he graduates next month, Styx will head to Taiwan where he’ll be working as an assistant engineer on a ship that lays communications cable, T.E. Sub Comm.
“The show went really well,” Styx said. “It was much smoother than we expected. It was definitely a great day.”
Styx’s hometown is Chicago and his own 2000 Honda Accord, that he races, was also on display. “I got involved in the club because I’ve got a car of my own,” he explained, “and I started working on it and I just stuck around. I seemed to spend the most time of anyone around the shop.”
Kroplick, an East Hills resident, is extremely proud of his Chrysler, purchased at auction three years ago from the Vanderbilt Museum in Suffolk. The car was originally a gift to Chrysler’s wife, Della. Kroplick displayed the car at a show last year in California and it won first prize.
After he purchased the car, he spent an estimated half million dollars to restore it. “I’ve never actually totaled up the bill because I’m afraid to look at it,” he said, but at least one admirer of the car tried to buy it from him for over a million dollars.
“The car’s not for sale,” Kroplick said emphatically. “I don’t buy cars to sell them. I buy them to have fun.”
Kroplick was very busy during the show explaining the details and history of the car to many admirers but he also had to take time to provide the details for two other cars he had with him, a 1909 Alco-6 Racer, winner of six major auto races at the turn of the 20th century and a recently purchased 1964½ Ford Mustang III Factory Prototype, known as the “Shorty” Mustang.