The 1960 Plymouth XNR


This is the
1960 Plymouth XNR .

It is a one-of-a-kind
concept car designed
by Virgil Exner, Sr,
who was Chrysler’s V.P.
for styling at the time.

(He also developed the
legendary Dodge Fire Arrow,
and the Plymouth
Explorer Coupe.)

The XNR was builtaxnr2
on a Plymouth
Valiant chassis,
with a steel body
by Carrozzeria Ghia
( of Karmann Ghia fame )

and utilized a fiberglass nose.

It used a 170 cubic inch slant-six
power plant making about 260 HP,
with a four barrel carb and high performance cam.

axnr3It could handle sharp corners
at speed with ease, and was
capable of just over 150 MPH.

After several years on the show car circuit,

it somehow ended up in the
hands of the Shah of Iran,

….and then spent the rest
of the century in Beirut,
surviving the Lebanese
Civil War in a secret

Amazing, but true.

It was brought back to the United States
for restoration in 2009, and was shown
at the Amelia Island Concours
d’Elegance in 2012.

It sold that year for
just under 1 million dollars –
– $935,000 .

Looking at the styling of
this beautiful car
makes me ask one
simple question —-

Why can’t today’s
automotive designers
come up with cutting edge
ideas like this today ??

Why does every car
on the road lookaxnr
like every other car on the road?

Has automotive styling gone
the way of the dinosaurs?


if so,
what’s next ?






The Packard Predictor

You might think that
development of a
concept car as the
last gasp to save a
failing luxury car
company sounds
like a bit of a long shot –
– and it turns out to have
been just that for the
Packard line.

Actually, it was an
investment that they
could ill afford  —

— losing money left and
right after swallowing up
the larger, but nearly
bankrupt Studebaker
Corporation –

– and is best remembered
as the last of the bad
corporate decisions that
Packard executives were
free to make.

The long history of Packard
(since 1899) and reputation
for quality was quickly being
washed away, especially after
the death of the merger’s
chief architect, George Mason,
(of Nash-Kelvinator fame) who
had envisioned the combination
as the start of creating a
competitive “Big Four” car

Still, the company’s management was hopeful,
and introduced the
new concept car at the
1956 Chicago Auto Fair.

The one-off car was
originally conceived by chief
designer William Schmidt
and designated the ‘Projector’
in the early 1950’s –

the layout and build of the
car was left to famed Packard
stylist Dick Teague,

and the body was created in
Turin, Italy by Ghia –

— before it was equipped with
a 352 c.i. 260 HP V-8 back
in Detroit.

True to it’s name, the Predictor
integrated many advanced
features, including an almost
bullet proof transmission –
(Packard had previously
been having a lot of quality
issues with their transmissions)
– a pushbutton controlled
Twin-Ultramatic 2-speed
planetary automatic with
torque converter and direct
drive lockup.

Some more goodies were
hidden headlights, an
electrified deck-lid, roof
panels, and windows.

Features of the car ended
up appearing in later
competitors cars
( borrowed – or down-right
swiped from the Predictor )
as wide ranging as the sloped
back-glass on a 1958 Lincoln
Continental, tail-light details
on a 1957 Plymouth, roof line
on a 1959 Mercury, roll-top
panels similar to the T-Tops
on a 1968 Corvette, grill trim
on a 1958 Ford Edsel, etc, etc,
not to mention the road stance
of a 1960’s Pontiac, and the
‘planned platform sharing’
idea that is now employed
by all the major manufacturers

Also, it’s dramatic tail-fins
were styling cues used in many
cars after the Predictor, running
through the early 1960’s.

The car may very well have
saved the company –
but it was too late, and
Packard-built automobiles
disappeared from the
market in 1957- with the
remainder of it’s assets
going back into a revamped
but also ill-fated Studebaker

The fully functional Predictor
concept car can still be seen
as part of the Studebaker
National Museum in South
Bend, Indiana.


The Ford Gyron

Motorcycles are my thing.

And I can tell you one thing:
just because something
has two wheels and a motor
does not make it a motorcycle.

The first motorcycle was
developed in 1894-
the first car
(it had three wheels) in 1885 –
and there’s been a lot of cross-over development since then, of course.

