Category: Chrysler

The Mod Top, Chrysler Corp’s 1969 Appeal to Female Buyers, Makes an Interesting Collectible Today – Bill Rothermel @Hemmings

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Mad, Mod Mopar

Kim Barnes has a memory from her youth, of riding her Sears Sting-Ray-style “banana seat” bicycle past Friedman Chrysler-Plymouth in Des Moines, Iowa. There, in the showroom, was a yellow Mod Top Barracuda. About a block away was Des Moines AMC, which had a red, white, and blue Hurst SC/Rambler in the showroom. “I was obsessed with both cars, especially the yellow Barracuda,” she recalls.

Like other seven-year-olds of that time, Kim was a big fan of The Partridge Family and she collected Partridge Family trading cards. At the same time, she secretly collected trading cards of her favorite automobiles, too. “I had one of the yellow Mod Top Barracuda, as well as a blue Satellite Mod Top, in my collection,” Kim says.

One day, Kim rode by the dealership and the Mod Top Barracuda was gone. Her obsession with the unusual car continued. She certainly had no idea at the time, but a yellow Mod Top Barracuda would become part of her automotive stable nearly 50 years later.

These photos from the GM Historical Archives show us that Chevrolet was giving thought to patterned vinyl roofs for the 1967 Camaro. Note the non-factory side exhaust.

Marketing specifically to woman buyers was nothing new. Dodge toured a pair of concept cars in 1954 called Le Comte and La Comtesse —specially modified Chrysler Newports with glass roof inserts. While Le Comte was finished in “masculine” colors, La Comtesse was painted Dusty Rose and Pigeon Gray—ostensibly to appeal to women.

Response was favorable and Dodge offered the La Femme, based on the Custom Royal Lancer, as a midyear “Spring Special” in 1955. It was finished in a Heather Rose and Sapphire White exterior color combination, while the interior was upholstered in cloth featuring pink rosebuds on a silver-pink background, with pink vinyl trim. Included was a fully accessorized keystone-shaped purse, along with a matching raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella.

Considered a sales success, La Femme returned for the 1956 model year, this time in Misty Orchid and Regal Orchid. The interior was quite lavish, with a unique white cloth highlighted by purple and lavender, a special headliner with gold flecks, and loop pile carpeting in various shades of purple and lavender. Once again, a raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella were included (but no purse) for the 1956 model year. Sales numbers were never reported but it is estimated that some 2,500 cars received the $143 option over two years.

As built, Kim’s car came with the optional Floral Accented Interior, which carried the theme to seat inserts and door cards; the Barracuda Sport Package, with its three-spoke steering wheel; and the Rallye dash

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The wonders of the Chrysler Norseman lie shipwrecked in the Atlantic – Jeff Peek @Hagerty

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Chrysler Corp. archives

In the late-night hours of July 26, 1956, about 40 miles off the coast of Nantucket Island and nearing the end of its transatlantic journey from Italy to New York, the luxurious ocean liner SS Andrea Doria collided with another ship in heavy fog. Fifty-one people were killed, a number that would have been much higher had the Doria not remained afloat for 11 hours before it slipped below the water’s surface to its final resting place.

Considering the loss of life, less attention was given to the cargo that went down with the ship, but Chrysler Corporation quickly crafted a press release, matter-of-factly sharing the details of an “idea” car—the Norseman—that had been lost while making its way to America from Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia.

Calling the car’s pillarless design “revolutionary,” the press release acknowledged that the Norseman “must be considered a complete loss.” And then, oddly, Chrysler shared that the car was “covered by insurance.” The New York Times reported that the automaker invested $200,000 into the project, the equivalent to $2.1 million today. What Chrysler didn’t say in its press release was that it could never recoup the time and effort that went into creating the four-door hardtop sedan: 50,000 hours of research and labor, two years in design, and another 15 months to build it. All gone, thanks to the the unfortunate confluence of bad weather and certain regrettable decisions.

SS Andrea Doria

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The SS Andrea Doria was a source of great national pride when it was launched in 1951. Named for a 16th-century Genoese admiral, it was considered the largest, fastest, and (supposedly) safest of all Italian ships when it took its maiden voyage in January 1953. The opulent 29,100-ton ship had a normal capacity of 1200 passengers and 500 crew, and it had successfully completed 50 transatlantic voyages when it left the port of Genoa on July 17, 1956—with 1706 on board—and headed west to New York City. In an odd coincidence with the more famous RMS Titanic, which sank in 1912 during what was to be Captain Edward Smith’s final turn at the helm before retirement, Cpt. Piero Calamai was taking his final tour on the Andrea Doria before moving to its sister ship, the SS Christopher Columbo.

