Car Show Capsule: 1959 Chrysler Windsor Coupe – Suddenly, It’s Still 1957!

Can you believe we’ve had posts on the 1959 Imperial, Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, the exclusive 300E and even the fascinating Ozzie market Royal (with cheese), but the standard 1959 Chrysler has never had its day on CC yet? We Well, as luck would have it, your second-favourite Tokyo CCorrespondent found this great big slice of Americana in France last summer. We’re truly going global here, folks.

Nineteen fifty-nine is often said to have been the height of the American car design’s wildest age, and looking at General Motors’ offerings, that case can certainly be made. Mopar’s output, though, still hadn’t reached the finned peak of madness. It’s debatable whether that took place in 1960 or 1961, but the ‘59s were not quite there yet. Virgil Exner still had more very, very weird surprises in store for the world.

Still, from a 21st Century perspective, this Chrysler is pure Exnerian excess and gleaming chrome. Again, not as bad as some (looking at you, Cadillac, Imperial and Lincoln), and certainly not as odd as the canted headlights of the 1961 Chryslers. In fact, the face of the ‘59s is a tad anonymous, compared to say Dodge or Plymouth, but a restrained Virgil is usually preferable to the alternative.

The big news for 1959 was the “Golden Lion” wedge-head V8 (a.k.a. RB engine), which graced Windsors and Saratogas in its 383ci (6.3 litre) form. This engine was apparently only used for MYs 1959 and 1960 and does not seem to have a great reputation, though I’m not sure why. New Yorkers and the 300E got the larger 413ci (6.8 litre) version, which lived on for a couple decades.

These engine options clearly indicate the pecking order of the Chrysler range, which we will explore forthwith. The Windsor, identified by its zigzagging side-trim, was the lower end of the Chrysler range. The 300E, with its carry-over 1958 frontal styling, was the sporty halo car and the New Yorker was the luxury model.

This leaves the middle child Saratoga to complete the range – the best-looking of the bunch with that swooping side trim, for my money. Speaking of which, our Windsor coupe, which would have been the cheapest car in the range, cost a minimum of $3230 back in 1959, whereas the 300E convertible retailed at $5749 at the other extreme.

Base trim though it may be, our Windsor is still a Chrysler, with a superb chrome-festooned dash, acres of tinted glass and plush seats. Can anybody let the rest of us know if said upholstery appears original, by the way? The Chrysler brochure illustrations don’t look like this, but perhaps there were upgrades available.

Speaking of upgrades: rear power windows, eh? Someone went and ticked off the options list with gusto. Ah well, it’s par for the course in a car like this, I suppose.

The fins came at no extra cost, naturally. Remaining very 1957 in their shape, they look less aggressive than those present on most other marques, but still rather sharp.

Not quite sharp enough, as it turned out: Chrysler produced just a shade under 70,000 cars for 1959. Slightly better than the dismal ’58s, but far from impressive and making ’59 the second-worst model year for Chrysler between 1946 and 1980. Not sharp, but certainly painful.

It seems the buying public was not keen on the Forward Look’s last hurrah, Golden Lion or not. This relative rarity makes it all the more appealing nowadays, of course. Though not a roaring success in its day, this Windsor still edges close to purr-fection.