Chrysler’s 1955 Forward Look cars were a huge step forward from their boxy predecessors. This shot, from Dave Galinas’ collection of vintage Kodachromes, shows what they were trading in.
Lovely. Just the thing if you want to leave your fedora on.
Sez the man who owns a car in which a fedora can easily be worn!
Yes, those cars easily met all Fedora Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
My dad was a confirmed fedora man and when he and mom got their brand-new ’55 Dodge, that was his big complaint. Room for all members of the family, except his fedora.
Great picture! I can just see the newspaper ads: “Dump the Fluid Drive for a ’55!” What a row of plump rumps.
One thing strikes me here – every one of the cars seems to have a stainless molding that separates the roof from the body. Yet every single one of the cars is a single color.
The first one I think is a 50 Plymouth, followed by a yellowish 49 Plymouth.
Given how dramatically the corporation’s market share had slumped between 1950 and 1954, I wouldn’t be surprised if corporate headquarters had strongly suggested to the dealers that they needed to target Ford and GM owners.
With the 1955s, they finally had a product that was fully competitive in style, power and features.
Many cars of that vintage sported that chrome roof surround.
My 1952 Chevy also had one, and you can guess where rust would form. Mine had a long hole halfway between the rear side glass and the backlight, right under that chrome strip!
Sure are a lot of grey and black cars in that lineup. They oughta try some brighter colors sometime!
My first thought too. Unfortunately if you substitute silver for grey it looks like many dealerships and parking lots today.
What goes around, comes around, as the old saw goes! Another wag referred to the 1946-54 era cars as the “grim years.”
I read somewhere that a chrome strip in that location is there to cover the weld seam between roof and quarter panel, because that’s cheaper than grinding down the bead.
I can only imagine if the 57s and their successors had been quality items
to match their looks and capabilities would they have put ford out of
For the ’57s to have been quality items, it’s likely they wouldn’t have appeared until ’58, or maybe even ’59! ?
As much as I love the ’57 Chrysler lineup, I hate how the quality suffered from being rushed into production, as well as the breakneck speed at which the production lines ran to keep up with demand.
Funny how I immediately recognized the Chrysler “ribbon” logo – I wasn’t anywhere near born when this picture was taken but completely know it from when it was re-used 40-odd years later. If they hadn’t re-used it I doubt I would have recognized it at a glance.
Those old cars all look exactly the same.
Same here. I honestly never knew that Chrysler’s logo from the 2000s was a re-use of an old logo until today. I grew up in the era when Chryslers all had the Pentastar logo on them.
I believe the rebirth of the ribbon logo was right around 1995-96. I know this only because I distinctly recall that the first LHS (a ’94) that my father leased as a company car had the Pentastar on the grille, and its successor 2 years later was an identical car in everything but exterior paint color and the fact that it sported the ribbon logo. My ’99 has the ribbon centered in the chrome wings. I’m not quite sure exactly which year that transition was made though.
Wikipedia says 1998-2010, although that might be specifically be referring to the version with the chrome wings.
I looked at buying a 1996 New Yorker. I remember that it had the Medallion logo
I believe it was when the Cirrus was released. They made a big deal about it at the time.
Maybe because the logo harked back to the era when Chrysler quality was legendary, and they hoped the past cars’ reputation might rub off on the new one?
The ribbons and the wings were there from the very start in 1924.
That’s just a great photo – looks like some lucky folks got their pick of some well-engineered pre-owned Chrysler products. Who knows, maybe a few are still out there on the road.
That is one amazing, gorgeous photograph!
We used to believe that you could buy a used Chevy from a Chryco dealer cheaper than at a GM or Ford dealer. Who knew if it was true?
Back in high school – 1968, my buddy and I found a beautiful 1965 Chevy ll Nova SS. I think the Dodge dealer wanted $500.00 for it. Of course I had no money, but we almost slobbered all over that car!
I doubt I would kick any of those old Chryco cars on that lot out of my driveway. The mustard yellow one intrigues me. After all, I DO wear fedoras, and there would be no head restraints to crush the back of the brim of my hats!
