In an odd sort of CC Effect, I found this silver/gray ’59 Dodge for sale online–it’s the one-year-earlier counterpart to my recently acquired ’60 Dodge Dart. I thought my Dart was kind of unique because it is solid Pewter Iridescent, but apparently someone else buying a new Dodge in ’59 decided that he or she was going to eschew the vivid pastel two-tones that were offered and go for this single-tone metallic shade. It’s the polar opposite of the car featured here.
The “grayscale” look brings out a whole different aspect to the design. Whether you like it, or don’t like it, it is striking in a sort of creepy/fascinating way. I wonder how it would look cleaned and polished up.
There’s this look of calculated aggression–you have to wonder what the designers were thinking: “This is modern–this will beat competition!” “This is exciting and new!” It’s one thing for say, Ferrari to produce an aggressive-looking, wild sports car, charge an extremely high price for it, and sell maybe 1,000 copies to hardcore enthusiasts. It’s quite another for a mainline American manufacturer of popular-priced, mass market family-type cars to come out with a design like this. The idea of commuters, mothers out shopping, and little old ladies going to church in these exaggerated, science fiction dream-car monsters is kind of bizarre.
The rear view is just as dramatic and otherworldly. Dodge referred to these as Jet-Trail Tail Lights “which add a dashing flair to the ’59 Dodge. Unquestionably the most distinctive styling note of the year!”
Actually, there was a special Dodge model that was available exclusively in silver–the Dodge Silver Challenger.
It was introduced in the spring to try to spark more sales. It was basically a Coronet 2-door sedan with a specific option package, priced low. However, our featured Coronet is not one of these.
I’ve always liked the horn ring design. Reminds me of . . .
. . . the controls of the Twin Beech that Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney were “piloting” in the hilarious movie, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World!
This is the front view of the intricate cockpit that those two knuckleheads were facing, in case you’ve never seen one.
The instrument panel, like the rest of the car, definitely reflects that aeronautic spirit which was so in vogue at the time. The speedometer consists of little rectangular spaces which fill up with color (green, then yellow, then red) as speed increases. A little golden knight head fills in the space where the clock would be.
The revolving door above the radio is the ashtray.
Dodge had this yin-yang slogan, “The Newest of Everything Great! The Greatest of Everything New!” In those days, the car that was “all-new” usually outsold competing cars that were merely “face-lifted”. Give the people what they want! (The ’59 is actually a face-lifted 1957-58 design, but we won’t tell ’em that!)
A lot of the ballyhooed “newness” of this Dodge consisted of “futuristic” option gimmicks of questionable value: swivel seats, “Magic-Eye” automatic headlight control, “Mirro-Matic” self-dimming rear view mirror, “Co-Pilot” speed warning light. Most of these add-ons found few takers. Adding a PARK position to the transmission, which would have added immeasurably to ease and convenience–that they couldn’t do!
But underneath all the glitz, these were in fact great automobiles for their time. They were probably the best riding/handling cars in their class, with good power. Dodge claimed in a TV ad that they “sprinkled them with stardust” at the factory. I believe it!
When I see unique and under-appreciated cars like this for sale, weathered and dirty and probably needing a lot of work, I always wonder what happens to them. It’s truly a miracle that something like this has been preserved intact while 99% of its fellows were compressed into bales and melted down 50 years ago. Trouble is, sympathetic restorers willing to invest time and treasure to save a car like this are rarer than the cars themselves.