Nine days into the journey across the Atlantic Ocean and less than 300 miles from New York, dense fog made it difficult to see beyond the bow. Regardless, Calamai maintained a speed of more than 20 knots in the heavily trafficked area while the ship’s crew became completely reliant on radar.

MS Stockholm

Meanwhile, the MS Stockholm, having recently left New York for Sweden, was fast approaching in the same shipping lane, heading east. The Stockholm, less than half the size of the Doria but designed with a reinforced ice-breaking bow, was also operating solely by radar due to the heavy fog.

Both ships were aware of the other as they drew closer, but it was later revealed that the Stockholm’s radar was set to a different range, so the Doria was actually closer to the Swedish ship than its crew realized. Nevertheless, it was Doria Cpt. Calamai’s decision to turn his ship to port—not starboard, in accordance with maritime rules—that proved fatal. With both ships turning in the same direction, the Stockholm struck the Doria at an almost 90-degree angle.

Chrysler Norseman

Chrysler Corp. Archives

Below deck was the Norseman. Designed by Chrysler’s engineering division and built by Ghia, Chrysler claimed the concept “incorporated more structural, chassis, electrical, and styling innovations than any other ‘idea’ car every designed by Chrysler.”

The automaker’s press release added:

“Although the car was intended to have as great structural strength as today’s automobiles, it had no posts or pillars to support the roof. This was accomplished by means of structural cantilever arch, which curved upward from the rear of the frame and over the passenger compartment of the car.

“Glass surrounding the passenger compartment was uninterrupted, with the exception of the two arches of steel curving upward in the rear. In addition, there was a 12-square-foot panel of glass in the rook that was power operated and slid forward, leaving the roof over the rear seat open.

“All major body panels on the car were made of aluminum, as a result of research in advanced structural techniques to reduce weight. It had a sharply sloping hoof, unswept tail fins, and a covered, smooth underbody for aerodynamic efficiency.”

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A Pared-Down Take on Upscale Luxury Marked Chrysler’s 1972 New Yorker Brougham – Mark J McCourt @Hemmings

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Was it a cause of Tom Wolfe’s “‘Me’ Decade” or a byproduct? By the early 1970s, the 1969 Volkswagen ad that had cheekily suggested Americans should live below their means felt out of touch. Really, we were worthy of indulgence, and near-luxury automakers like Chrysler were happy to oblige. More of everything would prove the trend of the decade, and from the early days, the New Yorker Brougham offered consumers a unique interpretation of middle-class luxury.

A 225-hp, four-barrel-carbureted 440-cu.in. V-8 with single exhaust was the default engine in the Brougham, while a dual-exhaust setup that added 20 horsepower was available. Chrysler’s proven three-speed A-727 TorqueFlite automatic was the sole transmission choice.

The Imperial line had all but been absorbed into Chrysler by 1972, those well-appointed flagship two- and four-door hardtops built alongside lesser models instead of on a dedicated assembly line and marketed in the same brochure. Their unit-bodies were long-wheelbase variants of the parent company’s standard versions and bore minimal styling differentiation. At the same time, Chrysler’s eponymous models were creeping upmarket; the New Yorker Brougham offered nearly as many lavish trimmings as a Cadillac- or Lincoln-fighting Imperial LeBaron, in a slightly smaller (but, at 224.1 inches long over a 124-inch wheelbase, a still-generous) package.

Chrysler treated buyers of its premium four-door hardtop to more comprehensive instrumentation than did many competitors; features like power windows were standard.

This New Yorker Brougham remained in the possession of its original owner until 1994, by which time she’d driven it fewer than 22,000 miles. It now displays just under 23,500 miles and retains all its factory-original finishes and features. “A couple of scratches have been touched up, but I’ve never found evidence that any panel has been changed. I just think it was a nice lady’s go-to-church car, and from what we can tell, it accumulated pretty minimal mileage,” Jeff Stork explains. “This Chrysler remained in North Carolina, we believe in collector hands, until we brought it to California in 2018.”

As curator of the 80-car-strong Prescott Collection, Jeff is the primary caretaker of the time capsule Mopar and others of its ilk. This collection specializes in postwar American automobiles, with a particular emphasis on these four-door hardtops that are typically overlooked by other collectors. He tells us they sought this car both for its pristine condition and for its individualist interpretation of American luxury motoring in that era. “We wanted a 1972 because it was the first year of the New Yorker Brougham, and the last year of the original styling statement, with the loop front bumper that was gone in 1973.”

