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Chrysler Small Cars That Didn't Make it

By: Kevin McCabe, for WPC News

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Chrysler Corporation's interest in small cars goes back a long way from the introduction of the Valiant in 1959. One of Chrysler's earliest attempts was a small car known as the Star Car. The name was derived from the 5 cylinder radial engine the car had as its source of power. The engine was quite small, displacing only 66.6 cubic inches and developed the credible sum of thirty horsepower. The engine was water cooled and leaned back at a forty-five degree angle. As can be seen from the photo with the front end removed, it was also a front wheel drive vehicle as well. The wheelbase was just 98" and the frame was made of 2.5" square tubing. In spite of all of these revolutionary features perhaps the most remarkable was the fact that the entire power train-engine transmission and front wheels-was mounted to a separate stub frame and could be unbolted and removed from the car. The first version of this car wore a rather crude sort of sedan type body, but the coupe version built later and shown here was a much better finished vehicle. The first vehicle was scrapped shortly after testing was completed in 1936 but the coupe survived until World War II. R. Ken Lee was the chief engineer on this project and Ted Pietsch was chief designer.

The Interceptor was another vehicle which achieved a certain amount of development before falling by the wayside. Designed by Dean Clark it was a car similar in concept to the 1941 Thunderbolt. Designed only to carry two passengers it featured a detachable hardtop with blind rear quarters. It was much smaller than the Thunderbolt however and had only 100" wheelbase and a height of 63 inches. It had a simple grille of four horizontal bars with a fifth bar becoming a side moulding which ran under the head and taillights and all the way around the car. The headlights and front parking lights were mounted in the leading edge of the front fenders and the taillights appear similar to those used on the postwar Plymouth.

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Two cars seem to have been developed simultaneously in the immediate post war period. One was known as project A-106. With a wheelbase of 104 inches it had a target weight of 1800-1900 lbs. It was being developed as a two door as well as a four door vehicle and you can see three different front end proposals in the photos. It was to be powered by a four cylinder horizontally opposed engine and employed rear wheel drive thus resulting in an exceptionally tall driveshaft tunnel and limiting the passenger compartment to four people. The photo of the engine compartment shows the placement of the engine and the unusual front steering linkage and coil spring mounting.

The other vehicle under development at this time was project A-121 called the Cadet. The photos of this car taken in May of 1947 show a vehicle with a familial similarity to the second generation 1949 model. The front fender line which begins at the front of the car with the bulbous nose carried through to the rear fender where an add-on moulding continued to the rear of the car. With a forward slanting "B" pillar the upper door frames were nearly symmetrical. The overhang, particularly at the rear was greater than was considered normal for production vehicles of the time. The simple horizontal bar grille continued the contour of the hood as did the production 1949's especially Plymouth. Concave bumpers were used at both ends, a feature which appeared on the 1949 Chrysler.

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One other car carried the Cadet nameplate, a styling proposal photographed in the fall of 1951. Developed only as a four door sedan it appeared to be about the same size as the clay mockup of the 1953 Plymouth Suburban which is visible in the background. Lines were quite clean on this second Cadet proposal with a single character ridge running the length of the car. Taillights were incorporated into the ends of the quarterpanels. Both the front and rear bumpers are similar in appearance to those used on the production Plymouths of 1953/54. The predominant feature at the front was the trapezoidal shaped grille. It consisted of almost two dozen convex vertical bars enclosed within a narrow reveal moulding. The single headlamps were surrounded by a broad moulding at the leading edge of the fender, and the separate parking lights are mounted directly beneath the headlights. Because this car was identified as a Plymouth in the styling photographs the hood ornament appears to be a contemporary equivalent of a ship's figurehead.

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