The 1951 and 1952 Chrysler K-310 and C-200 concept cars were among the first Mopar dream cars to receive the design "magic touch" of Virgil Exner.
Like most of Exner's Ghia-built specials, the dashing five-passenger K-310 coupe was designed in Detroit under Ex's eye. In this case, Ghia received a 3/8-scale clay plaster to guide construction of a full-size running prototype.
The "K" stood for then-company president K. T. Keller; the "310" for the alleged horsepower of the 331-cubic-inch hemi-head V-8 beneath the hood, though the then-new stock version produced only 180 horsepower.
No matter. The K-310 was stunning. "Elements of Continental styling" were featured, according to Chrysler, but also several "classic" touches -- like the dummy "toilet seat" spare tire outline -- that would typify future Exner designs.
Bulging integral rear fenders avoided period slab-sidedness, while prominently crowned front fenders emphasized a classic front with prow-style hood and headlamps recessed in scalloped nacelles astride a low, rounded, roughly triangular eggcrate grille.
Full cutouts emphasized the wheels, which Ex seldom covered on any of his designs. Subtle two-toning delineated upper from lower body. The roof and deck were proportioned to accent the hood, which wasn't easy given the contemporary Chrysler Saratoga chassis with 125.5-inch wheelbase.
The K-310's warm reception prompted construction of a soft-top companion called the Chrysler C-200, unveiled in 1952. Also built on a stock Chrysler Saratoga chassis, the C-200 shared the distinctive "gunsight" taillamps that would transfer virtually without change to the 1955-1956 Imperial.
Both the K-310 and C-200 were strongly considered for showroom sale. As Exner later recalled, K.T. Keller liked the K-310: "He thought it was something they should promote. . . . Of course, it was also something into which they could put their Hemi engine. It was a perfect combination."
But the K-310 would be a never-was for the most basic of reasons: lack of money. Chrysler sales began to free-fall after 1949, and within three years the firm was outproduced by Ford for the first time since the Depression.
Although plans for a limited run of "street" K-310s were shelved, Exner continued campaigning for a Chrysler-based sportster the public could buy. Go to the next page to learn about his next concept cars, the Chrysler Special and D'Elegance.