1968 Chrysler Newport Convertible - Owned by Mike Van Lenten


Columbus, meet Big Erla! She is a big girl like her original owner and namesake, a family friend who sold my Dad this 1968 Mopar C-Body drop-top Land Yacht ten years ago.  My first time driving her was to my High School Senior Graduation Ball in New Jersey with some buddies blasting Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.  Unfortunately, I would have to wait many years later till we would be reunited.  My Dad put the car in storage where it sat till he decided to sell it, but because of its modest condition, the offers were less than expected.  Instead of selling, I lobbied him to send me the car here in the Short North where I would invest time and money and get her back to her glory days.  He conceded and the rest is history.

The Chrysler Newport was considered an everyday driver with many different options.  Big Erla has a 383 V8, 727 Torqueflite Auto Trans, with upgrades like power windows, seats, top and AC.  I knew getting my new ride into a hooptie with some street cred would take the help of many people.  I have spent the last two years working with Clark Auto, The Auto Doctor (both in Grandview) and Murray Parks in Marion to get her to up to snuff mechanically.  David Byler in Jackson worked with me to create a custom two-tone interior, and I enlisted Columbus Car Audio to put in an obnoxiously loud system that ensures that you will be forced to look at me and my 19’ long, 8’ wide beauty gliding down High St. on 18”chrome rims from Hubcap Annie.

My favorite part of driving Big Erla has been the reaction I get when people see someone my age behind the wheel of this classic.  I get the thumbs up from the Baby Boomers who are always anxious to tell me about their muscle cars that they wish they still had.  I know Big Erla isn’t the most rare or sought-after classic ride, but finding a Newport in this kind of condition is getting harder each passing year.  Most importantly, the refurb project has brought my Dad and I closer than ever as we talk about and work on Erla together all the time, and to me that’s priceless.