Concept Car Redux

Despite a good number of views for yesterday’s post in particular and for the blog in general, only three readers cast votes for the A Or B? post. (It’s not too late to vote, by the way.) Since the post title was not A Or B Or C?, my other probable all-time favorite concept car could not be included. Here is a picture of the DeSoto Adventurer I:

 

DeSoto Adventurer I Cars Of The Fabulous 50s

 

This was legendary auto designer Virgil Exner’s favorite car and according to him Chrysler Corporation almost put it into production. Supposedly, the project remained in concept status because some executives still had memories of the Airflow “fiasco” of the 1930s and, allegedly, Chrysler management was too afraid to go out on an automotive limb. To quote John Greenleaf Whittier for not the first time,

 

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

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Related to Whittier’s famous line, according to 365 Days Of Motoring, it was on this day in 1937 that the Auburn Automobile Company manufactured its last Cord car. From Wikimedia, a picture of a 1937 Cord 812 supercharged cabriolet:

 

See the source image

 

In all honesty, these cars were greater in design than they were in execution. At least initially, the Cord 810/812 had transmission and overheating issues. Those faults are conveniently “forgotten” by the make’s partisans. Still, in design these cars were transcendent.

These were the last front-wheel drive American cars until the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. The Cord 810/812 was the first car with hidden headlights and one of the first with a pre-selector transmission. The transmission had four forward gear ratios instead of the usual three, plus Bendix “Electric Hand” preselector. With this, the driver first chose the desired gear via a switch-like lever on an extension of the steering column, then shifted by stabbing the clutch.

The quality issues and the 1937-38 “Recession Within The Great Depression” doomed the Cord and the Auburn Automobile Company, which also included Duesenberg. It might have been, indeed.

 

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Wednesday Adventure(r)

Why wasn’t this car put into production?!

 

See the source image

 

From flickriver.com a picture of the 1953 DeSoto Adventurer I concept car. DeSoto did produce a car with the model name Adventurer from 1956-1960, but it didn’t look anything like this. Designed by the legendary Virgil Exner this was his “…favorite car always.” More from Exner courtesy of this and this, “If it had been built, it would have been the first four-passenger sports car made in this country. Of course, it had the DeSoto Hemi [a 1953 stock 273 with 170 horsepower]. It was my favorite car always…” From the same article, “Exner tried very hard to get the DeSoto Adventurer approved for limited production. But as Maury Baldwin, one of his staffers, later recalled, ‘Management at that point was very stodgy. A lot of people attributed it to the old Airflow disaster. They were afraid to make any new inroads.'”

No one knows, of course, how this car would have sold if it had been available. However, the 1950s were a time of ostentatiousness, at least to some degree, and this car certainly would have stood out. One can understand the notion of “Once burned, twice shy,” but it’s a shame Chrysler management couldn’t or wouldn’t understand how circumstances had changed since the 1930s when the Airflow was introduced. Like another Mopar product of the same vintage—the Chrysler Ghia ST Special—I simply can’t take my eyes off this car.

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness…”

– John Keats

 

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