By on June 24, 2014

It’s possible that the Ghia-built 1957-58 Crown Imperial limousine was Chrysler’s effort to show the other members of the Big 3 automakers that they too could sell an extravagantly assembled and appointed ultra-luxury car and lose big money on each and every unit they sold, just as Ford did with the Continental Mark II and the General Motors did with the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. More likely, though, Chrysler executives saw the Imperial limos as carrying on a nameplate that had graced Chrysler’s most elegant and exclusive cars since the 1920s. Perhaps more than the other big Detroit automakers, Chrysler had a reputation for innovative engineering and it used that reputation to give the Imperial some cachet. The Hemi engine, disc brakes, power steering and the Powerflite, Chrysler’s first automatic transmission, were first offered on the Imperial. Still, as the 1950s went on, Cadillac’s dominance in the luxury class went from strength to strength. Though Packard fell by the wayside, Chrysler managers soldiered on with the company’s luxury marque. (Read More…)

By on November 9, 2010

Calling a car from this period a monster is not exactly uncommon or uncalled for. But what if its own daddy called it that? Virgil Exner, the father of the definitive automotive fins created a sensation in 1957 when they appeared on the all-new “Suddenly it’s 1960” models. With a straight face, Exner then claimed they were rooted in aerodynamics and highly functional. But with the ’57s he painted himself into a corner; there was no where further to go with them except ever greater absurdity, quickly turning them into caricatures of themselves. Even Exner admitted as much: “by 1959, it was obvious that I’d given birth to a Frankenstein”. I credit him for his honesty, if not good taste. (Read More…)

By on January 1, 2010

fins in SF

I could spend three life-times finding Curbside Classics on the streets of San Francisco. Last time here, before I started this series, I found a running Fiat 600 Multipla parked on the street. Does that give you a fair idea of the potential? On the other hand, I get annoyed by the city’s traffic and parking, so I don’t spend anymore time then necessary there. But on New Year’s Eve morning, we bopped into an almost dead town for some time at Fort Mason and the waterfront. I wasn’t really looking to shoot anything, but then there it was, sitting in front of a purple building. For a moment, I thought I might have found a very elusive ’57 model, but until that appears somewhere, this ’58 will do, quite well. (Read More…)

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