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Cars that never went into production at Chrysler and GM

Chrysler
ER Classics Desktop 2022

Cars that never made it to production, it was pure fantasy on wheels, designed in the fifties to make the heart beat faster and you are now wondering, "What if they did go into production?" True works of art to attract the attention of the (buyers) public, to try out technical innovation and to give motorists a glimpse into the future ... Below are five of those so-called 'concept cars'.

Virgil Exner Senior became the head of the Chrysler design department in 1953 and one year later responsible for all future concept cars. He quickly strengthened contacts with the then highly regarded Italian body builder and designer Ghia, who was commissioned to realize his designs on the standard Chrysler chassis supplied. All those cars became legendary after the public presentation. According to his son, himself also a famous designer, the most talked-about creation was the Chrysler Diablo Convertible from 1956 / 1957. Not only because Senior had drawn the whole colossus on his own plate, but also because the final result in the wind tunnel - then sensational - was tested. The Diablo is also one of the largest cars ever realized by Ghia. The chassis is that of a Chrysler 300 from 1956 equipped with a specially tuned, thick - how could it be otherwise 6,2 liter Hemi 392 - V8 powered by two so-called '4 barrel' carburetors. This linked to a Torqueflite automatic gearbox that had to be operated with buttons on the dashboard. Lots of chrome under the hood. Of course power steering, electric windows, radio antenna and linen hood, as well as the indispensable air conditioning. The car cost Chrysler 250.000 dollars in those years, for then an astronomically high amount. The still spotless car was sold in 2013 at an auction in Scottsdale, Arzona for almost 1,4 million US dollars.


Before Virgil Exner Sr. was the top boss of the Chrysler design department, he already created special automobiles that were then realized by Ghia in Italy. The Chrysler d'Elégance Coupé, for example, was introduced at the Paris Motor Show of 1952. It was the first of a series of 25 items that Ghia had ordered from the French importer following the many enthusiastic responses. The car - based on a Chrysler 200 chassis - was equipped with a thick Hemi Firepower V8 coupled to an automatic Torqueflite gearbox. Given the catalog, there was hope for good sales. In reality it all turned out differently ... 

Chrysler had already released some cars for the future and so that other major American automobile manufacturer General Motors could not be left behind. The previously released Chevrolet Corvette was becoming a success after a difficult start. And so something was devised based on one of their other brands ... Pontiac. The Club de Mer was the result. General Motors had announced to the world in 1956 that they would be working on cars for the future and called this the Motorama Show. All this had its origins in the brain of Harley Earl, who had received the boss of the Pontiac design department Paul Gillian. They had looked at the Corvette, that is clear. One prototype was built and one scale model in 1 on 25. And then they decided at General Motors 'Kill order' and the 1 on 1 model was destroyed, the scale model was spared that fate. Was for decades with a certain Jo Bortz in Illinois who had it auctioned in 2007 allowing him to add 75.000 dollars to his assets ... A replicated full-size copy was sold at an auction for 100.000 dollars two years later ...

Buick enthusiasts should hear the Centurion type designation as music in their ears. This is because it is a beautiful car that was available from 1971 to mid 1973. However, the name was used before. Centurion II was the type designation for the Buick which, just like the Pontiac, started from 1956 for the Motorama Show. The body was made of polyester. The inspiration must have come from fighter aircraft at the time because the roof was made entirely of transparent acrylic. Let us hope that the vehicle was equipped with an optimally functioning air conditioning, because a little sun turned it into an oven. The Buick Centurion II was the first car - 1956! - who used a camera to view when reversing. So no rearview mirror. Regardless of how they juggled, the enthusiasm for this device was zero. Fortunately, it has not been demolished, but silently drove into a museum ... 

The Buick Le Saber - the type designation was reused in 1959 - from 1951 was a Concept Car, also conceived and designed by Harley Earl. His first attempt to integrate the design of the then controversial fighter aircraft with jet engines into automobiles. Large tail fins, a continuous round windscreen, a grille like the jet air intake of a fighter jet. General Motors did not look at a dollar more or less in the early 1950s. The body was made from aluminum, magnesium and polyester. Under the hood a 3,5 liter V8 engine with a supercharger. That engine could run on gasoline or methanol! It is also remarkable that the automatic Dynaflow gearbox was mounted at the rear. It was later replaced by the General Motors Hydramatic. The 12 volts installation was also remarkable, while almost all cars were then still equipped as 6 volts. The heated (!) Seats were also completely new, the headlights hidden behind the grille in the jet-like nose, a linen hood that opened and closed with hydropower (...) and electric cricks on all four corners. However, this Concept Car was equipped with all kinds of parts that were used in later Buicks. Such as the rear-mounted gearbox that was later also installed in the Pontiac Tempest, the aluminum V8 that powered the Buick Special, Skylark, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Jetfire, Pontiac Tempest and Le Mans, among others. The same engine turned out to be - although in slightly modified form - popular with British car manufacturers such as Rover, Range Rover, Land Rover, Morgan, MG, TVR, Marcos and many other British brands. This Buick Le Saber is still owned by General Motors and can be admired in the factory museum, even dragged to important shows from time to time!

2 Comments

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  1. I miss the most important innovative car!

    with those rotating headlights and a third headlight in the middle!
    a car so well built and technical gadgets that they have made it so difficult for financially that only 51 units have seen the light of day The Tucker 48 sedan better known as the tucker torpedo and it really should have been in this list

    • I don't think the Tucker 48, however innovative, should be in this list, Anton. It has simply been in production. However, the factory went bankrupt with the help of the major car manufacturers. It was a pity ...

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