In 1955, Chrysler presented its new line of cars to the general public Friday, October 29, 1954 - November, 17, 1954. The new line of vehicles was called the "Forward Look". From bumper to bumper and from their frames to their roof designs, the new Chrysler De Soto, Dodge, Imperial, and Plymouth models were completely restyled. It was a fresh, new and contemporary approach to car design.
Plymouth was a great automotive leader in making and selling affordable cars. In addition to great power and performance, the new 1955 Plymouth models also produced sales advantages within the markets among new car buyers. The Plymouth models were introduced on November 17, 1954 and many models and color combinations were offered to the buying public. The advertising campaign introduced the new models as the "Young in Heart". 1955 was the year that brought the automotive industry out of the slump of 1954. The corporation spent over $250 million dollars on design development and tooling costs, which later proved to be a great investment.
The 1955 DeSoto models were styled for tomorrow. This concept was also used in their advertising campaign to promote DeSoto. The models offered completely new cars for 1955. The Fireflite Sportsman and the Firedome were very popular among consumers.
DeSoto also offered a special edition Coronado during its springtime introduction. Mr. L.I Woolson, DeSoto President, was quoted as saying, "The 1955 DeSoto models contained more styling innovations and engineering advances new to the industry than any new car since the advent of the first DeSotos in 1928". The DeSoto lines of ‘55, were completely new and were longer and wider. The models offered the new "Forward Look" design which expressed fleetness, power, and outstanding performance.
For 1955, Chrysler introduced the Windsor Deluxe, Windsor, Windsor Deluxe Nassau, New Yorker and New Yorker Deluxe. Chrysler offered only two convertibles in 1955. The Windsor Deluxe and the New Yorker Deluxe model sold for $3,924 dollars and only 946 models were actually built.
All Chrysler models were very popular among consumers however the most exclusively high-performance model was the Chrysler 300 model - 1955 C-300. The Chrysler 300 models took first place at the 1955 Daytona Speed Week competition held in late February. In the American Stock Car Flying Mile Class the 300 C-300 finished first.
The Imperial of ’55 was a completely separate and distinct line of automobiles. The Imperial models were shown to the public in major cities across the country on November 17, 1954. The Imperial’s body was not shared with any other car in the Chrysler Corporation line and was built on its own assembly line. Imperials were available in only two models in 1955, the Crown and the Custom six passenger sedan (which also came in a hardtop).
The 1955 Dodge models were very popular because of its styling and sales were up dramatically. Dodge offered "Flair-Fashion" styling and with the introduction of the Dodge La Femme, Dodge attempted to appeal to its female consumers. Dodge offered ten body styles along with its La Femme and station wagon models to the public. New for the "Forward Look" models were three-tone color combinations such as Jewell Black, Heather Rose, and Sapphire White.
Chrysler’s styling women were also a part of the design process for the "Forward Look" models. Ms. Lucille Pieti, a member of Chrysler corporation's engineering & design division, spoke to the American Society of body Engineers at their annual convention. She shared that "What really complicates the color picture is that only about 20 percent of the women select their favorite color-the one that they like most. The remaining 80 percent is divided between those who select the flattering color and those who select the fashionable color…The result has been that women have made the car designers fashion conscious…The men in automobile styling studios are now reading women's fashion and home furnishing magazines, looking for ideas to adapt".
In conclusion, the "Forward Look" models were great sales leaders. On announcement day over 1000 Chrysler dealers reported that 1,500,000 people jammed dealer showrooms across the nation to see the first showing of the new Chrysler line models. Mr. E. M. Braden, who was general sales manager for Chrysler Division, Chrysler Corporation said "This is the greatest public reception and acceptance ever given our product in Chrysler's history. Mr Virgil Exner, Ms. Lucille Pieti, Mr. Henry King, Mr.Harold Pilkey, and many others were apart of Chrysler’s great styling team in 1955. Chrysler produced great automobiles and their legacy will always be a part of automotive history.
A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. (Bibliography: Ackerson C. Robert. "Chrysler 300 America's Most Powerful Car". Veloce publishing PLC, 1996. Mc Pherson A. Thomas. "The Dodge Story" . Motorbooks International, Crestline Publishing 1975. Butler Don. " The DeSoto And Plymouth Story". Crestline Publishing, 1978. Dammann H. George. " 70 Years Of Chrysler" . Crestling Publishing 1974. Chrysler Corporation Thirtieth Annnual Report December 31, 1954.)
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