Certain automotive concepts
along with the way have
attempted to combine
the efficiency and handling
of a two wheeled vehicle
with the all weather comfort,
capacity and safety of a car —

The first ones were:
The Bi-Autogo  —->>
in 1908,
the Wolseley Gyrocar,
way back in 1914.

One of my favorite attempts
at the two wheeled car
was the Ford Gyron.

Introduced at the 1961 Detroit
Auto Show, it was Ford’s look
into one possible automotive
future –

– filled with dramatic aerodynamic
designs and gyroscopic

Two passengers would, theoretically,
sit side by side, under
a rear hinged poly-plastic
canopy , as the driver
used a pad that looked very much
like a computer game controller to
drive the car –

— molded plastic seats that
kinda reminds me of my Mom’s
short-lasting ‘mod’ furniture craze
completes the interior.

The body was fiberglass
and plastic,
with motorcycle type stands that
would support the vehicle when
it wasn’t moving —

–but, since it was just a prototype,
it didn’t actually have to function –
( and the technology to do that
was still many years off — )
so, small wheels were put
in their place to hold it up.

The prototype’s main function
was simply to produce
a wow factor in the folks
who got a glimpse of it.

And in that aspect,
it worked great.

Today, several vehicles use
a similar concept but are still
very experimental —
like the Lit Motors
C-1 Electric Car.

Just don’t call it a motorcycle.

!! HOY !!

The Saturday Car Post: 1954 Plymouth Explorer

In the early 1950’s,
Chrysler’s head stylist
Virgil Exner was looking
for a way of updating
Chrysler’s rather
old-fashioned image,
by introducing some
new concept cars ,
developed and built
by Italian automotive
designers at Carrozzeria
Ghia in Turin.

The six or seven years 1954PlymouthExplorer
immediately after the war
hadn’t really seen a
lot of important styling innovations
among the big car
makers of the time,
and Chrysler–

— which included:
Desoto, Dodge, and
Plymouth lines as well — 

especially certainly
needed a boost.

These cars were designed by
Exner and Ghia’s Luigi Segre,
and were built on existing
Chrysler, Dodge, Desoto
and Plymouth chassis.

They included the Chrysler K-310,
and C-200, the Dodge Firearrow,
Desoto Adventurer I,
and this car–
the Plymouth Explorer.

Despite being only 54 inches high,
the Explorer was built upon a
standard 114 inch wheelbase
Plymouth chassis…

… and it’s sleek hand-formed
looks belied the fact that it
was sorely underpowered
by a 230 cubic inch straight-six
that only made about a
104 horsepower, with the
semi-automatic gearbox  .

(There was a ‘Red-Ram’
‘Hemi’ V8 engine made
available for the Dodge
Fire-Arrow III, later in 1954 )

Underpowered, certainly,
and not good gas mileage
to speak of, even for the time.

Still, for early 50’s styling,
it certainly was a beauty.

!!! HOY !!!



The 1954 Pontiac Special

poGreat vintage cars
is one of those subjects
that I always wanted to include in a semi-regularly scheduled blog feature,
but I never really got around to doing it….

Sorta like a cool car of the week kinda thing.

Probably still not gonna be a regular feature, but —

My friends….
here’s our Car of the Week.

The 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special.

a2This was Pontiac’s first attempt at a two seater—
a purpose built concept car,
designed by Harley Earl,
and hand built out of fiberglass,
with a plexi-glass roof, and ‘gull-wing’ panels.

There were some design elements
that the Bonneville Special
had in common with the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
released the previous year,
like the recessed headlights molded into the body–

… but the rear of the car,
especially the faux jet-engine spare wheel cover,
looked like nothing that had come before.54bon

This was the “jet-age”,
and Earl used every trick in the book
to get a sleek, aerodynamic look into the cars design.

Powered by a high output in-line 8 cylinder 268 c.i. engine,
( Earl wanted to use Pontiac’s brand new more powerful V-8,
but GM exec’s wanted to keep it a secret until the 1955 model year ),
the car made about 23o horsepower,
and had a top speed of around 110 mph.a1

There were two built,
one in emerald green,
and one in metallic bronze —
— both of which are still extant.

