Tag: Chrysler

Forward Looking: Chrysler’s Early Fifties Transformation, Part 2

By 1954, Chrysler was on the ropes, losing money and market share at an alarming rate. Behind the scenes, however, the company was preparing for the first stage of a phoenix-like transformation. In the second part of our story, we discuss the 1955-1956 Chrysler Forward Look models and the company’s new high-performance flagship: the ferocious and formidable Chrysler 300.

1955 Chrysler 300 grillebadge
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Forward Looking: Chrysler’s Early Fifties Transformation, Part 1

The U.S. auto industry has seen few transformations as dramatic as the one Chrysler underwent between 1949 and 1955. In 1949, Chrysler’s cars were sensible, conservative, and dull, with sleepy performance and stolid styling. Six years later, the corporation offered some of Detroit’s sleekest designs and strongest engines, culminating in the launch of America’s most powerful car, the 300.

In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we take a look at the 1949-1954 Chryslers, the Exner/Ghia idea cars, and the birth of the FirePower Hemi.

1952 Chrysler New Yorker hood ornament
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Pillarless Pioneer: The 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera

In mid-1949, GM’s senior divisions introduced a trio of glamorous new models — the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 Deluxe Holiday coupe, and the Buick Roadmaster Riviera — that are popularly, if incorrectly, considered the first pillarless hardtops. This week, we consider the origins of this quintessentially (though not uniquely) American body style and examine the development of the the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera and the origins of the hardtop coupe.

1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera roof exterior
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Changing Winds: The 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow

The streamlined Airflow remains the best known (and most infamous) of all prewar Chryslers, a bold and ambitious engineering achievement that became a notorious commercial flop. This week, we look at the origins and fate of the 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow and its 1934-1936 DeSoto sibling.

1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight grille bars © 2007 George Camp per
Grille of a late 1934 Chrysler CU Airflow Eight. (Photo © 2007 George Camp; used with permission)

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Plymouths Great and Small: The Plymouth VIP and Fury

Originally a flashy, limited-edition image leader, by 1961, the Plymouth Fury had become a bread-and-butter big car, the mainstay of the line. Starting in 1962, it began a bizarre odyssey, going from small to large and back to small again.

This week, we take a look at the strange incarnations of Plymouth’s big cars in the sixties and seventies, including the Plymouth VIP, a short-lived luxury version that the ads once dubbed the “Very Important Plymouth.”

1966 Plymouth VIP badge
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A Wing and a Prayer: The Dodge Charger and Charger Daytona

The Dodge Charger was born as a fancier Dodge Coronet with a fastback roof; in its later incarnations, it became a facelifted Chrysler Cordoba, a Plymouth Horizon in drag, and even a family sedan. In between, it became an American muscle car icon and one of the most fearsome stock car racers ever built. This week, we look at the history of the 1968-1978 Dodge Charger and Dodge Charger Daytona.

1973 Dodge Charger badge
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Empire Building: Three Stories about Chrysler’s Imperial

We thought we’d take a slightly different approach with this week’s subject. We’ve touched on Chrysler’s financial problems during this period. So, rather than a lengthy recap of the origins of the Imperial marque itself, we’ve decided to present you with three short stories about this 1961 Imperial LeBaron: its name, its engine, and its transmission.

1961 Imperial LeBaron headlights
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Fast Forerunner: The Jensen Interceptor and FF

If you think the 1980 Audi Quattro was the world’s first all-wheel-drive sports coupe, you’re wrong: Almost 15 years before the ur-Quattro, the tiny British automaker Jensen introduced a powerful GT car featuring full-time four-wheel drive and even anti-lock brakes. This is the history of the Chrysler-powered Jensen Interceptor and its high-tech offshoot, the AWD Jensen FF.

1976 Jensen Interceptor Convertible badge
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Everybody’s Kid Brother: Chrysler’s Compact Valiant

Advertised as “Nobody’s Kid Brother,” Chrysler’s compact Valiant was originally intended to be its own marque. The story of how it became the Plymouth Valiant is a complicated one, going back to the origins of the Plymouth brand and its relationship with other Chrysler divisions. This is the story of the original Valiant, its little-known Dodge twin, the Lancer, and the long and contentious relationship between Plymouth and its sister divisions.

1960 Valiant badge
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Beetle in a Cocktail Dress: The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

The Karmann Ghia, the most glamorous of Volkswagens, is an automotive drag queen: a rugged and humble economy-car chassis dressed up in the finest haute couture. It is also a car of many nations: engineered and built in Germany, designed in Italy … and styled in Detroit? Read on…

1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia badge
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The Dodge That (Almost) Ate Detroit: Chrysler’s Disastrous 1962 Downsizing

Making cars smaller (downsizing) can pay huge dividends in improved performance, better fuel economy, and lower emissions — but if the public doesn’t accept it, it can cost you dearly. To understand why Detroit has always been afraid of smaller cars, we need look no further than Chrysler’s ill-fated 1962 Dodge and Plymouth — Detroit’s first downsizing disaster (albeit one with an unexpected silver lining.

1962 Dodge Dart taillights © 2008 Aaron Severson
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Falling Empires Part 3: Wither Detroit?

It will not have escaped even the casual observer that the companies formerly known as the Big Three automakers — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — are in bad, bad shape. GM lost $37 billion in 2007. Ford’s operating losses were $2.7 billion overall, but they lost $5 billion on their automotive operations. Chrysler, which is now owned by Cerberus Capital Management, is not obliged to share their annual results (not being publicly held), but they aren’t doing a lot better. As of this writing, the three companies are asking for at least $34 billion in federally guaranteed loans, a new bailout. In this last installment of our series, we weigh in on the state of Detroit.

1930 Ford Model A Boyce MotoMeter
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