Saturday, September 14, 2013

1953 Dodge Coronet V-Eight Club Coupe

"Your first glimpse of this Dodge tells you: Here is a car that is planned for action! You see it in the sleek, trim lines of this low and lively beauty  . . .  in the flowing sweep of the fenders from front to rear. No unnecessary 'bulges' mar the clean-lined perfection of this great performer. It's neat, compact, for easy maneuvering and handling. Yet, there's more room than ever inside, with spacious Travel-Lounge interiors that make every mile more pleasant."

Now, here's a car that you don't see quite often on Cuban roads. You can find Mopar's 4-door sedans of that era aplenty, but a Dodge Coronet V-Eight Club Coupe, bearing the "Jet Air-Flow Hood" that indicates V-8 Hemi power inside, is a rarity, even if its not the top-of-the-line Coronet Diplomat hardtop.

At the dawn of the style-hungry 50s, Dodge didn't have much more to offer than the "Keller boxes": roomy, sensible cars with a solid build quality, but without much verve. Contrary to GM and Ford at the time, the design department at Chrysler still was part of Engineering. Designers under lead of Henry King would deliver their sketches to engineers, who would translate these ideas into technical drawings that the clay modelers would execute into 3D models. The Designers had not much influence in the eventual output, and you could sense that in the final results. Although the 1953 Dodges looked softer and leaner than their stodgy predecessors, they were no match for the glitzy new Chevrolets and Fords, that dominated the low price car field.

Change was overdue, and in summer 1953, Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller appointed Virgil Exner (who had joined Chrysler as chief of Chrysler's Advanced Styling in 1949) as boss of the newly established Chrysler Styling Department. Exner's vision should come to full effect with the inspiring new "Forward Look" design direction in 1955, but for the current models there was not much he could do.

However, more convincing than the styling, was what happened under the hood: in 1953, Dodge introduced the "Red Ram V-Eight" engine. It was essentially a downsized version of Chrysler's mighty "FirePower" Hemi V-8 engine with hemispherical combustion chambers. The "Red Ram" engine produced 140 horsepower, which was pretty much at the time.

Consequently, Dodge's advertisers waxed ecstatic: "Power-Packed Beauty, action engineered for active Americans!" And indeed, the V-8 powered Dodges were fast cars. Yet, not many customers fell for the bold advertisement claims. 32,438 Coronet V-Eight Club Coupes were just a small margin of Dodge's total output of 304,000 cars in 1953. While the Dodges looked more handsome than before, they actually had become smaller than their predecessors, which was a strange move in a time when bigger generally was considered better. More than that, they looked short and slim beside the even-longer, even-lower and even-wider looking cars from GM or Ford. And compared to well over one million cars from Ford and Chevrolet respectively, Dodge remained being a pretty small fish.

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