Why Chrysler used different side marker lights in 1968, 1969, and 1970
At a Charger Registry Meet, a member asked me why 1968 Chrysler Corporation models have illuminated side marker lamps, then 1969s have only reflectors, then 1970s have both lamps and reflectors.
I remembered some of the story because I was Chrysler's Director of Product Planning from 1968 to 1975 and I was involved in these side marker decisions. I did some research and here is the complete story.
First, some background. Below is a summary of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS #108) that required side marker lights OR reflectors in 1968 and 1969 and was amended to specify side marker lights AND reflectors in 1970.
REGULATION: FMVSS #108 for sidemarker lights and reflectors specifies amber front and red rear sidemarker lamps and reflectors. The regulation initially required lights OR reflectors on vehicles made after 1 January 1968. This was amended to require lights AND reflectors on vehicles made after 1 January 1970. These side-facing devices make the vehicle's presence, position and direction of travel clearly visible from oblique angles. The lamps are wired so as to illuminate whenever the vehicles parking and tail lamps are on.
At Chrysler we decided to do side marker lights in 1968. All vehicles except Imperial used the same side marker light design. Except for the difference in lens color they were the same lamp for the front fender and rear quarter panel. This simplification saved us a lot of money and let us do the design and engineering job a lot quicker than if we had to do unique lights or unique reflectors for each carline.
During the 1968 model year we got a new Product Development (Product Planning, Styling and Engineering) Vice President by the name of Leroy Bornhouser. We called him Bornie. Bornie took issue with the appearance of the 1968 side marker lights which he said looked like "whales’ eyes." He ordered us to put side markers on the car in 1969 that were more attractive - more integrated with the sheet metal. So in 1969 we went to flush reflectors (no bulbs) that were a different design for each carline and each "crash program" to meet 1969 model production.
The 1969 reflectors didn't meet the amended 1970 standard which required
lamps and reflectors so we had to design and tool the side marker indicators
again. We did them three times in three years!
— Burt Bouwkamp
Feedback: Nick Taylor wrote that Chrysler used the squared-off side lights from the Imperial as well, and noted that the Chrysler 300 had a different rear sidelight that was incorporated into the unique 300 red white and blue emblem.