1950s Chrysler Concept Cars

1951 and 1952 Chrysler K-310 and C-200 Concept Cars
The 1951 Chrysler K-310 concept car had a dummy spare tire outline on the trunk. Dubbed the "toilet seat," it would show up on later Exner production designs.
The 1951 Chrysler K-310 concept car had a dummy spare tire outline on the trunk. Dubbed the "toilet seat," it would show up on later Exner production designs.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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.

The 1952 Chrysler C-200 concept car was a convertible companion to the K-310 coupe.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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."

The C-200 was built on a production Chrysler Saratoga chassis and featured "gunsight" taillamps.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: