(first posted 7/30/2012) Virgil Exner came very close to getting his 1960 XNR roadster into production, although probably in a slightly toned down form from the pretty wild prototype. Based loosely on the new Valiant, it had a 250- hp Hyper-Pak 170-cu in (2.8-liter) slant six that took it up to 146 mph. Its projected price of $3,000 would have made it an interesting lower-cost competitor to the Corvette and other popular sports cars like the Austin Healey 3000. But it was not to be.
Its asymmetry wasn’t just only Exneruberance, but a reflection of the Indy-car roadsters of the times, with their offset engines and seating positions. Of course, in the XNR, that wasn’t actually the case, but looks are everything when it comes to cars like this. The loop grille would reappear some ten years later, most closely on the 1971 Plymouth Sebring/Road Runner.
Here’s the rear view: no toilet seat lid! Well, except that little one,which is actually an oversized fuel filler. More like a urinal lid.
Exner was very disappointed about the XNR’s thumbs down by the Chrysler brass, but Chrysler in 1960 was in disarray, and his influence had already started to wane since his return after suffering a heart attack.
Here’s a shot of the 250-hp slant six. Not bad for 170 cubic inches, and almost double the output of the Austin Healey 3000. I’m not sure just how they got that much claimed power out of it; maybe a bit of truth-stretching. A production version would probably have had closer to the 148 hp of the production Hyperpak six, as was used in the NASCAR-dominating Valiants.
Tasty cockpit. Exner was an accomplished driver, and it was said he took the XNR up to 135 mph. With an aerodynamic nose cone, it eventually hit some 153 mph.
Ghia built the prototype. When the XNR project was killed, they modified and then showed it at the 1962 Geneva show as the Ghia Asimetrica. The large windshield and other changes didn’t translate very successfully, and Ghia built only a handful before the idea was abandoned.
But the original XNR is available again, to be auctioned by RM on August 18th. Time to take out a HELOC?
The ’71 Satellite certainly wasn’t the first Mopar to receive the loop-bumper treatment. 1969 Chryslers, 1970 Dodge Charger, 1970 Dodge Coronet (okay, a double loop on that one) all come to mind.
I always thought that the XNR was a bit too far-out. Maybe if some elements of this were combined with the 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car….
Not the first, just the (relatively) most faithful.
This would have been very similar in concept to the Prowler which was put into limited production by a very different Chrysler Corporation later on. An outrageous bodied roadster with six cylinder power.
I like this car. If given the chance, I might have done something else with the leading edges of the fender blades, and I would lower the fin behind the driver. The fin and bumper’s star-like intersection is really cool. I see a lot of early 1960s Chrysler design cues in the sculpting of this car.
I wonder if this car had any influence on Raymond Loewy – the 1962 Avanti had that assymetrical power bulge on the hood in front of the driver.
Asymmetry was a hot styling fad in the late ’50s and early ’60s and was featured in magazines such as Rod & Custom, Car Craft, and the like. Loewy (or his staff) was more than likely influenced by the hot rodders in SoCal such as Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and the Indycar builders like Watson and Kurtis, and body fabricators Troutman and Barnes. As Paul stated, Indy Roadsters were a natural source of inspiration to both hot rodders and Detroit styllists since Dinosaurs and Laydowns were offset to the left and the canted Offys often required bulges here and there, perforce creating the “asymmetrical look”.
And even before that, some of the racing bodies for the Nash-Healey had an asymmetrical aerodynamic fairing behind the driver’s headrest.
Here’s one of the wildest asymmetrical custom jobs – Dave Puhl’s Illusion from 1965.
Right. And don’t forget the XR-6 from 1963, oddly enough also with Slant Six power, a 225 with triple Webers.
I’m sure Loewy and his crack team of designers holed up in Palm Springs were influenced by the XNR; of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all these Loewy “accomplishments” were the work of his minions . . . (Exner . . . Bourke . . etc.)
