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Chrysler designer Colin Neale

by David Zatz on

Long-time Chrysler designer Colin Neale died this weekend in Michigan, of natural causes, at the age of 89. The Detroit Free Press and numerous other publications marked his passing, noting that the English designer had worked on numerous cars over the years.  He started at Briggs in England, and ended up under Ford when they bought the company; many Americans are familiar with his work through the Ford Anglia (the “flying Harry Potter car”). He also designed the rear of the 1961 Lincoln Continental, after moving to the US.

colin-neale

After Elwood Engel was brought to Chrysler, he invited Mr. Neale to work with him, and thus began the Chrysler Corporation phase of his career, in 1962.  His first task was supervising the interior of the 1965 Plymouth XP-VIP and 1966 Chrysler 300X, as Engel sought to reverse from Virgil Exner’s busy appearances to a cleaner look. The 300X concept had retracting seat belts, a collapsing (and retractable) steering wheel, head restraints, height-adjusting seats, rear-seat television, and keyless starter (using a magnetic card), along with a speaking clock and swiveling driver’s seat.

He also designed the seats in the 1966 Dodge Charger, and achieved a patent for the first lateral-hinged safety door handles; his work was behind the “rich Corinthian leather” of the Chrysler Cordoba. He worked on the 1970 Dodge Challenger, which became a muscle-car icon.

Some of his lesser known work included  being the first Chrysler design person to visit Mitsubishi, in 1969; and advance design work on the K-cars, which signaled Chrysler’s turnaround of the 1970s.

In 1977, Mr. Neale moved to Ritter-Smith, where he designed a new weight-saving seat system and modern adjustable lumbar supports; and then became the concept designer for Magna/Intier, gaining 18 patents. Even after his 2006 retirement, he worked on new innovations, including an attempt to improve auto aerodynamics.

Little of Mr. Neale’s work for Chrysler Corporation has been published, with most writers apparently getting their material from an interview that centered on his work at Ford.  Thanks to Burton Bouwkamp, who worked with Mr. Neale from 1968 to 1975.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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