A bit over a month ago, Jack Lord did a CC on a rare find: a 1955 Plymouth sedan. 1955 marked the beginning of the great 1950s two tone paint jobs, and Plymouth was there with the rest. The only problem was that Plymouth’s two tone treatments were, well, sort of forgettable. The high end Belvedere looked OK at best, and the job given to the Savoy that Jack found was, well, unfortunate.
It was with great fanfare that I put out the call to the multi-talented CC readership. I just knew that you could do a better job. Even though the two or three of you who remembered figured that I had forgotten this project, I have not.
For those who may have missed the beginning of this project, I found a very plain, unadorned ’55 Plymouth (a business coupe, no less) as our starter kit. This car would serve as the blank canvas for our readership’s design playground. My email inbox was graced with two very attractive proposals, and I have tossed in a couple of ideas myself.
Drew Wescott was the first entrant. Drew’s treatment gave us a pleasant blue and white color combination with a lot of great chrome detail added around the windows of the plain Jane Plaza. But the focal point of Drew’s submission is a concept that Drew described as sporty, but clean. Who can disagree? The two stainless spears with the contrasting color panel on the rear quarters is a simple and attractive concept.
The second entrant was Cooper Melton, better known hereabouts as Lampredotto. I will let Cooper describe his concept in his own words: “I sought a design that was tasteful (at least by 1955 standards) but dynamic and exuberant. The forward thrust of the longitudinal chrome spear and the chrome “induction” grille at the door’s trailing edge are, like eight hundred million other mid-Fifties automotive styling exercises, inspired by jet design. (When in Rome…) Limiting the two-toning to the upper rear quarter panel emphasizes the car’s fledgling tailfins.”
A three tone concept? Or perhaps just the shadowing from the original. The turquoise and white combo is a favorite of mine, so its a good thing we are not dealing with fabulous cash prizes. Cooper’s treatment certainly makes for an attractive car.
Alas, only Drew and Cooper were inspired to go to work and put their ideas out there for us to mull over and enjoy. But never fear. Even though some of our talented commentators were unable to make submissions, your intrepid author has stepped into the breach with a couple of additional ideas. Please ignore the steep dropoff in the quality of the graphics. This is, as the current saying goes, not in my wheelhouse. But with a little fiddling, I came up with a couple of simple ideas.
This one is predictive of the very attractive two tone treatment of the 1956 Plymouth Fury and the 1957 Fury and Belvedere. To me, the contrasting color spear lengthens and lowers the car. A much more conservative treatment than on the Dodge, I think that it slims down an otherwise sort of chubby basic shape. Or on second look, maybe not.
A second concept is quite similar to the actual treatment used on the 1955 Belvedere. The difference is the elimination of that contrived backslash on the door. In its place, a pretty basic division between the upper and lower parts of the body.
So, there you have it. Through the thoughtful submissions of two talented commentators (supplemented by a couple by your less talented correspondent), we have some ideas of what the 1955 Plymouth could have been. Most interesting to me is how these four very different treatments change the entire look of the car. Drew’s drawing squares up the car while Cooper’s proposal softens it. The last two, well you be the judge. I think that the last one lowers the car while the third photo lengthens it but still lets the shape show off its curves. So how do these styling ideas strike the Commentariat?
Just think, with a couple of tweaks to the chrome and some alternative swipes of a spraygun, the ’55 Plymouth could have become the icon of 1950s America. It would have been so popular that Chrysler would have put off the ’57 model until 1958, giving it a much needed additional year of development. Of course, it would have been a smash hit in 1958 too, and its natural attributes coupled with Chrysler’s traditional high quality would have vaulted Chrysler back to number two of the big three and made it a worldwide powerhouse through the 1970s and right up to today. Plymouth would probably be the number one selling brand today. As we learned in the Back to the Future trilogy, you never know when a seemingly insignificant change can have a tremendous impact on history. Anyone else care for some Kool-Ade?
I like it plain best, but then that’s just me. Of these, your first treatment (’57-ish) works by far the best. Nice!
Drat – I knew I was forgetting something! Drew’s entry emphasizes the length of the car nicely but is a bit too Moderne for my tastes. Cooper’s captures a bit more of a racey feel, but the scoop is at a location that draws your eye to the vertical line of the B pillar, which tend to break up the linearity and make the car look taller. Tone the red down a bit on your sidespear (first image), and that works pretty nicely.
As I didn’t have or make time to create a concept, I’ll offer one from college industrial design school days instead (inspired by Bruce McCall, of course!).
And like 90% of the Fifties two-tones, I’ll take mine in one solid color, thank you.
My dad was a traveling salesman and put around 30k a year on a car, which means he bought a new car every year. The 1953 salesmanmobile was a gray, chromeless, beyond boring Dodge two-door. Then one rainy day in 1954 my dad walked into my kindergarten class and asked Sister Syphlitica if he could pop me early. I though, what have I done now? Outside I couldn’t believe my eyes! A brand new 1954, baby blue, Mercury Custom 2dr. Those huge rear tailights were the most beautiful things I had ever laid eyes on. Full hubcaps! A V8! Next year was followed by a ’55 Mercury Custom in mint green. 1956 brought even greater wonders. An Olds 88 2dr with two-tone paint, white over red! And the first car we had with an automatic transmission. I remember going on a sales trip to Maine with my dad. Late afternoon, setting sun, on the way to Skowhegan. 90 mph. Quite serene. I had my Revell kit catalog for ’56 and read that as we headed for our hotel.
Give me the plain wrapper on this one, please.
Jackson Pollack’s Plymouth Makeover.
I’m always late to reply, but I must say I love Lampredotto’s big chrome lance running down the body side. Great work. And I also quite like both of your options too, jpc. Thanks for sticking this up here. I would like more challenges like these, maybe next time we can get a little more than two entrants and six comments! 🙂
I haven’t the digital skills to suggest a treatment, but this gets me thinking about possibilities—the kind of decisions being made for the ’55 model not too long after I was born, I figure.
For fun, below is what’s in the 1956 brochure, the-same-only different.
BTW, JPC (if you didn’t know of this), Popular Mechanics did a length story on the development of the ’55, with the timeline, sketches, clays and prototpying and more: https://books.google.com/books?id=390DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA128&dq=1955+plymouth&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjx98yP0MzuAhUDCM0KHc-CBHYQ6AEwAXoECAAQAg#v=onepage&q=1955%20plymouth&f=false