Cohort Capsule: 1962 Chrysler Saratoga – Finless Postmodernism

Photos from the Cohort by robadr. 

Let’s pay a brief visit to Canadian Mopars with this find from the Cohort by robadr. A 1962 Chrysler Saratoga, a model that has appeared at CC before thanks to another robadr find. Rather than trying to reword what Paul wrote for that entry, I’ll repeat that the Saratoga was Canada’s mid-line Chrysler, carrying a nameplate that had disappeared from the US marketplace in 1960:

With the arrival of the entry-level Newport in 1961, the Windsor was pushed up a notch, bumping off the Saratoga. And in 1962, the 300 line was expanded, and in turn the Windsor was eliminated. But in Canada, the old model structure continued. And even in subsequent years, the Saratoga name soldiered on. In 1964, it was called the 300 Saratoga.

Yes, they did things a bit different up there.

If you want to check the ’62 Saratoga’s specs, those can be found in Paul’s previous post. In any case, a 1962 Chrysler is always a rather extraordinary find and worth a look. Both for their rarity nowadays and for the cars themselves. It’s well known the 1962 designs were hastily put together after rather questionable management decisions. And while the 1962 Plymouths and Dodges got their mutant looks as a result, ’62 Chryslers were a mix of ’61 Chrysler fronts and ’61 Dodge Polara redesigned rears. So, technically speaking, the ’62 Chryslers rehashed some ’61 themes.

It’s well known that the ’57-’63 (or so) period at Chrysler was quite the rollercoaster. From the trendsetting ’57s to a period of curious styling experimentation from ’60 to ’62. And considering that today’s find basically carries ’61 styling ideas, it seems to showcase concepts simmering around Detroit’s styling studios in those heady late 1950s. The unorthodox ’58 Lincolns, the out-of-this-world ’61 Plymouths, and the mutant ’61 Dodges serve as examples. Proposals that seemed to question the basic assumptions of what a car should look like (as many of GM’s 1959 mock-ups also showed). All while borrowing freely from various schools of design. How postmodern.

These ’62 Chryslers are not necessarily the best examples of that tendency, but they carry a good deal of it. The canted double headlights, the prominent center grille with the off-center badging, and the angry-looking turn signals ending in blacked-out branding around the fenders. All in a blunt nose with a rather plain bumper. And while the rest of Detroit had moved away from these tendencies by the early ’60s, they seemed to have remained around Chrysler studios longer than they should have.

Instead of cars, the front end of the ’62 Chrysler reminds me of 1950s electronics. And this radio with its non-symmetric modernist design is a good example. Not that such a thing is necessarily bad, since cars are ultimately products. Some cross-pollinating is inevitable in the world of product design, be it cars, trucks, or radios.

Elsewhere, the postmodern aspect of the car comes further to the fore; mostly unintendedly. The finless rear end of the ’61 Polara got redesigned with curious concave sculpting, and the body was still topped by the 1950s greenhouse from the Eisenhower era. All with slab sides that aim to the classy ’60s.

And to finish the whole amalgam, lots of the 1950s Googie interior remained (sans steering wheel in today’s find):

Walking around this ’62 Chrysler must feel like revisiting 7 to 8 years of Detroit’s mid-century styling. Quite the time-travel trip… in just one car; from the mid-50s to the eccentric late 50s, to the future 1960s.

Now, considering the Chrysler ’62 lineup was put together by corporate rule and that Chrysler’s VP of design Virgil Exner was recovering from a heart attack while the ’61s were conceived, it’s hard to pinpoint who truly deserves credit -or blame- for these 1962 Chryslers. And I’m not even sure if the postmodern label truly applies to these cars, but their looks certainly come from a mix of tendencies. All rather postmodern (that word again) in approach, whether intended or not.


Related CC reading:

Cohort Classic Capsule: 1962 Chrysler Saratoga – Canada’s Mid-Line Chrysler

Vintage MT review: 1962 Chrysler Newport – Big Car Power And Luxury