Friday, December 3, 2010

Suddenly It's 1960—In a Good Way!

Twelve Page Full Color Insert for Chrysler's '57 Finned Wonders Appeared in the Nov. 3, 1956 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post

The 1957 Plymouth's front end came in for a mid-year "correction" as complaints came flooding in regarding those original open vertical cooling slots in the bumper seen above. Apparently birds, small animals and tiny babies were being sucked into them, lol, and by mid-year, slim chrome vertical bars had been added to the previously open slots. Ink "bleed-through" appears on all of the pages in this 63 year old magazine. I've noticed this quite often in the Post's pages, and rarely in Life or Look. I'd say the paper choice is the culprit, but at a  cover price of fifteen cents for a 148 page weekly magazine filled with quality original writing, money had to be saved somewhere.

M Y   C O L L E C T I O N — Chrysler Corporation's entire 1957 lineup was redesigned from tires to roof. Virgil Exner pulled out all the stops and shocked the entire automotive industry with his low and svelte and breathtaking automobiles. It would take the industry leader, GM, a couple of very busy years, working overtime, to field competitively designed cars. Chrysler's ad campaign, "Suddenly It's 1960," a further extension of his Forward Look begun in '55, has gone down in history as one of the most effective car ads ever. Had Chrysler actually waited a year however, and gotten its production capabilities in order to build these cars, perhaps Chrysler would have fared better in the late '50s and early '60s. Production quality took a huge hit producing these cars as quickly as management wanted them to.

"Swept-Wing" Dodges, with their seemingly separate cut-back fins, offered great two-tone possibilities. "Jet tube" taillights complemented the fins beautifully. 

Though DeSoto would exit stage right just after the 1961 models were introduced, this '57 Fireflite with "Flight Sweep Styling" had seemingly nothing but blue skies ahead of it. Those slim roof pillars and shockingly thin roof seemed as optimistically futuristic as space flight itself.

Chrysler's place in the world was clear by the artwork accompanying this red-and-white New Yorker hardtop sedan: mink stoles, tuxedos, chandelier earrings and elegant evenings under the moon and stars.

 "Imperial—the finest expression of The Forward Look" according to the ad copy, and who could possibly disagree with it? Curved sideglass made its first appearance on a production car with this Imperial. The newly-lowered roof, which made that large expanse of metal visible to most buyers for the first time, was detailed with an arching and "V-eed" piece of chrome trim, available in body color, an accenting hue, brushed stainless steel or a new matte and grained finish, giving the look of a fabric roof years before the vinyl roof became a ubiquitous option.

The five double-page spreads were preceded by this black-and-white introductory page touting the "Newest New Cars in 20 Years!" not exactly hyperbole.

Closing out of this 12 page ad insert was this single, full color page describing Chrysler's state-of-the-art Torsion-bar suspension. Chryslers of this time not only rode very well, but had exhibited roadability unmatched by the "Big Three." 


  1. Oh wow! How well I remember the Fall of 1956. These cars were just spectacular! I have the brochures for the DeSoto and the Imperial (I had them for all of these cars at some point). It's so hard to pick a favorite from these five -- they all have feature that are truly wonderful. I remember a half page article in either Popular Mechanics or Popular Science that show side by side pictures of the original Plymouth air intakes and the revised. I knew lots of people that had 57 Chrysler products -- all of them were cool -- my cousins had a 57 Plymouth Custom Suburban 2-door, neighbors had a DeSoto Firelfite Shopper AND an Adventurer Convertible (they traded two 54 Oldsmobiles). Their next door neighbor had a Belvedere convertible with just the straight chrome molding, not the SportTone or whatever Plymouth called it, my den mother (during my VERY brief cub scout career) had a Sport Suburban 9-passenger (with the concealed spare tire behind the rear wheel) that succeeded a 54 Belvedere Suburban with Hy-Drive, a local doctor's wife had a brown Crown Imperial 2-door Southampton, and someone I knew had a solid grey New Yorker 4-door sedan. Those were heady times for Chrysler -- if there quality had been equal to that of the pre-57 cars, their story might have been very different!

    Paul, NYC

  2. I had a friend who died a few years back. He would have LOVED the stuff you put up here. His bedroom was wallpapered with images of cars from the fifties and sixties. I only wish I could send him here. It's great the way you bring the past to life. Thanks.

  3. isn't it amazing how much we remember about the cars in our childhood neighborhoods? every time a neighbor bought a new car, it was like I had bought it. I memorized all the details, made sure I had the brochures and knew everything about it I could. The love of cars just doesn't seem to be there for young people today. They are just appliances to them for the most part.

  4. Greetings, WriteNow! my art and my writing are both ways to bring the past to life. I hope you check back in the future.

  5. Hello Casey,

    Look at that Imperial's roof !

    Were there any rear quarter roof lines more dramatic than Exner's Imperials? They had all the formal glamour of the classic era and yet modern .

    As a fan of both Exner and Engle Imperials ,I wish they would have kept Exners rear quarter LaBaron treatments on the 1964 to 66 models .

    Thanks Casey!




  7. Hey Granny,

    The surf is strong,Granny. They have built large sand berms in front of the food stands and bathroom to protect them from winter storms!

    The winter sunsets have been breathtaking.


  8. I really liked Exner's work, all of it. He was so misunderstood at the end, and his cars ruined by bean counters and tepid executives. He had a line of full sized Chryslers, Dodges, DeSotos and Plymouths that vaguely picked up on the first Valiant's proportions, long hood/short deck that were stunning but never saw the light of day.

    I really liked his spare tire impressions on the trunklids. I think his classic influences like that, and the free-standing headlights on the Imperials, were amazing, and perhaps too "good" for the low-brow buyers of the time. Same with his freestanding taillamps of the Imperial. So much talent, so much frustration with people that didn't 'get' his later designs.

  9. Casey, you get no argument from me on Exner and all his classic era touches !

    While Earl and G.Walker were whimsically blasting off for outer space, Exner had the taste and talent to remind us that no matter how high we go , our past comes with us , so bring the best .

    I am aware of "Exner's Lost Fleet" and love what little I have been able to see in Collectible Auto and a few design websites .


  10. re Detroit's spaceships and Exner's historical flourishes: really well put, AP!

    I'm always touched that the people like you that have found my blog are so erudite and well-versed in cars and their history. I've joined many car forums through the years and not found the intelligence that has found my own world here. It's awesome to me.

    Now i'm going to crash, lol. I find myself with a cold this soon into the chilly season. I've been sneezing all day, my eyes are watering and I'm blowing my nose every 5 minutes. I hope it's a short one. I'm shooting fresh orange juice into my IV, lol. G'Night!

  11. Thank you, Casey !

    It's a real pleasure to visit here. You have created an extremely rich and friendly environment . There is no other place like it.

    Take care of that cold !If Orange Juice doesn't work, do what I do: boil a ton of ginger, add a little sugar,pour it into a thermos, and have it by the bedside . Guzzle at will. It doesn't cure a cold,it scares it

    Get well soon,