After a tussle with Raymond Loewy over who was to be credited for Studebaker’s groundbreaking 1947 Starlight Coupe, Exner landed at Chrysler in 1949, in the advanced styling studio. It took a bit of time for him to exert his influence over the conservative Design Department there. His strong interest in European design led to a number of prototypes that were designed by him and a small team and built by Ghia in Italy (Ghia was cheaper than Farina). The first significant one was the K310 of 1951, which previewed a number of design features soon to be seen in production Chryslers:
Flush door handles, open wheel wells with wire wheels, egg-crate grille, free-standing bomb-sight taillights, and that irrepressible Exner signature spare tire imprint on the rear deck. To my knowledge, this is the first appearance of Exner’s long-lived “toilet seat lid”. Built on a 125″ wb Saratoga chassis, the K-310 it also featured Chrysler’s superb new 180 hp Hemi engine.
The K310’s mission in life was to tour dealerships around the country to show that Chrysler was not totally stuck in a box.
In reality, the K310 and its successor Ghia built specials’ influence was limited, at least for a few more years, until Exner’s influence in the conservative company finally took hold for the new 1955 line. But the series of design specials that originated at this time in Exner’s studio are some of the best of his work, especially the ones that followed the K310. Tomorrow night’s dreams will be good ones.
There are many, many sexy lines on that car, but the snoot is not one of them.
Looks like it’s related to Bender. It’s a very cool look though, I love it.
Reminds me of the Barris movie car, The Car.
And this too:
Wow! A real version!! The GP never even crossed my mind. I forgot how much vacant real estate there was on the face of that car!
Somebody mount a continental kit to the trunk, stat!
No conti kit required; the toilet seat had already been added by none other than Exner himself:
Okay, I’ll be the first one then. I’ve always thought this an elegant car, love those curvaceous lines and free-standing taillights. Very European in its style, perhaps that’s why such negative reaction?
When they removed the quad lights and smaller chrome grille from the ’69 model I originally thought that it was a mistake. Over the years looking at Pontiac’s ads where they displayed Classic cars in the background, or in the garage as this TV ad shows, I realized that they were trying to tie it to Classic designs. I found this ad on YouTube,here’s the link.
The look has grown on me, and I actually like all the painted body metal on the front end.
And this, from 1938, the Hispano Suiza Dubbonet Xenia
This car was styled at a time when car designs were in transition from separate hoods and fenders toward integrated front ends. Given this, the separation of hood/grille and fenders looks a little retro to me.
The VW Karman-Ghia owes a huge debt to Exners’ 53 Chrysler D’Elegance.
You’re running a day ahead!
With a dash of bullet nose Studebaker thrown in. 😉
In general, headlights placed too far inboard aren’t pleasing to my eye.
That plus the inward-facing scoops/scallops around the lights give it a rather unfortunate-looking ‘face’.
It’s a very European looking car spoilt only by the toilet seat
Loewys multipane rear window was kept I see same as the Hillman Californian in fact quite a few cues are still there from Loewy Nice car and certainly a real change at Chrysler.
It has the appeal of a swimsuit model from 1949.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Personally given a time machine to head back to 1949 one thing I WOULDN’T miss would be what passes for “models” today.
It is Nancy Reagan sexy. You know it looked good to a lot of guys back in that era, but it’s styling language is so dated I can’t overlook it’s blatant weirdness.
Those tail lights, that trunk deck – once again Exner is swinging for the fences but the game wasn’t baseball – it was tennis.
Well, also, I think Exner’s assignment from Keller was basically, “Make it as out-there as you can without making it so wild no one will believe we’d ever actually build something like it.” Chrysler wanted the concept cars to be on the radical side.
The whole reason Exner was hired is that Keller was stung by the criticism of Chrysler’s styling and concerned that it would make shareholders restless. The purpose of the concept cars was at least in part to reassure shareholders that Chrysler was thinking about the future.
KT Keller took alot of heat over the Airflow’s styling in the 30’s, and it cost them alot of sales. He knew if his trends didn’t change, he was out of a job. Virgil Exner was just the right guy at the right time! And the rest is history.
The thrice pipes are an interesting detail for a V8 powered car. For an inline 6 powered machine they might make a little sense.
It’s interesting how there doesn’t appear to be but a few plumb lines on that body…especially seen in the door photo. I mean, hand-built, I understand, but the fit and finish certainly seems lacking for a show car.
Plumb as in perfectly vertically straight? Or? No, the lines are all curved and flowing, for sure. And it’s probably a bit hard to tell the workmanship from that picture, but Ghia cars were generally pretty well built, for the times.
A miswording…in the picture of the door, the liner appears to be sagging…
Reminds of the Skylark/Eldorado from 1953, why didn’t they just make it as a limited production Imperial flagship coupe?
Production considerations, mainly. Chrysler did consider it, but Ghia didn’t have the capacity at that point to build more than a handful (even with the later GS-1/ST Special, which Ghia did produce for sale, production was something fewer than 50 cars in about three years) and of course there were also import duties to consider. It wasn’t likely to sell in sufficient numbers to justify setting up a U.S. assembly line, and basically Chrysler concluded they would probably lose money even with $10K+ price tag.
That front end brings to mind the full-size ’55-’56 Nash, and all of these inboard headlight arrangements remind me of a pair of pince-nez glasses. Could Nash have cribbed from this design?
The K-310 was widely shown and seen, so it’s conceivable, but I think the more obvious inspiration for the ’55-’56 Nash’s inset lights was the Farina-styled 1952 Nash-Healey.
Reminds me of a Facel Vega….with Chrysler V8 power.
A gorgeous car,Chrysler V8s were used in many Euro/American exotica.We had the Bristol and Jensen both on my wish list
This vehicle has such elegant lines. Really beautiful.
Here’s a question – what car would be the best basis for a replica of the K-310? Nothing jumps out at me, perhaps it will at 3am.
Ideally you’d use a Chrysler product but I think starting with a body that might be closer to the mark as a starting point and then swapping in a Chrysler driveline could be easier. I’d prioritise taking hours out of the build over what I think would be a futile quest for absolute originality. I gather the original car is no longer around for reference?
I’m surprized nobody mentioned the obvious inspiration…
Such a sleek rear 3/4 view, but that simulated spare tire and those pasted on taillights! It looks like ‘ol Virj pilfered the microphones from the studios of the nearest radio station.
As a car-crazy kid born in the early 60’s, I positively detest any taillight that appears to be a tacked-on afterthought. The more integrated into the body and expressive, the better. The Ford Galaxies were the best, but I was also fond of the six lights on the Chevy Impalas.