“This car represents a very interesting moment in American automotive history. It was the Broughamization of America… the automakers were ‘going for baroque,’” Jeff says with a laugh. “Suddenly everyone had these luxury offerings with upgraded cloth interiors and vinyl tops. You could get this in midsize cars like the Cutlass Supreme, and even in what had previously been the low-priced three with the Ford LTD and Chevy Caprice. The automakers were reaching up to see how many profitable features they could offer. This car reminds me of Marcus Welby, M.D.; I used to watch that show when I was a kid, and Welby drove a blue one. He was a caring doctor, and this Chrysler exudes upper-middle-class respectability.”

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1960-’61 Chrysler 300F & 300G Buyer’s Guide – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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The original “businessman’s hot rod” combined a racing pedigree with luxury trimmings

When people boasted of the performance of Chrysler-branded automobiles during the postwar years, it was usually in reference to the cars’ mechanical prowess: smooth and reliable, just like a luxury vehicle should be. Naturally, powerful acceleration was a key element, but it was intended to make premium models more capable on the road, and not meant for speed contests. The corporation’s other divisions were better equipped to manage a young buyer’s stoplight-sprint antics.

Part of that perspective changed when the division released the C-300 in 1955. Fitted with the 300-hp, 331-cu.in. “FirePower” V-8 capable of pushing it to a top speed of 130 mph, the specially trimmed hardtop coupe broke the mold while redefining the parameters of a luxury coupe. Adventurous CEOs could feel the excitement of raw power while seated in a luxurious cabin, surrounded by coachwork that spoke of edgy—yet not audacious — exclusivity. And it was exclusive: Just 1,725 were built in the first year, each costing $4,110 (or $40,095 today) without options.

More compelling was how the C-300 began to cement its legacy beyond the boulevard. Trimmed for racing, it utterly dominated the NASCAR and AAA stock car ranks, which continued a year later with the updated 300B. For 1957, the 300C set a notable production car speed record at Daytona Beach before the Chrysler division took a bow and left the business of racing to Dodge and Plymouth, prior to the AMA embargo.

Although the on-track exploits may have been put to rest, the exclusive “Letter Cars” remained in production, continuously improved both visually and mechanically. The model’s evolution took a significant leap forward when the 300F was introduced in 1960, the basic elements of which carried through to the 300G of ’61, with attributes that not only set these cars apart from their predecessors but have attracted both collectors and vintage-car driving enthusiasts alike since. If you’ve been considering the purchase of one, here are some things you should be aware of

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Which domestic performance car from 1957 would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Let’s open the floodgates of the American performance car debate, specifically when the first regular production examples emerged from assembly plants. While many will quickly give a nod to Pontiac’s 1964 GTO, others will suggest the bar was raised in a far different era. The Stutz Bearcat from the Teens is a perfect early candidate. So, too, is Buick’s Century, introduced in 1936: It was a true midsize car that made use of the larger Roadmaster’s more-powerful straight-eight engine; it was reportedly capable of hitting 100 mph under the right conditions. Then, of course, there was the 1949 Oldsmobile 88, featuring the high-output Rocket V-8 engine that tore up drag strips and stock car circuits alike. Was Hudson’s Twin-H powerplant, nestled in the Hornet, a more suitable candidate, or, perhaps, Detroit’s explosion of elaborate fuel induction systems in 1957? Let’s pause here and review a handful of arguably-muscular options from the year in our latest edition of This or That, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

It’s no secret that Chrysler Corporation set the NASCAR circuit on fire in 1955 and ’56, thanks to team principals like Lee Petty and Carl Kiekhaefer, the latter of whom amassed an astounding 52 wins as team owner, along with 52 poles and 139 top-10 finishes by 11 drivers in just a combined 190 starts–a NASCAR record at the time. At the dawn of the 1957 season, Kiekhaefer and his teams were gone, but not the powerful Mopars he loved to prepare for racing, such as this 1957 Chrysler 300C. Although the upscale and freshly restyled performance model was no longer a contender on the track – it went winless in ’57 – it was a winner at the dealership when 1,918 hardtops found new buyers, bolstered by the sale of 484 convertibles. The base price for each was $4,929 and $5,359 respectively (or $46,517 and $50,575 today), but that price also netted a standard 375-hp 392-cu.in. V-8 engine, its output made possible by a pair of four-barrel carburetors. According to the scant description provided by the seller of this hardtop:

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What is a Hemi? – Dan Carney @DesignNews

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Have you spotted a Mopar hot rod and wondered, “That thang got a Hemi innit?

Chrysler vehicles have long been renowned for their Hemi V8 engines, which are legendary for their power and performance. Remember the silly “That thang got a Hemi innit?” commercials from the aughts, with the two goofball fanboys interrogating owners of new Dodge vehicles about their engine status?

Most people know that a Hemi means performance, but how many people actually know what “hemi” means? That’s why we’re here. “Hemi” is a reference to the engine’s combustion chamber shape. It is short for “semi-hemispherical,” which means that the combustion chamber space cast into the engine’s heads looks like it was carved out with an ice cream scoop.