The bronze Special is still in the hands of the original owners.

The emerald green Special sold at auction
for nearly 3 million dollars in 2006.


The Cadillac Cyclone


Cadillac Cyclone …
…. sounds a bit like
it might be a figment
of an old car guy’s
imagination, doesn’t it?

And I’m car crazy…
I will readily admit it.

To me,
cars don’t just represent
a way of getting somewhere..
…….. they mean a good deal more.

Sure, some of
those things
can be traced back
to my still-very-much-in-play
adolescent desires for
freedom, status, and power.

and sex.

Let’s not forget sex.

I know..
‘Oh, grow up already’ !! —
…….. to which I reply
(on a regular basis)
Go Filet A Fish” !

( Hahahaha…..
you thought I was gonna
use a fucking profanity, didn’t ya? Didn’t you read yesterdays’ post ? )


But that’s not all of it….
because when I see
a car that has been:
artfully created,
thoughtfully designed,
and beautifully executed,c2
it makes me think that there
just might be hope
for the human race yet.

I rarely miss an
automotive fair —
I have worn out the
carpets of the local car museums.

And as much
as I love classic cars,
I don’t even own one…
not one you’d
call classic, anyway,

and mostly,
I get around on my motorcycles.

Part of the problem
is that I have
never found one that I liked,
that I could afford to buy.

That used to bother me.

Until I realized that
I could sublimate
the urge to own one,
by blogging about them.

So… guess what.

We’re gonna look at a couple
very hot ‘concept’ cars
over the next few months.

You don’t have to be a car fanatic
to enjoy looking at concept cars, either…..

Concept cars are interesting,
because they’re cars that
designers put together
when they want to ‘think outside the box’.

Usually only a few of each
are produced by the manufacturer,
and are taken around to auto shows
as a way of showing the kinds of ideas
the company will be incorporating
in their upcoming models.

Consumer reaction is
carefully observed at these shows..
… and often, there is a survey
taken of what people like/dislike most about it.

The car featured today3949017_f520, for instance,
was a
1959 Cadillac Cyclone .

…. Otherwise known as the “XP-74”.

It was created by famous
General Motors designer
Harley Earl ,

(actually, the last concept car
that he designed from the ground up)

… and was first debuted
at the 1959 Daytona Beach
Automotive Showcase.

The Cyclone had some interesting features,

electric sliding doors
with small access panels for paying tolls,

… and an intercom to talk to someone
on the outside of the vehicle
without having to open them.

( remember– no windows ! )

radar sensors built into the
front nose cones for crash avoidance–

with automatic braking,cyclone

forward mounted exhaust
( just above the front wheels ),

an “auto-pilot” system
that steered the car when activated,

a removable, silver coated,
UV reflective, plexi-glass bubble top

which raised when the doors were opened,
…. and that automatically sensed rain,
and raised itself in bad weather,

a hood canopy that pivoted up
and away from the engine compartment
for easy access,

an innovative aircraft style ergonomic dashboard
and control cluster

Plus automatic transmission,

power steering and brakes,c3

cruise control, with a 325 horsepower V-8 engine.

It was low to the ground–
–only 44 inches high,
…. but the electrically operated sliding doors
made entry and exit easy.

It was long — 197 inches —
but, while you might think parking would be a nightmare,
the onboard radar would be a good deal of help in that regard.

I love that curved windshield–
… it makes for excellent field of vision with no A-Pillar blind spots.

One of the things Earl was going for was a feeling of 360 degree visibility….
so the whole glass bubble and curved windshield makes perfect sense.

Plus, it was cooooool, man.

You can certainly see the influence jet-age
aerodynamic design concepts
had on automotive planners here.

Sure, I like the rocket vibe,
… but there are really cutting edge c1
aspects to shape and fit at work here.

If you look hard at the car,
you start to notice design features
that carried directly into later production cars ,

….. not just by G.M. ,
but by Ford and Chrysler, too.

And I can’t help but wonder
what kind of looks this car
would get on a Saturday nite cruise.

I don’t know if it’s a “chick magnet” —

……………… but it certainly attracts me !