Chrysler was so butthurt after the sales flop of the Airflow of the 1930’s, it took twenty years and a World War for them to revisit taking any styling risks.
That all ended when Chrysler brought on stylist Virgil Exner in the summer of 1949, creating the Advanced Styling Studio at Chrysler for the then-40-year-old designer. Tasked with styling a line of “idea cars” and developing concepts that Chrysler could incorporate into future production vehicles, Exner also had to contend with a corporate culture that gave its engineering staff essential control over design.
The first salvo were the ’55’56 production cars with the shock-and-awe moment counter-punch coming in the fall of 1956. Exner and his team fielded the “Forward Look” line-up for 1957 and sent GM and Ford scurrying back to their drawing boards.
Then it all went to hell in a handbasket.
Remember, the gestation period of a car from drawing board to showroom floor was anywhere between 36-48 months.
In 1956, during the design of the 1961 models, Exner suffered a heart attack. He resumed work in 1957, working on the designs for the 1962 cars.
The designs were
meddled with massaged by colleagues while he recovered, but we’ve always speculated that he might have been “medicated” during this period, as the cars that came out during this period were truly bizarre.
Late ’50s Chrysler cars may have possessed the coolest finned styling of all time, but they were plagued with corrosion issues and the bodies were tinny compared to GM’s mighty Fisher Body, and as a result, most of these winged machines went to the crusher. Early ’60’s Mopar models were especially susceptible to banishment to the great junk yard in the sky.
The last year for finned Forward Look cars was 1961. Plymouth’s cleaved-off fins caused Exner to lament that they looked like “plucked chickens.”
The 1960 Plymouth is probably my favorite Forward Look car of all time. I was especially enamored when I saw this murdered out, restomod example. It will cross the auction block at Barrett-Jackson on Januray 20th, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
According to B-J, “This 1960 Fury sits on a Magnum Force front suspension and COMP Engineering 4-link rear suspension with a Currie 9” rear end with 355 Sure-Grip. It features contour-cut floorpan and capped custom frame connectors to stop body flex.
“During the build all trim was removed, the hood opening was reversed, and the taillight housing was stripped of chrome and painted the body color. The bumpers, grille and door handles are stock 1960 Fury.
“The custom interior features Katzkin leather bucket seats, console and rear seat, leather-covered door panels and dash, factory-style digital gauges and a suede and leather headliner. The trunk is also swathed in leather and suede.
“The interior also sports an over-the-top Sony sound system with a 6×8” screen, backup camera and two amplifiers. Powering this custom Fury is a 6.1-liter HEMI crate engine with Indy cylinder heads and a six-pack carburetor setup. The engine makes 440hp and 440 ft/lbs of torque, and is backed by a new 518-A TorqueFlite automatic transmission.”
“The headers and exhaust were all custom built and ceramic-coated black with stainless MagnaFlow mufflers. A set of Wilwood 4-wheel power disc brakes provides the stopping power. This car took almost four years to build using the best available parts. It’s arrow-straight with nice gaps, and the final fit and finish was performed by Weaver Customs.”
We would have liked to seen a skosh of the factory exterior trim retained, as well as the far-out factory interior, but here’s an old Exner Plymo that can be driven hard and enjoyed.
If all this turns you on it could be yours. Picture yourself haulin’ ass down the highway, Exner’s mighty fins alive, in full bloom.