Mom dad and I spent a lot of time at G. E. Gearhart, the DeSoto Plymouth dealer and A Volpato Inc. Plymouth, Chrysler and Imperial dealer, because our family and theirs were friends and neighbors down the street. While dad talked with Gearhart and the Volpato’s in the showroom or office, I was allowed to roam the lot. In 1955-56 the trade ins were a wide variety of other makes traded for the “Forward Look”. There were a few Mopars, but largely people finally trying Chrysler products because of their looks, and the engineering reputation. In this town, the reputation for poor quality in 1957 was non-existent, All the Mopar dealers here checked every car and fixed them after Mr Volpato’s personal Plymouth demonstrator filled the interior with water in a prolonged cloudburst. No more factory mistakes were allowed to get through. As a result sales stayed strong through the years. In Imperials, A Volpato Inc. sold more Imperials EVERY year than any other dealer on the planet. When I got my driver’s license I went to each lot every friday and bought 4-5 cars at $15-$50 apiece, detailed them and sold them. Most were less than ten years old and detailed looked new. It also gave me the chance to drive and experience nearly every make and model US and many foreign cars while still in my teens.
Sounds like you had good exposure!
My dad worked at various Detroit area dealerships when I was pretty young, but I guess he stayed at the Leo Adler Chrysler, Desoto, Plymouth & Imperial dealership the longest, as he was there in ’55 (when the ’56s came out) and was still there by the time I was in school (’59, bringing in the ’60 models).
About that quality; my dad came home for lunch one day__we were only a few miles down 7 Mile Rd from the showroom/lot__leaving a ’56 Desoto in the driveway under the kitchen window. Another salesman picked him up so they could go collect a car further west down 7 Mile, leaving the Desota in the driveway. My Mother, wanting to get the dishes washed without 1-1/2 to 2 year old me fussing under her feet, knew if she put me in the car__completely in her line of site through the window__I would be content for an indefinite amount of time. I was born loving cars! Then at some point she heard me screaming, and couldn’t see me in the car for the smoke! She ran and got me out, then called the fire department. I can still vividly remember being in her arms as she was talking to the fireman after the chaos had subsided. The windows were blackened, and of course the interior was soaked, but I couldn’t be more specific.
About this time, the other salesman and my dad were each driving past on 7 Mile (our house was only five houses to the south) and seeing the firetrucks, they knew exactly what had happened, as they’d already seen the same scenario playing out with brand new cars on the lot. Spontaneous combustion; the wiring harnesses would short out for no apparent reason. My dad and the salesman turned around and came back, only then finding out I was in the car at the time.
The torsion bars of those same generation of cars came in for some criticism too, and just sitting still on the lot, they’d let go with a CRACK-POP-BANG! Then one of the front corners would drop to the ground (aka, the bump-stops)!.
Yes, that quality reputation was well earned! Don’t get me wrong, there’re DOZENS of ’56 – ’69 MOPARS I’d dearly love to own (compared to 2 or 3 Chevrolets and a couple of Fords).
Looks like a great place to cherry pick one, I don’t see any coupes though .
Any data on how many conquest sales Chrysler brands made when they rolled out the 55s and 56s?
The easiest data I could find were in the “Owners Report” surveys in the April and June 1955 issues of Popular Mechanics (got to love Google books!).
For the 1955 Plymouth, 23% of those surveyed reported trading in a non-Chrysler vehicle; for Dodge, it was 19%.
Guess the looks helped.
The magazine also surveyed owners of the 1955 DeSoto and Chrysler later in the year.
Among Chrysler owners, 21 percent had traded a GM, Ford or independent-make vehicle on their new car.
For the DeSoto, 20 percent of owners had traded a non-Chrysler Corporation vehicle.
Great comments and a terrific photo. Ah, yes, those Dowdy 1949 to 1952 Chrysler cars! They were reliable, sturdy and dull.
Just a photo of Plymouth’s 1952 Belvedere. No matter what you did to this car, even makin it a 2-door hardtop, it was still a dowdy piece of machinery with a slug of an engine, reliable slug by the way. Even in 1953 and 1954, Plymouth still had the 1932 engineered flathead six whereas Dodge now offered a 140 horsepower detuned version of the 1951 Chrysler Hemi. However, the 140 HP V-8 in the lighter Dodge platform one it the Indy Pace Car status for 1954. But the 1951 and 1952 Belvedere models were, well, an “A” for effort.
Yes but .
I know that’s a Hard Top Coupe and as such was a big thing in 1952 but the Business Coupes to me were better looking .
