1960s Chrysler Concept Cars

DeSoto and Chrysler S-Series concept cars

This rejected clay model from Don Kopka proposes a rather conservative direction for the 1962 DeSoto.
This rejected clay model from Don Kopka proposes a rather conservative direction for the 1962 DeSoto.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Somehow, Chrysler management in the late 1950s eagerly approved dramatic styling mockups as part of the work on the DeSoto and Chrysler S-Series concept cars. The mockups previewed the upcoming S-series, and threw designers a curve because they were chosen over more conventional clays from production studios (one surprisingly Mercury-like). That left the individual division designers to evolve their 1962 production models from an unexpected source.

Since Chrysler and DeSoto would share bodyshells and many outer panels as usual, DeSoto studio chief Don Kopka worked closely with his Chrysler counterpart, Fred Reynolds on the would-be 1962s.

For both models, the theme car's rear-quarter treatment was quickly modified to harmonize better with the tapered deck, producing what junior stylists dubbed "the chicken wing." Front bumpers acquired dropped center sections because Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner wanted something other than straight bars.

DeSoto designers ultimately revived their make's triple-taillight motif of 1956-1959, though in horizontal instead of vertical format. The borning Chrysler was given large, single wraparound units.

This 1959 clay model This 1959 clay model
This 1959 clay model
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Both makes carried four headlights in individual chrome bezels, arranged in slanted vertical pairs, as on the production 1961s. Grilles were topped by a prominent bright horizontal molding flared up and out to flow back over the hood and on into the beltline trim, which furthered the front-end emphasis.

DeSoto stylists played with many grille themes, but ultimately settled for an undistinguished mix of thick and thin horizontal bars, accented by a large center emblem. Chrysler stayed with its inverted trapezoid, as for 1960-1961, with different inserts to identify the various series; the proposed letter-series 300 retained the "crossbar" motif used since 1957.

The S-series Imperial was just as different from its predecessors, if less radical than the DeSoto and Chrysler. Its "face," for instance, was like the production 1961 design, with a fine-texture grille set beneath a wide chromed header displaying IMPERIAL in big block letters. Flanking this were twin sets of freestanding headlamps in individual chrome pods suspended from overhanging fenders, a "Classic" throwback that still appealed to Exner.

Though it sounds as ghastly as the 1961 treatment, this ensemble actually had a crisp, tight look. Blade front fenders mimicked those of lesser S-series models, but rear fenders wore a single short blade terminating in bulged fender tips.

On each of those was a "gunsight" taillamp, an Imperial signature since 1955. Of all the senior S-series proposals, Imperial was arguably the handsomest, DeSoto the least attractive.

To learn about the Dodge and Plymouth versions of the S-series, keep reading on the next page.

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