With our recent closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our skeleton crew of five or six here at the National Automobile Museum in Reno find it easy to maintain social distancing in the 85,000 square feet of exhibits while we catch up on deferred projects. But, without visitors, there’s time to notice small things that are often overlooked. Each day until our re-opening, we’ll feature something that we, or you, may never have noticed:
The Man Behind Lana Turner’s Chrysler Hubcaps
One of our most beautiful cars at the National Automobile Museum is the 1941 Chrysler Newport Dual Cowl Phaeton/LeBaron. Not only is it gorgeous, it is known as the “Lana Turner” Chrysler. It features what must have been one of the most elegant automotive “rumble seats” ever created. The formal name is ‘dual cowl” and Ms. Turner must have looked striking riding in the back of this beautiful car.
If you look very closely, on the hubcaps you’ll see the name “Topping” stamped on each one. His initial is on the front grille and the name is also on the horn ring of the steering wheel. While you can’t peek under the hood, the “Topping” name is also on the cylinder heads. Henry J. “Bob” Topping Jr. was not an auto manufacturer, but rather had this car customized (substituting a Cadillac engine and transmission in this Chrysler). He was a rich “socialite,” but more importantly in this context, he married Turner in April of 1948. The actress who starred in over 50 movies, was married eight times to seven different husbands (she married Stephen Crane twice). Topping was husband number three, but set the longevity record by making it for four years, seven months and 14 days. Band leader Arte Shaw was husband No. 1 but only lasted seven months.