Automotive History Capsule: Virgil Exner’s 1960 XNR – Plymouth’s Corvette Fighter Almost Made It Into Production

(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?


CC 1971 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus   PN