Loewy was a lot like Walt Disney; they both had talent and could design/draw, but the key work that became world-famous with their name on it was largely the work of more talented, visionary underlings (in the case of Disney, animators Ub Iwerks, Isadore “Friz” Freleng, Rudolph Ising, Hugh Harman, Fred “Tex” Avery, Bill Peete . . )
Yhe loop bumper reappeared on the Aussie luxury Chrysler cars in the 70s too.
The third picture in Paul’s styling analysis sure reminds me of the Bill Mitchell Corvette Stingray racer in the wasp tail and the front and rear fender bulges. Interesting design!
The profile really does this car in, it just looks strange from the side.
Yeah, I was really liking it until I saw that pic.
Fabulous. A Slant Six sports car! A Mopar sports car, we never got one until the Viper. (Which did echo those pipes, coincidence or not? If only….
But what would Elwood Engel and Townsend’s bean-counters have done to the XNR after Virgil Exner retired? It wouldn’t have been pretty.
MrJynx has XNR photos from back then. Here’s Mr. Exner himself with his creation. I find this angle on the XNR especially striking, it’s not much more than the engine, four wheels, and a place to hang on.
Link to Mr Jynx’s pics ends at a locked page. (4/2016)
They did a scale model hardtop XNR too. (MrJynx) If that insane fin had been cut down to size, it could’ve been a handsome ride.
Just think if an XNR had been rear-ended, hypothetically only of course, the imprint it would have left in the front end of the offending car.
PS: How do you like that model in the background? I like it very much. Chrysler’s early answer to the Thunderbird that never came to be??
The one in the background reminds me of this:
crossed with this:
Nobody has mentioned the Jaguar D-Type, which clearly had a major influence.
Quite a striking car but I think it would have dated very quickly – perhaps even by the time it hit the showroom?
As a 10 year old kid, I was completely blown away when I first saw this car in 1960. It still occupies a place in my heart, but not quite so much as it did back then. It’s weirdness has gotten the better of it in the ensuing years. The asymmetrical thing never really caught on.
It’s a minor miracle that car has survived having spent the majority of the last 56 years in Iran, Kuwait and Lebanon, as related in the link to the RM auction site, a region that’s not really well known for being kind to collector cars or anything else for that matter.
Following are a few photos from the Ghia studio that I’ve had in my files for a very long time that show the body buck over which the panels for the XNR were hammered by the Ghia craftsmen. Credit The Henry Ford Collections.
! WOW ! .
I really like the Ghia prototyp and the model of the coupe too .
I imagine the 225 would have been abetter power choice , as much as I love the Slat Six Tower Of Power those 170’s were weak and broke often when pressed hard .
Did the Prowler really come with a 6 cylinder ?! .
Yes, the Prowler came with a 6, but a 3.5 V6, not the 225.
Thanx ravenuer .
I guess I’m the only one who thinks the view from the driver’s seat might be challenging?
Considering how the interior of cars has always been asymmetrical, why can’t or shouldn’t we be okay with cars that are asymmetrical on the outside?
The XNR would have been the perfect car for Batgirl, to appear opposite of Batman’s Batmobile.
XNR? I DEFINATELY get it !
The front end of the Ghia Asimetrica (cool name) looks like it was influenced by the lamented ‘warthog’ front end of the downsized 1962 Dodge. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Regardless, it looks a whole lot better on the concept car than the production Dodge.
I’m sorry, but this thing is – to me at least – a dog’s breakfast and from when Exner started to go w-e-i-r-d. If there was a Chrysler Corporation car deserving to be produced it was the below, not the XNR.
+1, The Chrysler Falcon was the roadster to build!
Here’s a link. Apparently this Plymouth has dodged more than a few literal and figurative bullets in its lifetime….(no pun intended but I couldn’t resist)
Here’s a link to a Motor Trend article on the car. It mentions a 1969 National Geographic article that featured a photo of the car when it was in Kuwait. I remember reading that article as a boy and seeing the car for the first time…
It looks like the sides (especially the fender treatments) made their way into production for the Dodge Dart. And as mentioned, the assymetrical styling was also seen on the Corvette race cars. Exner had some good designs and some not so good ones that were just way too out there, where they have some cool designs that make sense, and some severe deal breakers on the same car……this is one of them. The rear fenders are excellent, but the front fender bulges just make no sense, from a design perspective, because they don’t integrate with the design at all–they look tacked on to be there just because they can be. The front looks too much like it anticipates late 60’s T-Bird grille (which i’ve never liked), and reminds me of electric razor. But the slanted back doors, I think, look good in a sleek “moving when stopped” way. I wonder at what point Exner’s ideas at styling got voted out of the boardroom for spending too much money on ideas that were just not what the buying populace wanted, and where the execs realized that they weren’t going to keep paying for Exner’s attempts at making mass production art house sculptures.
