With Viper established as the Dodge brand’s halo car, the company started working on a flagship for the long-neglected Chrysler brand. Thus was born the Chrysler 300, which applied a combination of styling themes that would mark Chrysler for the next decade, including the guppy grille and scalloped headlights (which would be dropped and picked up again later). Though the styling bore much in common with the Viper, the scale did not: Chrysler 300 was over two feet longer, half an inch wider, and seven inches taller.
Powered by the same fuel-injected 8-liter V-10 as the early Viper, the car was more suitable for luxury buyers, with a four-speed automatic transmission replacing the Viper’s Tremec manual. Large, round gauges were designed to be read quickly; the driver’s area was black, while the passenger area was tan with wood accents. All controls were oriented to the driver, with some not facing forewards but angled from a high console that was tilted in some areas towards the driver. Leather seats were standard in the four-door sport sedan; the driver’s seat had integral air conditioning vents, and there were three levels of interior lighting.
The wheelbase was around the same as the original 1955 Chrysler C300; the interior plush and comfortable. Automobile pointed out that Al Turner, Jr., was in charge of building the concept; he was proud of the high-capacity rear-suicide-door hinges, which provided access to a tight rear seat area (which nonetheless contained a tape-based video console and cell-phone). The roof and pillars had extra steel framing to deal with the suicide doors, and a considerable amount of engineering went into making the car capable of passing Federal crash tests. While Chrysler would never make the car, it was created as a production-intent vehicle, made of standard steel, with lighting and such meeting legal requirements for street cars.
Despite the much greater length, the 1991 Chrysler 300 was indeed Viper-based; the Viper space-frame was stretched by two feet and four inches, and modified for bigger show-car wheels. The iron-block V-10 was taken from an early Viper mule, and reportedly was good for 385 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
The concept used an early form of keyless ignition: the driver instead used a little magcard, which opened a door covering the ignition switch (the idea was to have separate cards for different drivers, to automatically select the right presets and move seats and mirrors into position). A great deal of sound insulation was used, as suited a luxury-sport sedan; the engine was reportedly very quiet at idle. The car, according to Automobile’s Kevin A. Wilson, “like a big powerful luxury car from Detroit’s glory days. Solid as a stone bridge... with power to spare and style to squander.” The view was “panoramic” though the power mirror controls were dummies and the windows didn’t move.
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Concept cars are often made so a car’s feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials — either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what’s being tested. Some are created to help designers think “out of the box.” The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.
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