Everyone here needs to ride in or better, _DRIVE_ one of these as they were stellar on the road .
My great aunt and uncle fit this scenario perfectly. In 1955 they traded in their 1949 Chrysler (possible De Soto – I’m not sure without checking photo albums stored away) black four-door sedan for a new 1955 De Soto Firedome two-door hardtop in baby blue and white at Poinsette Motors in Fort Wayne. What a transformation. Five-year old me was really crazy about that new De Soto, the chrome, the styling, the fabulous all white interior with the little shifter sticking out of the dash. 1955 was a huge sales year for cars – it seemed like everyone was getting a new car and all of the Big Three had great offerings but those Chrysler products were something else.
Exactly what my grandmother did in late 1955. She traded in her ancient and dowdy (by my childhood standards, anyway) gray 1949 DeSoto Custom coupe for a bright and shiny 1956 DeSoto Firedome Seville two door hardtop, two tone coral pink and dark gray. I was mesmerized by that dual color combination and those big triple taillights and the beyond cool push button transmission. Whenever she came to visit at our home in L.A. I would sit behind that big steering wheel and push those buttons endlessly. Mom and Dad opted for a new rocket Oldsmobile 88 in 1955, too, trading in their equally ancient 1949 Dodge Coronet. What a world of difference to 8-year old me!
Such great choices in 1955 – the Olds is one of my favorites as my Dad’s sister got the new four-door hardtop introduced in mid-year, yellow and black (!) with black cloth upholstery interwoven with silver threads and outlined in white vinyl. What sight to behold at night with all windows down and no post in between, the interior lights on, and that heavily chromed dash gleaming. It was the first car I ever experienced with a power antenna (a feature I would curse later in life as the masts broke or motors failed on various cars I would own). I also was mesmerized by that electric needle indicator for the Hydramatic that would pop into view when you turned on the ignition.
The 56 DeSoto was few steps above the 55 – the towering fins and triple lights, the more refined grille, the pushbutton automatic. I prefer the 55 but as life goes on I increasingly understand that because a car belonged to someone special in your family or among friends, that attribute alone outshines other qualities. Too bad Mr. Exner’s memory is clouded with later problems at Chrysler – in 55 he was the man.
The irony is that all those K.T. Keller trade-ins were very likely a lot better built and more reliable than the disastrous ’57 models that were the cat’s meow at introduction. At least the ’55-56 models were okay.
Ahh, Kodachrome. So colourful, so durable, such hideously toxic process chemicals, and so gone.
“I got a Ni-kon camera, I love to take the photographs, So Mama don’t take my Kodachrome a-waaay!” I lost interest in photgraphy due to this and the fact that all the photo processing places (Fotomat, etc.) closed down as well! 🙂
Kodachromes are like time machines. There’s just none of that “old photo” look to them that most vintage color pics have, with their faded colors, graininess, limited dynamic range, and aquamarine skies. My first thought was that this was a modern photo of a car show until I saw those vintage signs that I’ve never seen in real life or even in photographs. I guess the road being lit by a string of incandescent light bulbs shows its age too. But wow, this is one of those views I’ve always seen only in black and white. For somebody my age, it’s almost as though the first half of the 20th century took place in black and white, or for the 1950s, in faded colors, because that’s the only way I’ve usually seen it.
Reminds me of a rental car fleet parking lot! 🙂
Of the “forward look” era, I liked the ’55 and ’56. In my mind they just got more ridiculous, as they progressed. But, GM, and to some extent Ford, did there best to “one up” each other. “BIGGER, BOLDER, BETTER!!”,Our fins beat your fins!
My Mom had a 1951 Plymouth Cambridge 2 door coupe for her first car. Still fondly remembered by the family, it went to the scrapyard in the winter of 1967 after an early cold snap froze the engine block. I don’t know how many miles it went on an empty cooling system but though the car was nearly immaculate it only fetched $5.00 from the scrappers. I love to have that car now, maybe with a slant six transplanted in!
Yes, it was the Forward Look, but the ’55 seems to carry the same frames as the cars from that lot and the ’55s were a bit lower, wider, and longer, although they seem to be stretched from their boxy predecessors, But the ’57s, they are the best styling, now that is Forward Look if anyone agrees?
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Copyright 2011 - 2021 Curbside Classics. All Rights Reserved.