Wednesday, March 27, 2013

1949 Chrysler Windsor 4-door Sedan

"Beautiful — smart — distinctive — so utterly different from other cars in so many ways. A car that was designed from the inside out — with your comfort, convenience and safety always in mind. More room for your legs, more room above your head, more shoulder-room. And wider seats that are scientifically designed for chair-height comfort so that you can ride completely relaxed. There's better visibility, too, in all directions. You can see more out of the new, larger windshield, the wider rear window and the extra-large side windows. The hood is shorter and the steering wheel is lower, so that you have better 'see-ability' over the front."

As you can see in the picture, Chrysler's all-new postwar models were still large cars by all means, even if they followed suit with the general industry trend towards a lower silhouette. In the 40s and early 50s, Chrysler was extremely cautious and conservative when it came to progressive design. This was largely owed to the disastrous experience with the very advanced 1934 - 1937 Chrysler Airflow, but also to Chrysler's chairman K.T. Keller, who demanded practical cars with a vast interior space above everything else. What theoretically would have been a noble and customer friendly affair, fired back to Chrysler when the postwar car market became saturated and profoundly changed at the dawn of the 50s. Swiftly, a good look moved up to the top of the customers' "check-lists" when shopping for their new cars. And the stodgy "Keller boxes" of the Chrysler Corporation offered anything but that.

Another matter that Chrysler's stylists, directed by Henry King, failed to address was to define a distinctive look for each Chrysler brand. Above all, Harley Earl at GM had quite early initiated the development of characteristic design themes that should make cars of each GM brand instantly recognizable, regardless of the similar proportions that were dictated by sharing the basic bodies. Chrysler cars, however, did look very similar in 1949. Sure, the more expensive Chrysler sported more formal chrome trim than the "lesser" brands and rode on a longer wheelbase. Yet, proportionally all "Keller boxes" looked alike, and, at a quick glance, a Chrysler could quite easily be mistaken for a much cheaper Dodge or Plymouth. In a time when the private car was still a big investment and an ultimate status symbol, this certainly was a "no-go" issue for Chrysler's more affluent customers.

Still, these Chryslers offered a sound build quality, which is one reason why so many "Keller boxes" survived in Cuba until today. And after a transitory generation, Chrysler should strike back in terms of styling, when Virgil Exner's new "Forward Look" design was unleashed in 1955.

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