Dreams and Nightmares—the Chrysler edition

1954 Plymouth Belmont RoadsterIn this installment of Dreams and Nightmares, we explore the hits and misses in Chrysler experimental design. Which are the hits and which are the misses? As always, we leave that for you to decide. 

 

 

After getting off to a bit of a slow start, one might argue, Chrysler produced a number of memorable dream cars and prototypes through the years. Two Chrysler experimentals from 1941, the Briggs/LeBaron-designed Newport and Thunderbolt, were among the auto industry’s earliest purpose-built dream cars, energetically promoted to the car-buying public.

In the 1950s, Chrysler’s partnership with the Ghia design house of Italy generated a whole series of successful concept vehicles, culminating in one of the most recognizable prototype cars ever, the fabulous Chrysler Turbine Ghia. The company’s in-house efforts, led by vice president of design Virgil Exner, produced plenty of idea cars as well. In this collection, we’ve tried to provide a mix of both the familiar and the obscure in Chrysler concepts, and we’ve included a few more modern examples just for flavor. Gallery below.

 

1970 Plymouth Duster 340 Show Car
1941 Chrysler Newport
1981 Dodge 4MS PPG pace car
1958 Plymouth Cabana Station Wagon
1932 Chrysler Trifon Airflow Prototype
1956 Chrysler Ghia Norseman
1995 Chrysler Atlantic Concept
1954 DeSoto Adventurer I
1968 Dodge Charger clay proposal
1969 Chrysler Concept  70X
1955 DeSoto Adventurer II
1960 Plymouth XNR on stand
1955 Chrysler Flight Sweep II
1954 Plymouth Explorer
1946 July Plymouth clay
1953 Chrysler Special
1952 Chrysler La Comtesse
1962 Chrysler Typhoon Turbine
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt top erectng
1953 Desoto clay proposal Nov 2 1948
1955 Chrysler Flight Sweep I Convertible
1961 Dodge Flight Wing
1952 Chrysler Parade Phaeton
1954 Dodge Firearrow IV Convertible
1950 Plymouth XX-500 prototype
1956 Chrysler Dart Ghia
1954 DODGE Fire Arrow Roadster Convertible
1956 Chrysler-Plymouth Plainsman Wagon
2004 Chrysler ME412 Concept
1954 Plymouth Belmont Roadster
1952 Chrysler C-200 convertible concept
1963 Chrysler Turbine Ghia
1941 Chrysler Convertible proposal
1962 Chrysler Valiant St. Regis Coupe

1970 Plymouth Duster 340 Show Car

1941 Chrysler Newport

1981 Dodge 4MS PPG pace car

1958 Plymouth Cabana Station Wagon

1932 Chrysler Trifon Airflow Prototype

1956 Chrysler Ghia Norseman

1995 Chrysler Atlantic Concept

1954 DeSoto Adventurer I

1968 Dodge Charger clay proposal

1969 Chrysler Concept 70X

1955 DeSoto Adventurer II

1960 Plymouth XNR on stand

1955 Chrysler Flight Sweep II

1954 Plymouth Explorer

1946 July Plymouth clay

1953 Chrysler Special

1952 Chrysler La Comtesse

1962 Chrysler Typhoon Turbine

1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt top erectng

1953 Desoto clay proposal Nov 2 1948

1955 Chrysler Flight Sweep I Convertible

1961 Dodge Flight Wing

1952 Chrysler Parade Phaeton

1954 Dodge Firearrow IV Convertible

1950 Plymouth XX-500 prototype

1956 Chrysler Dart Ghia

1954 DODGE Fire Arrow Roadster Convertible

1956 Chrysler-Plymouth Plainsman Wagon

2004 Chrysler ME412 Concept

1954 Plymouth Belmont Roadster

1952 Chrysler C-200 convertible concept

1963 Chrysler Turbine Ghia

1941 Chrysler Convertible proposal

1962 Chrysler Valiant St. Regis Coupe

11 thoughts on “Dreams and Nightmares—the Chrysler edition

  1. There are plenty of good ones, personally I like the Firearrow, the ME412, and the Newport.

    The stinkers start with that Dart Ghia, but there’s also not much good to say about the Cabana Station Wagon nor the 4MS PPG pacecar.

      • Thanks for the link. There is some interesting story there, I was just commenting on the terrible proportions (IMHO). True, it wasn’t far off the Lambo’s of the time, but those also did not look very good in retrospect.

      • It was a Wolfgang Bernard wet dream made possible by Lou Rhodes, who said he could trust anyone in advanced design in Chrysler Design Office except 3 guys. Who designed it didn’t break any ground. The high command in Stuttgart even told WB to NOT show it in Detroit, but he did, to his detriment. The car essentially disappeared after that.

        This little summary missed the entire golden age of Chrysler Design under Tom Gale, except for the Bob Hubbach Atlantic. This was when Chrysler raised the bar on concepts from customized production cars or pushmobiles to running concepts. After the Viper, all concepts had to have a foundation in being actually producible. The amount & quality of concepts has not been equaled since!

  2. I like the Ghias because they were complete, running cars and many of them are still around. Just way out of my price range!

    • The Ghia Dart still exists & was on display at the Concours at the Inn at St. Johns last August. The car was mildly modified in ’57 by cutting down the fins and replacing the retractable hardtop with a soft top. Cass Technical HS in Detroit, had a painted plaster 1/4 scale model of it that was used by their auto design curriculum as least as late as 1965. It was probably destroyed by the City when the demolished the 9 story school built in 1918 a couple of years ago. This car also inspired a small run of Ghia built, similar design, production cars..

  3. The examples from the fifties and sixties are my absolute favorites, especially those from Ghia as mentioned by Mark. I even like the Plainsman which, judging by how often it has come to auction the past several years, is not universally appreciated.

  4. Someday we’ll all be able to order a car and print it with our 3D printer. Then maybe we’ll have access to some of the daring concept cars that are too radical to merit general production.

  5. I am going with the Newport and Adventurer–I really enjoyed these. I never thought of Chrysler having a design studio.

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