1955-1956 Dodge La Femme

1956 Dodge La Femme Styling
The 1956 La Femme got the same styling changes as the rest of the Dodge line, notably higher fins and new side trim.
The 1956 La Femme got the same styling changes as the rest of the Dodge line, notably higher fins and new side trim.

The 1956 Dodge La Femme styling had only minor changes from the previous year. The two-tone lavender exterior of the 1956 La Femme was in the same pattern as the 1955 with the lighter color on the bottom, but the taillight area was now the lighter shade as on other 1956 Dodges. Regal Orchid was the darker shade, Misty Orchid the lighter, both synthetic enamel.

Inside, the Orchid Jacquard upholstery came in a random cross-hatching pattern, basically a heavy white cloth with lavender loops. The interior was trimmed with a gold-fleck Cordagrain vinyl headliner, as were the insides of the two containers on the backs of the front seats. The latter were identical to each other since a purse was not supplied in 1956, and they were slightly smaller than the ones in the 1955 model.

Orchid Jacquard upholstery unified the pink-on-pink styling.

Although the La Femme package yielded fewer accessories than in 1955, the umbrella and sleeve, raincoat, and rain cap (redesigned to look more like a cap with a small bill) were still featured. All of these, colored and patterned to complement the upholstery, were done on a white background randomly dotted in metallic gold.

The dash sported two-tone orchid, with the steering wheel taking on the lighter hue. Not even the carpet, lavender with purple loops, escaped the designers' attention.

The buyer was expected to further tart up the La Femme from a wide choice of power and luxury options. A "hot-rod" La Femme could be specified by ordering the D-500 power package, which consisted of a 315-cubic-inch hemi-head V-8 with 260 horsepower and lowered suspension. And practically every comfort option was also available: power steering, brakes, seats, and windows; air conditioning; Wonderbar radio.

Also offered was the ultimate 1950s accessory, the Highway Hi-Fi, an under-dash record player that spun special seven-inch records at 16 2/3 rpm through the radio speaker, for 45 minutes to one hour of music from each side. "The addition of Hi-Fi is a significant forward step in the development of the automobile as a home-on-wheels," Dodge noted.

There was no shortage of appearance or "attitude" items in 1956, either. Among them were wire wheels or Lancer "spinner" full wheel covers, Continental kit, fender skirts, dual antennas, exhaust extensions, curb feelers, and dual outside mirrors.

The "V" emblems on the 1956 La Femme stood for Super Red Ram V-8; dual exhausts indicated the 230- or 260-horsepower option.

Dodge prepared a brochure for the 1956 La Femme, which was hyped as "America's most glamorous Car -- Designed with the ladies in mind!" In a typically condescending 1950s tone, it read: "Here is a car distinctively feminine -- distinctively yours. Everywhere you look -- you'll discover those tasteful refinements that you might select if you had been the designer . . . yes, everything in a mode of sophistication and loveliness -- and all yours."

Even the steering column and part of the wheel carried the color scheme.

And that advertising theme carried down to even the smallest detail: "With the magic of push-button driving the effortless, the lady-like way -- the only way to enjoy driving in this modern age."

Because the La Femme was an option package, even the Chrysler Historical Collection is unable to provide information on how many La Femmes were built; all Custom Royal Lancer two-door hardtop figures were combined into one total for each year.

Of the 506,972 Dodges built for 1955 and 1956, about 56,500 were Custom Royal Lancer hardtops. Estimates from various sources suggest that as few as 300 or as many as 1,100 -- and certainly under

1,500 -- La Femmes were produced over

the two years they were offered.

A look at the figures, even though they are estimates, explains why there was no La Femme for 1957 -- women simply had not responded to the concept of a woman's car.

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