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Chrysler’s Pentastar

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The Pentastar

The Pentastar was created by Robert Stanley, at the Lippincott & Marguiles design firm. He wanted, according to his blog entry, “something simple, a classic, dynamic but stable shape for a mark that would lend itself to a highly designed, styled product. What that meant, basically, was a classic geometric form. We wanted something that was not stolid. That’s the reason that we broke up the pentagonal form that became the Pentastar. It provides a certain tension and a dynamic quality.” [This was reversed by Trevor Creed].

The [original] Pentastar was selected from more than 800 suggestions that a team from the design firm of Lippincott & Margulies Inc. proposed to the company.

“We were looking for something that would not be too complicated for people to remember and still have a very strong, engineered look to it,” said Robert Stanley. “We wanted something people could look at and say, ‘This was not done freehand.’”

In Chrysler’s annual report, they noted “A new Corporate Identity Office was established to be concerned with the manner in which the company identifies and visually presents itself and its products to the public. The [pentastar] emblem portrayed on the cover was developed as part of this broad program.”

pentastars

The Pentastar started showing up in ads with the 1963 model year; after initial production started, it was placed behind the right front wheel on 1963 model-year cars. Charlie Pfefferkorn, whose family owned Spaulding’s Garage (a DeSoto-Plymouth dealer and then a Chrysler-Plymouth shop) said that dealers were sent a Pentastar medallion kit for each 1963 car they had received before the factory started installing them. Spaudling’s Garage, and probably many other dealers, didn’t install them on cars they had already sold — Charlie said it would have been absurd to call customers and tell them they needed to bring their cars in for a bit of trim Chrysler had forgotten. The original Pentastars, incidentally, came with not one but two grips — the second, smaller pin was not just for location but also for extra grip (as shown in the photos.)

It first showed up in ads with the 1963 models, and started showing up on the 1963 cars behind the right front wheel, making its way to key blanks with the 1964 models. Prior to that, the Chrysler corporate logo was a pair of V-shapes, usually shown pointing to the right, part of Virgil Exner's "Forward Look" school of design. The new pentastar logo was also used on the front cover of the 1962 Annual Report — as an embossed cover (without any ink to set it off) — and on the back cover, in a deep blue.

In 1963, Bob Hope’s variety show (sponsored by the Chrysler Corporation) included opening graphics showing the segments of the Pentastar zooming into place with vroom-vroom noises, each piece accompanied by a callout of a brand - Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial, and Dodge trucks.

chrysler logoHowever, Bill Watson wrote noted that the five points do not stand for the five car divisions; at the time, Chrysler sold cars (Valiant, Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial, Hillman, Sunbeam, Singer, Humber, Simca), trucks (Dodge, Fargo, DeSoto, Commer, Karrier, Barreiros), industrial and marine engines, boats, army tanks, air conditioners, heating systems, chemicals, plastics, missiles, electronics, and financial products.  Bill also noted that the design would be recognizable no matter which way you looked at it, even if the design was flipped or looked at upside down.

inside the CTC

A Chrysler press release noted:

CTC 2007The Pentastar was created in 1962 when Chrysler Corporation President Lynn Townsend decided the company needed a new symbol to represent all of the corporation’s brands. Townsend wanted a symbol with a strong, classic look that would be instantly recognizable, but was universal—without written words—allowing it to be used in all countries and across many cultures. The Pentastar was selected from more than 800 suggestions that a team from the design firm of Lippincott & Margulies Inc. proposed to the company.

“We were looking for something that would not be too complicated for people to remember and still have a very strong, engineered look to it,” said Robert Stanley, the Detroit office vice president and Chrysler account executive at Lippincott & Margulies, who is credited with creating the Pentastar. “We wanted something people could look at and say, ‘This was not done freehand.’”

Stanley also created the former blue color scheme for the symbol, and the name for the design.

Revised pentastar

creed pentastarAfter being dropped as a corporate symbol by Daimler, the pentastar returned in 2007 with modifications by Trevor Creed, who fused the ends of the five triangles to enclose the star, raised the triangles toward the center, and added a “brush” texture. “We wanted to give the mark a look of extremely high quality,” Creed said. “We closed up the gaps in geometric unity and added a sense of solidity that gave the star shape a much slimmer, high-quality, precise appearance.”

Steven Landry, Executive Vice President—North America Sales and Marketing, Service and Parts, said, “The Pentastar represents all the pride that employees feel for the 82-year -history of Chrysler and the confidence we have in our new direction... Even during the past decade, the Pentastar never disappeared. The Pentastar literally towered over the company and employees [on top of the CTC], and has been a source of pride.”

“I do not envision us using this mark on our products, only on buildings, signage, corporate stationery and business cards,” Creed said.

In 1996, the company’s new headquarters in Auburn Hills included an office tower crowned by a two-story-high glass Pentastar. After the 1998 takeover by Daimler, the Pentastar was removed as the corporate symbol, and rumor has it that Daimler executives demanded to have it removed from the office tower, but that the cost was high enough to be scandalous.

The Pentastar remains the corporate symbol of Chrysler Group, but is not to be included on any future dealership signs.

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