1960s Chrysler Concept Cars

Dodge and Plymouth S-series Concept Cars
This 1962 Plymouth S-series concept car clay model wears offset hood and rear deck fins. Designer Exner liked the look, but Chrysler brass ditched it.
This 1962 Plymouth S-series concept car clay model wears offset hood and rear deck fins. Designer Exner liked the look, but Chrysler brass ditched it.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Early Dodge and Plymouth S-series concept cars looked something like the "downsized" production models that appeared for 1962, but they were better proportioned because they had longer wheelbases than the cars that made it to the showrooms.

The most intriguing of this bunch was a Plymouth "Super Sport" coupe, whose roofline combined elements of some future GM cars. A single side window, for the door (1970-91 Chevy Camaro/Pontiac Firebird), was cut up into the roof (as on the 1963 Corvette Stingray coupe), and wide, reverse-slant B-pillars led to an enormous wraparound rear window that was V-shaped in plan view (forecasting the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado).

Though this treatment was used in watered-down form on the 1964-1966 Barracuda, the stillborn Super Sport wore it much better. Other S-series Plymouth ideas seen in surviving "record" photos were a more conventional semi-fastback hardtop coupe and a back panel remarkably like that of the 1960 Pontiac.

Final S-series styling models were ready by February 1960, but the program was soon overshadowed by a scandal that shook Chrysler to its core. On April 28th, William C. Newberg, a 27-year company veteran, was elected president; just two months later, on June 30th, he was fired by the board of directors for alleged conflict of interest: financial holdings in several Chrysler suppliers. Other officials were also dismissed, each "resignation" making big headlines.

Despite his brief presidency, Newberg was able to alter S-series plans substantially. Based on a rumor that Chevrolet would downscale its full-size Impala for 1962 -- which proved false -- he summarily ordered the approved Dodge/Plymouth wheelbase cut from 118 to 116 inches.

This more-symmetrical 1962 Dodge S-series mockup wears near final styling, though the bright side trim was dropped for production versions.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Confusion reigned as staffers worked long hours making the original styling fit. In the process, Chrysler exec Virgil Exner's designs lost their curved side glass and several other elements.

Though more conventional, the final 1962 Plymouths and Dodges were still pretty odd -- rather like overgrown Valiants. They met a poor reception -- so poor, in fact, that Virgil Exner was fired, too (replaced by Elwood Engel, lured over from Ford).

Meanwhile, L.L. "Tex" Colbert, who had engineered Chrysler's remarkable mid-1950s comeback, briefly returned as president after the Newberg debacle. With one eye on dismal 1958-1960 sales, he reviewed Newberg's plans for 1962 and had second thoughts.

Though it was too late to abort the shrunken Plymouth and Dodge, he could cancel the chunky S-series models planned for DeSoto and Chrysler and hope for the best with heavily facelifted (really "definned") 1960-1961 models. Which is just what he did. At the same time, Colbert consigned DeSoto to history, concluding that a key factor in its recent poor sales was price competition from the lesser Chryslers and the grander Dodges.

Sans fins, Chrysler and Imperial both sold somewhat better for 1962. Helping Chrysler's cause that year was a new "300" line to replace the mid-range Windsor, offering the style, if not the performance, of the renowned letter-series cars at much lower cost.

There was one other model that got lost in the DeSoto pipeline, which you can learn about by continuing to the next page.

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