Another detail from my 1962 Plymouth & Dodge article I forgot to elaborate on: the most almost-universal version of these cars’ origins is that Chrysler’s Bill Newberg heard (or overheard) from Ed Cole that Chevrolet was going to build a downsized Chevy for 1962, and that this happened at a Detroit area garden party. Only one problem: this event would have had to happen in the winter of 1959-1960. Did they have winter garden parties in Detroit, back in the pre-global warming era?
The Corvair was officially unveiled on October 2, 1959. It’s a pretty well-accepted fact (and withstands the logic test) that Chevy GM Ed Cole made the decision to build the Chevy II two months after the Corvair went on the market, by which time it was utterly clear that the Falcon was trouncing it in the sales by a two-to-one margin, and that the Corvair would never be a proper competitor to it.
That puts the date of his decision on or about December 2, 1959. So even if Newberg did hear something from Cole along those lines, that would have happened sometime thereafter. An Christmas garden party?
That time frame does create a bit of a question too, even if it was an indoor holiday party. These images are dated February 1960, and assuming that date is correct, it shows that the downsized Dodge (lower center) was already looking almost identical its final design. Which is quite possible, given that supposedly the designers were put on double shifts for a while after the decision to downsize was made.
I know it’s a minor detail as whether it was a garden party or Christmas party or whatever, but it does show how these stories are fraught, or get corrupted over time.
Yes, my bet would be that there was a growing panic in the executive offices from the terrible sales losses of 1958-59, and when the new 60 models were not selling any better by, say, November or December of 59, the panic turned to action. Rambler was scaring more than just Studebaker, it would appear.
In 1960 Rambler came in fourth and nearly beat Plymouth for third. In 1961 Rambler did beat Plymouth for third. (Wikipedia)
The big car market we remember from the sixties was still in their future. Sensible-size cars with space-age styling probably looked like a good idea in 1960. Who knew these old-fashioned Ramblers would beat Mopar again in ’62?
A few months after the ’62 B body debut:
Reporter: “Who’s big idea were these new smaller family cars? These are flopping!
ChyCo source: “Oh, that guy we just fired, Newburg, he overheard …..”
Tex Colbert must have been an incredible sleazeball. All indications are that he threw his one-time close friend, Bill Newberg, under the bus to save not only his own neck, but his legacy at Chrysler. It wouldn’t be surprising if it ever came out that, if he wasn’t directly responsible for the rumor, Colbert at least had ‘something’ to do with the fabricated cocktail party story.
He succeeded, too. No one remembers Colbert as the party responsible for the ’62 downsizing debacle; Newberg (and Exner) get the blame..
Of course, it didn’t buy Colbert much time as, soon enough, he was cashiered for Lynn Townsend.
Tex Colbert was no sleaze bucket. If anything, he saved Chrysler before Newberg could destroy the company. William Newberg threw his own self under the bus when he failed to disclose to Chrysler’s Board that he had substantial holdings in outside Chrysler holdings. That was a conflict of interest, combined with chaos he created for the 1962 Chrysler line (the myth of the new, smaller “full size” cars was debunked within weeks) made it impossible for the company to stop the redesign process and have vehicles ready by the fall of 1961 for 1962’s introduction. Colbert’s mistake was in recommending Newburg without throughly vetting him. But throwing Newberg under a bus? No, no.
The Saarinens at Cranbrook were design gods and tastemakers, they were also Finnish and if anybody knows how to have fun in the snow it’d be them. So I’ll say yes, there probably has been a mid-century mid-winter garden party and it probably involved a sauna.
Sauna time likely did not involve executives from the Big 3 manufactures making the trek from Grosse Pointe a) on the basis of good taste, and b) because anybody at decision making level was on vacation in Florida anyway.
Too cruel? Sorry
Just speaking personally, no, we did not have garden parties in the middle of a Detroit winter. Sledding, yes, but I didn’t see many auto executives there.
Perhaps the Belle Isle Conservatory was available? 😉
Ah, I loved that place growing up. Especially around Easter; great early flowers.
No, I’ve never heard of a winter garden party. Sledding, snowmobiling, and other snow-based activities, yes. Anything that’s stationary and thus allows the cold to really set into the bones? No.
It was the late ’50s and auto execs. I’m sure there was a party. It might have been garden-themed. And, the guests were probably drunk enough to *believe* it was in an actual garden.
And that’s what matters, right? They *believed*!
