1953-1954 Dodge Firearrow

Design of the 1953-1954 Firearrow
Unlike many GM and Ford dream cars, Chrysler show cars were generally built on stock or near-stock chassis, meaning they could be driven on the road like any workaday car.
Unlike many GM and Ford dream cars, Chrysler show cars were generally built on stock or near-stock chassis, meaning they could be driven on the road like any workaday car.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Certain themes showed cross-pollination -- everyone in Detroit knew each other and ideas got around. For example, the concept of a massive bumper/grille, flowing around at the sides, may have originated at the Kaiser-Frazer studios in the late 1940s, while the Firearrow's chrome exterior tailpipes were seen in almost the same place on Frank Spring's Hudson Italia, the first of which was built in mid-1953. On the latter they merely housed taillights; on the Firearrow they were fully functional.

The full-perimeter bumper was painted metallic gray rather than chromed; the car itself was red metallic, with a yellow-buff leather interior piped in maroon. This model also had quad headlamps, possibly their first appearance on a show car. (They first appeared in production on the 1957 Nash and Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.)

The Red Ram V-8 was a tweaked Dodge Hemi.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Next in line was the 1954 Firearrow II, another roadster, but modified in detail. Mounted on a stock 119-inch Dodge Royal wheelbase, it was powered by a 250-horsepower Royal V-8 with Gyro-Torque Drive (Chrysler's famed M-6 Fluid Drive with torque converter). While its basic shape was unchanged from the Firearrow I, the quad headlights had disappeared, replaced by single lamps faired into pods at the front end, breaking up the full-perimeter bumper. The grille and taillights were restyled and there were two rear deck hatches: one to hold luggage, another for the spare tire and fuel filler. Each was counter-balanced and spring-loaded to pop open when levers were pulled inside the driver's door. Other features attested to the Firearrow II's pure experimental nature: There were no door handles, no rearview mirrors, no side windows, no top. Doors were opened by pressing a flat metal release bar at the top inner molding or, from the inside, by pulling a knob that extended into the painted armrest support.

The Firearrow II was painted pale yellow with a black central bar through the grille (similar to the 1953 Plymouth grille bar) and black bodyside molding; black leather adorned the interior. The doors were similarly upholstered, and because of their deep curves they allowed generous armrests, which gave "a pronounced recessed effect to the cockpit sides," according to Chrysler. The dash contained full instrumentation, including tachometer, plus toggle lever controls and an aluminum-spoked steering wheel with a wooden rim.

One novel feature of the dummy roadster was carried over to Firearrow II: a huge, one-piece, glass windshield. But whereas the mock-up's windshield had a thin frame and was carried in a grooved metal base affixed to the cowl, Firearrow II's was sunk into a deep "slot." The glass you saw was only the tip of this glacial mass: There were 14 inches showing above the cowl and 24 inches sunk into the slot! Unlike the mock-up, the Mark II's glass was tempered, but owner Joe Bortz is wary of taking chances with it: "It's crystal, and very fragile. We've made a foam slipcover for it and a metal cage to protect it when traveling. The restoration man wanted to make a plexiglas copy but I was afraid he'd break the original in the process -- and once gone, it would be gone for good."

For more information on the discovery of the 1953-1954 Firearrow, read on to the next page.

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