One of Dodge Charger principal exterior stylist Carl "Cam" Cameron's sketches, dated July 10, 1963, carries a Monte Carlo moniker -- a name that would have made a neat soulmate to Dodge's upcoming full-size Monaco.
When Dodge designer Carl Cameron drew this
'Monte Carlo,' he
imbued it with a number
of key elements that
would be found on the
That sketch and others show design details of the nascent Charger still with the carryover Coronet rear quarter panel with its low wheel opening. But in clay, it soon became apparent that the fastback design required a full rear-wheel opening to offset the visual weight of the huge triangular C-pillar.
The long arc of the Charger's fastback roof (highlighted by a narrow accent stripe available in red, black, or white) was delineated by slender rails or ridges that formed the outer perimeter of the roof. The outer edges of the rectangular, 1,421-square-inch backlight curled upward to flow into the inner contours of the side rails, which flowed down past the sloping rear deck.
Instead of terminating just above the taillights, Cameron wanted these ridges to angle sharply outward to the fender tips, then down, then back underneath a floating horizontal taillamp. Traced by bright moldings, the design would have mimicked a similar workout on the hood with the added plus of imparting a hint of the delta taillamp that was quickly being picked up by all studio stylists as a Dodge signature.
Urged on by design chief Elwood Engel, Cameron sketched a series of tantalizing variations, including one with woodgrain cascading down the roof panel and deck lid, and another substituting vinyl.
Chrysler stamping experts, who trekked into the studio for a look, deemed the hoped-for quarter panel/rear deck design impractical. Stamping did allow, however, for the unique-to-Charger twin simulated louvers pressed into the kicked up quarters forward of the rear wheels.
Floating above the Coronet rear bumper (modified to include back-up lamps) was a slender, vee-section ribbon of red lens, outlined in chrome, behind which were located six bulbs. All lit simultaneously for taillamp and brake functions, but activating the turn signals allowed either the left or right halves to flash your intentions. (Cameron wanted the turn signals to flash sequentially in three stages, but cost ruled that out.)
So there'd be no doubt as to what just passed you, individual letters spelled out CHARGER across the lens. One rejected idea was to use a clear lens lit by red bulbs, as on the early 1965 Chrysler New Yorkers.
The nearly flat surface of the decklid was set off by a large, handsomely detailed circular medallion, its red-amber plastic center topped with a floating "fratzog," Dodge's triangular trademark since 1962. Underneath, the spare tire was recessed into a well concealed by a hardboard panel that kept the floor level, a trick Chrysler years before had picked up from Kaiser-Frazer.
The front clip was mostly standard-issue Coronet. But what made the Charger's front end truly unique were its hidden headlamps. Chrysler had tried this idea once before, on the 1942 DeSoto, but its manual cable system delivered less than satisfactory results. But Charger competitors like the Corvette and Buick Riviera were to have disappearing lamps, so perhaps the time had come to take another look.
Continue to the next page to find out how these headlamps -- and the rest of the Dodge Charger -- got the green light for production.
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