Is it just me, or did Chrysler drop the ball often, back in the day?
FWIW, Getty Images dates this photo of the “Asimetrica” to 1961:
Until reading this article and it’s accompanying photos had only ever seen the XNR in side and front profile. Seeing the rear profile is enlightening to say the least.
Quite a bit of it. The car is said to have originally been built with the hairy full-race version of the Hyper Pak kit on its 170 engine, with 10.5:1 compression—a setup that came nowhere close to 250hp. Where’d this figure come from? Somebody’s backside, is my best guess; probably someone with an interest in hyping the car to the max.
In 2013 Motor Trend said, with about 75 or 80 per cent factual accuracy, The XNR showcar had a modified slant-six built to NASCAR specifications. The compression ratio was 10.5:1, the Hyper-Pak-tuned intake manifold was equipped with ram tubes; the cylinder head was modified; the pistons were “upgraded”; and there was a special camshaft and a tuned exhaust manifold with twin side pipes. Given that the XNR “Idea Car” was timed at Chrysler’s test track at over 150 mph, 250 hp is a reasonable guess. The tachometer reads to 8000 rpm, and the restorers believe the engine will easily rev to 7500. So this is guesses and beliefs and bench racing. Points off for the inaccurate description of the exhaust manifold (there were two of them, front-3/rear-3, made of cast iron and not tuned), and the 10.5:1 compression and “‘upgraded’ pistons” are one and the same.
A potentially good clue to the origin of this “reasonable guess” is elsewhere in the same Motor Trend article: The engine is one of 12 that were specially modified for NASCAR racing, where the Valiant proved a winner in the small-displacement class. Reportedly (By whom? That’s a very good question, and they’re glad you asked it -DS), as modified by Chrysler’s engineering laboratory, the slant-six could be revved to 7500 rpm and was good for over 250 horsepower. “This car may have had an aluminum block when it was first built,” [general manager of RM Restorations Mario] Van Raay notes, “but the current block is cast iron.” This may-have-had fairytale is exceedingly unlikely. There were a handful of prototype aluminum-block 170 engines, but that idea was terminated very early in the Slant-Six R&D process. The aluminum »225« engine didn’t go into production until well after the XNR was built. And the aluminum Slant-Six was not amenable to high compression, with its open-deck design and 1961 gasket technology tenuously managing the perpetual expansion-rate feud between the aluminum block and the iron head.
Surely the XNR is the single niftiest Slant-6 car Chrysler ever put together. I don’t mean to disparage it—just the buff books and auctioneers and that lot who tell dumb fibs and create false buzz.
I had pretty serious doubts as to the 250 hp claim, but lacked the knowledge to dispute it as you have. That kind of power back then was just not very realistic from a 170 CID production-based engine.
Styling-wise that thing’s a hideous hot mess. Exner’s uber avant-garde tendencies at their finest (or worst). But it sure presaged a number of styling cues and elements that wound up on Chrysler Corp. production cars over the next several model years, and even into the early 70s (“hoop” front bumper).
A hideous hot mess? Okeh, I’ll have all of yours.
In the tv-show, showing the life in Gotham Garage, somewhere in CA, they build a replica of this car.
There’s a lot of feelgood in that show, I don’t know if the build something good, in reality?
Exner reminds me of a sports phenom who has one historic year, then spends the rest of his career futility trying to recapture the magic. His 1957’s were sensational, then nothing else he ever did came close. His designs grew weird, bizarre and out of step to where the market was going. Nothing he did after the Forward Look was ever commercially successful.