On a whim, I searched the Detroit Free Press archives for 1959-60 for the term “garden party.” While there were plenty of garden parties described in the spring/summer, I found none in the winter (there were references to the term, but the articles either described parties elsewhere, or at another time). That’s certainly not a definitive answer, but it seems the term wasn’t used much in the winter.
Of course, there still could have been a party for the auto execs, but a proper garden party seems doubtful.
My wife’s family is from Michigan, and I can see Michiganders partying outside in December, but they wouldn’t call it a garden party, and I can’t see Detroit executives partaking too much.
Oddly, if you take a course in writing fiction, one of the things taught is to make very specific details in a claim. This lends credibility and makes it sound authentic, even though it is not. Adding the “garden” to the party adds a certain level of specificity, rather than (generic) “he overheard it at a party”. Had they said “kid’s birthday party” or “Christmas party” it would sound just as genuine, but less plausible, as I don’t think that the employees of the separate companies (Ford, GM, or Chrysler) mingled together much. A party that included execs from each company would have to be for a larger gala or event, rather than a more intimate event as implied, and no exec would dare expose company secrets at a large function. The more you think about it, the more it sounds like a structured fabrication than a true account of events.
There’s also the story of a Chrysler/Dodge dealer meeting, where pics of the upcoming 62’s were shown. Reaction was negative, with some dealers cancelling their franchises.
How true was this?
Curtis Redgap wrote a series of articles about his family’s involvement in a multi-line Mopar dealership. The last paragraph of this piece makes that claim. https://www.allpar.com/history/inside/plymouth-9-1961.html
A obscure 60s flashback: the well-tailored garden party attendee in the bowler hat is a spitting image of comedian Stan Freberg. Considering Freberg’s advertising background, maybe he was enlisted by GM for the then budding Corvair marketing effort.
A number of years ago, when the problems with Chrysler management during the 1960-61 period were first discussed in the auto hobby press, the story was that Newberg overheard Cole at the Detroit Athletic Club. A far more plausible scenario than a garden party.
It was Newberg who did the overhearing and advised the Chrysler board. Chrysler management wanted their new smaller Plymouth and Dart models to based on the Valiant-Lancer body, just as Ford was doing with the Fairlane-Meteor being based on the Falcon-Comet body. But the Valiant-Lancer body was too small and thus they had to come up with a new platform – what we now call the B body. And the stylists took the almost ready to go full-size 1962 Plymouth and Dart and shrunk them.
By the way, Chrysler knew they had a disaster with the smaller Plymouth and Dart in the summer of 1960. Instructions were given to give the 1963 models a more normal front end. And about six months after that, after seeing the new front ends, management decreed that the 1963 models should have new rear ends to match. In the meantime Chrysler management tightened their belts preparing for a year of tough selling. The 1962 models were not even in production in the spring of 1961 when Chrysler prepared for the worst.
Also, Newburg was not thrown under the bus by Colbert, Newberg threw himself under the bus. Turned out he had personal interests in a number of contractor firms that supplied parts to Chrysler. Newberg had become president of Chrysler on April 28, 1960, but was forced to resign 64 days later.
In the article by Curtis Redgap the author discusses the fate of DeSoto and Plymouth dealers. Before the Dart was introduced for 1960, all but a handful of US dealers sold Plymouth. Most of those Plymouth dealers also sold Dodge, the second largest group sold Chryslers with Plymouths and then there were the Plymouth-DeSoto dealers. With the introduction of the Dart for 1960, Dodge dealers dropped the Plymouth.
In 1960 the sales divisions were Plymouth-DeSoto, Dodge car and truck, and Chrysler-Imperial. When the DeSoto was dropped in November, 1960, most of the Plymouth-DeSoto dealers became Chrysler-Plymouth, and all Plymouth-Chrysler dealers became Chrysler-Plymouth. The Plymouth-DeSoto and Chrysler-Imperial Divisions were merged and became the Chrysler-Plymouth Division.
Mr. Redgap mentions that the 1962 Dodge was now on the same wheelbase as Plymouth – 116″ But the Dart was on the Plymouth’s 118″ wheelbase in 1960. Lynn Townsend, when he became president, declared that Dodge models must be bigger than the Plymouth and priced up market. Thus the 1963 Dodge wheelbase was extended to 119″ and the new C body Dodge wheelbase in 1965 was 2″ longer than the Fury. .
Colbert became chairman of the board when Newberg became president on April 28, 1960. When Newberg resigned on June 30, 1960, Colbert became president and chairman of the board. On July 27, 1961, Colbert resigned from his positions and also as board member.