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The Plymouth Belmont was the first plastic-bodied (reinforced fiberglass) Chrysler “idea car,” an experiment in new materials and design brought out in the same year as the DeSoto Adventurer. A two-seat V8-powered sports car aimed at the Corvette and Thunderbird, it raised hopes in dealers — but the car was dropped before 1955 as being “too old.” Most likely, planners were discouraged by 1953 Corvette sales — though the success of the 1955 Thunderbird showed that the chance, perhaps, should have been taken.
The Plymouth Belmont concept, a convertible made for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show by Briggs Manufacturing (which Chrysler had just purchased), was designed in the Advanced Styling Studio and at Briggs. It was built of reinforced fiberglass, under the supervision of its lead designer, Cliff Voss.
Underneath the curves was a normal 114-inch-wheelbase Plymouth chassis, shared with Dodge. The engine was the 14th allocated to Plymouth for testing (Plymouth was six-cylinder-only at the time); a Dodge engine dubbed the “Red Ram,” it squeezed a respectable 150 horsepower out of its 241 cubic inches. The transmission was the corporate “Hy-Drive” semi-automatic. Anyone speculating that the car was a test for Plymouth V8s may have been partly right — in 1955, Plymouth launched its first V8-powered cars.
The Belmont concept was long (191.5 inches), low (49 inches), and sleek, painted light metallic blue (“Azure Blue”). Styling included both an “aerodynamic” theme and turbine cues, since the company had already written, “[Chrysler’s] gas turbine has solved high fuel consumption, exhaust heat problems usually associated with turbine engines” and intended to launch a turbine car. For the turbine, though, the company could not overcome the high cost.
The roof itself was a soft top hidden behind the seats, with a hard cover. According to Second Chance Garage, the Belmont added chrome valve covers and a low-profile air cleaner to the standard Red Ram engine, using the normal Stromberg WW-3-108 carburetor. Stock Chrysler wheels were used, and various pieces were taken from the parts bin, including 1954 Chrysler tail lights. The windshield was just Plexiglass.
In 1954, the car was featured in the movie Bundle of Joy with Debbie Reynolds, showing up later in the Tony Curtis movie Mister Corey. Virgil Exner took overship of the Belmont, rather than having it scrapped. The car next surfaced with its sale in 1968, changed hands a few times, suffered from some neglect, and was restored by Don Williams, who repainted it to red.
More on the 1954 Dream Cars
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.
Concept cars • popular: Firepower • Tomahawk • ME412 • Mighty FC • Gladiator
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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