Automotive Intelligence - the web for automotive professionals and car enthusiasts
June 20, 2007
The next opportunity to see a Plymouth emerge from the ground in Tulsa will be in 2037, when the city will unearth a 1997 Prowler buried in Centennial Park as part of a celebration of the city's founding. Hopefully 2007’s technology will provide a more substantial cover.
The revolutionary design of the 1957 Belvedere was appropriate for the Tulsa time capsule: Oklahoma Golden Jubilee chairman W.A. Anderson declared the finned Plymouth had “the kind of lasting appeal that should be in style 50 years from now.”
This revolutionary Plymouth was the work of the styling team assembled in the early 1950s by famed designer Virgil Exner, notes Chrysler senior designer and design historian Jeffrey Godshall.
Hired from Studebaker in 1949, Exner first explored new directions in styling through a series of concept cars — or as Exner called them, “idea cars." This tradition of concept cars continues with today’s Chrysler.
After a spate of innovative “idea cars” such as the 1951 Chrysler K310 and the 1953 Chrysler d’Elegance, Exner was given responsibility for the styling of the company’s production cars. His first advanced designs in 1955 — referred to as The Forward Look — were followed by the “Flight Sweep” cars of 1956, marking the first time an automobile manufacturer applied fins to its entire line of vehicles.
With even larger towering fins, the ’57 Plymouth was a stunner, Godshall said.
The extreme lowness of the car, its light-looking roof supported by thin pillars and the big fins gave the exciting new Plymouth the wedge-shaped silhouette that Exner and his staff were looking for — the same shape used in military aircraft, Gold Cup racing boats and ballistic missiles.
And the fins were functional as well. Contemporary wind tunnel testing proved they reduced the need for steering corrections in strong crosswinds.
The new ‘57s were enthusiastically embraced by a buying public who saw the big fins as a symbol of a future of carefree living, Godshall said. The combination of advanced styling, Torsion-Aire ride and Torqueflite transmission enabled Plymouth to recapture its status among the leaders in auto industry sales.
Photos: Tulsa Archives, Bryan Campbell/Tulsarama
(June 15, 2007)