1950s Chrysler Concept Cars

1955 Chrysler Falcon Concept Car
The 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car was as close as Chrysler got to a production two-seat sports car until the 1991 Dodge Viper.
The 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car was as close as Chrysler got to a production two-seat sports car until the 1991 Dodge Viper.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The two-seat 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car was the closest Chrysler came to a classic sports car until it unleashed the 1992 Dodge Viper. Many still think the 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car was the one Exner special that should have been built for sale.

After all, by the time it appeared, Ford had introduced the 1955 Thunderbird, and Highland Park sales were fast recovering, so a Mopar reply to both the Corvette and the "personal" Ford would have been quite timely.

Chrysler must have thought so, too, for three Falcons were built by Chrysler's Advanced Styling Studio. Though they differed somewhat in details, all rode a 105-inch wheelbase, comparable to the 102-inch T-Bird and Corvette. Styling details differed among them, and only one is known to have survived.

The ruggedly handsome styling was mainly the work of Maury Baldwin and still looks good today, especially the big heart-shaped eggcrate grille and rakish side exhausts. Even the trendy 1950s fins and wrapped windshield don't seem particularly dated.

The Falcon's most noteworthy feature lay beneath the car's skin: unit construction with an integral cellular platform frame. Although the Falcon had the look of a posh boulevardier, it was envisioned as a potent performer, as well.

Road manners were reportedly impeccable; performance at least adequate. The Falcon carried a 170-horsepower DeSoto Hemi, like Adventurer I, but bypassed its old "fluid-torque" semi-automatic transmission for fully automatic PowerFlite, which was controlled -- none too positively -- by a wispy floor-mounted wand.

In a brief road test of the only known survivor some years back, a contributor to this article clocked 0-60 mph in 10 seconds flat, about 115 mph all out, and a standing quarter-mile of 17.5 seconds at 82.0 mph -- all more than adequate for 1955. Mileage? About 15 mpg.

Unitized steel construction hinted at things to come from Chrysler, though it pushed curb weight to a portly 3,300 pounds. The convertible top was operated manually and could be stowed beneath a folding lid located behind the seat.

Three Falcon concept cars were built by Chrysler's Advanced Styling Studio, each with a 105-inch wheelbase and 170-horsepower DeSoto Hemi V-8.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Despite its heft, the Falcon had beautifully balanced handling and easy yet precise steering of the sort virtually unknown in period Detroiters, especially Chryslers. Its one real drawback was lack of top-up headroom due to its very low windshield, though that would have been fixed for production.

Which, of course, didn't happen. Though the Falcon would have been a strong competitor for Corvette and Thunderbird, with arguably superior refinement and performance, it was doomed by the minuscule sports-car market of the time. Also, Chrysler likely felt it really didn't need such a car so long as overall sales were good -- which they weren't after 1957.

Learn about Exner's most radical 1950s concept car -- the XNR -- in our final section.

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