Chrysler vehicles have long been renowned for their Hemi V8 engines, which are legendary for their power and performance. Remember the silly “That thang got a Hemi innit?” commercials from the aughts, with the two goofball fanboys interrogating owners of new Dodge vehicles about their engine status?

Most people know that a Hemi means performance, but how many people actually know what “hemi” means? That’s why we’re here. “Hemi” is a reference to the engine’s combustion chamber shape. It is short for “semi-hemispherical,” which means that the combustion chamber space cast into the engine’s heads looks like it was carved out with an ice cream scoop.

“If you cut a ball in half, the rounded top is the combustion chamber shape,” explained Brandt Rosenbush, company historian for Chrysler, which is now part of a company called “Stellantis” following the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with Peugeot.

A semi-hemispherical combustion chamber has the minimal possible surface-area-to-volume ratio, so less energy is lost as heat through the combustion chamber’s surface, said Rosenbush. It also enjoys good volumetric efficiency because the dome combustion chamber shape provides ample room for large intake and exhaust valves.

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First-car memories fueled the revival of this 1965 Chrysler Newport – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Do you remember Susie, the Little Blue Coupe? As the title hints, it was an animated short about a cute sporty car that flirted its way out of a dealership window and into the hands of its first, proud owner. During the 8-minute flick, produced by Walt Disney and originally released in June 1952 by RKO Radio Pictures, Susie‘s care eventually slipped, and her owner reluctantly sold the rough-running coupe. A cigar-chomping, gruff-looking chap became Susie‘s next owner, though his lackadaisical attitude eventually left her painfully disheveled in a cold and scary scrapyard. That is, until she was rescued by a young lad with a dream, a touch of know-how, and a boatload of ambition

.It’s pure coincidence, but the basic elements of Susie‘s thought-provoking yet lighthearted automotive tale parallel the real-life adventure of the 1965 Chrysler Newport two-door hardtop gracing these pages. This entry-level luxury car was sold new through a New Haven, Connecticut, dealership, after which it lived many years of pavement tranquility in nearby Branford. But, by the end of 1985, the Newport silently fell into a stagnant existence that left it in complete disrepair.

According to its current owner and Lee, Massachusetts, resident Tim Schaefer, who purchased the Newport in September 2012, “It was basically a parts car. It had weeds growing off the floor in the back. The grille areas at the top of the cowl were filled with decomposing leaves, sticks, and dirt — all of which held water that slowly leaked into the interior that, after a quick glance, you wouldn’t even want to get in. It was just roached beyond belief. The headliner was hanging out of it and there was a wheel thrown on the back seat wearing a rotted tire. Really, the car was just a mess, but I bought it. Somebody had to save it.

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Twenty years ago, Chrysler unleashed a pandemonium of third-gen Hemi V-8s. Here’s how to tell them apart – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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While many cars and trucks of the Eighties and Nineties dispelled the notion that American performance died off with the original muscle cars, it took an entirely new engine—one more powerful and less expensive to produce than its predecessor—to reignite the horsepower wars and usher in a new golden age. The Hemi V-8 has since become a standard-bearer for Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep vehicles, and its basic engine architecture has spawned more than a dozen configurations, some of them difficult to discern from others. For that reason, we’ve put together this spotters guide to the third-gen Hemi family of engines.

What sets the Hemi apart

Teased in the 2000 Chrysler 300 Hemi C and the 2001 Dodge Super8 Hemi, the new 5.7-liter Hemi (Chrysler stylizes it as HEMI, but for expediency’s sake, we will not) debuted in the 2003 Dodge Ram pickups, featuring a deep-skirt cross-bolted iron block, aluminum heads, overhead valves, 4.46-inch bore spacing, the same bellhousing bolt pattern as the Chrysler LA-series V-8s, coil-on-plug ignition, composite intake manifolds, multipoint fuel injection, and that controversial head design.

Early (2003-2008) 5.7L Hemi heads, top; Eagle heads, bottom

Like the second-generation 426 Hemi, the 5.7L Hemi heads featured opposed valves for a true crossflow design, twin spark plugs, and rocker shafts. The third-generation Hemi did not, however, feature a full hemispherical combustion chamber. Instead, Chrysler’s engineers decided to flatten either side of the combustion chamber to improve combustion efficiency and emissions.

Some might argue that doesn’t make the engines true Hemis, but then again, the Hemi V-8s of yore were massive, heavy engines that cost a lot to machine and that wouldn’t meet modern-day fuel-efficiency or emissions requirements.

David Kimble cutaway illustration of the 5.7L truck engine.

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