Monday, June 20, 2016

1951 Dodge Coronet

"THERE COMES A DAY of decision in everyone's life . . . whether to stay with the old, or step out and up with the bold and the new! You'll never know more thrilling excitement than when you slide behind the wheel of a 1951 Dodge, whether it be stunning convertible, practical sedan or proud station wagon. Dodge for '51 brings you more of everything you want . . . more vision, more roominess, more comfort, more safety. It is literally true you can pay up to a thousand dollars more for a car and still not get all the extra-value features that are built into those great Dodge cars. We say, 'Drive the new 1951 Dodge for five minutes and you'll drive it for years.' "

If aired in Cuba today, Dodge's advertisement would probably sound like a threat rather than a promise to the owner of this Dodge Coronet from Ciego de Avila. Here, you'll need to drive the car for years, and even decades, as there's yet no real alternative to vintage Detroit iron if you want to own a private car. Dodge's top-of-the-line car for 1951 at least offers plenty of space and a comfortable ride.

Among Detroit's "Big Three", the Chrysler Mopars definitely underwent the most dramatic transformation in the early 1950s. The streamlined Chrysler Airflow of 1934 had been decidedly advanced in styling and technology, but turned out to be a commercial disaster. In response to this experience, Chrysler became extremely conservative in the following years, putting practicality and a sound engineering before everything else. The first generation of the all-new postwar Mopars was still developed in this mindset. Nicknamed after Chrysler president K.T. Keller, these "Keller boxes" excelled with quality, but certainly not with style.

Chrysler designers under styling chief Henry King worked miracles to modernize the look of the "Keller boxes" with the 1951 facelift. Yet, there wasn't much they could do: Chrysler's stylists were still subordinate to engineering, and thus had to obey all conservative engineering decisions. Because the structural body was carried over unchanged, the cars kept on looking pretty stodgy and angular. But the new front end with its much softer sculpted bonnet and the low, horizontal front grille made the car blend much better with the contemporary trends. While the design wasn't yet a match for the fashionable competition, the gap was closing.

Chrysler president K.T. Keller was responsible for the stodgy and conservative "Keller boxes", but to his credit he also hired talented designer Virgil Exner from Studebaker in 1949 to lead the Chrysler Advanced Styling Group. After creating some stunning show cars, Exner should become head of Chrysler styling in 1953, and the "Forward Look" Mopars — the first generation of Exner-styled cars — should instantly catapult Chrysler to the top of the automotive fashion game.

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