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Creating the Chrysler Horizon: the Chrysler Europe Design Team speaks

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Creating the Chrysler Horizon: the Chrysler
Europe Design Team speaks

by Burt Bouwkamp and the Chrysler Horizon team

This is the story of the Chrysler-Europe C2, or Chrysler Horizon, Europe's Car of the
Year in 1978 - told nearly 30 years later by the people who
planned, designed, and engineered the car.

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The C2 design was a successful design in both Europe and
North America. More than 3,000,000 C2s/Horizons/Omnis were built
between 1977 and 1989.

Chrysler Europe was formed in the 1960s, because Chrysler's
President at that time, Lynn Townsend, believed that Chrysler needed a
world-wide presence. Before 1960, Chrysler had sold around the world, but its products were exported from the USA and Canada,
sold by a different distributor in each country; so sales volumes outside of North America were small.

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Chrysler acquired Rootes Motors (England), Simca Motors (France), and
Barreiros Motors (Spain). These
companies were renamed Chrysler U.K., Chrysler France, and Chrysler
Espana under the banner "Chrysler - Europe," which was part of Chrysler
International Corporation.

In January, 1975 Chrysler USA Product Planning executive Burt
Bouwkamp moved to Europe and replaced Don Forman as Executive Director
of European Product Development. Don Forman had moved up to Managing
Director - Chrysler Espana. Chrysler-Europe was building around 700,000
cars a year (in France, Spain and the U.K.) on nine different platforms
(nine different suspensions, brakes, and body structures, etc.), with eight different engines:

United KingdomFranceSpain
Dart (RWD)

Chrysler Europe Product Plan

By 1975 Chrysler Europe had already embarked on a product
modernization and simplification program that would in five years
result in new products covering two thirds of the European passenger
car market on three platforms:

Platform 1. The C6 (Simca 1307/8 and Chrysler Alpine) in
1976, a FWD 5 door hatchback 1.5 liter car. The European sales for this type of car was about 2,500,000 vehicles (25% share).

Platform 2. The C2 (Chrysler Horizon) in 1978, a FWD 5 door
hatchback 1.3 liter car. The European market opportunity for this type
of car was about 3,000,000 vehicles (30% share).

Platform 3. The C9 (Chrysler Tagora) in 1980, a RWD 4 door
sedan 2 liter car. The European market for this large car was
about 1,500,000 vehicles (15%).

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A front wheel drive, one liter car to replace the Imp and Mille
was intended in 1980, but had still not been defined in 1975. Because of
Chrysler's financial constraints, it is likely that this would have
ended up as a 3-door hatchback model on a shortened C2 platform.
This approach would probably not have been profitable in this low price
and low unit profit segment, but the large market opportunity (30%) and the
popularity with first time buyers made it
important for Chrysler Europe and its dealers to be represented in this
market segment with a competitive product. Thus, "C2 Short" proposals were
under development in the Design Studio when Chrysler's European
companies were purchased by PSA [Peugeot/Citroën] in August of 1978.

Overall, Chrysler Europe's 1975-1980 Product Plan provided new
products to their European dealers with massive simplification for
manufacturing, purchasing, and service.

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How competitive were the new products? Consider this. The 50 leading
auto writers of Europe gave the Car of the Year award to the Simca
1308/Chrysler Alpine (C6) in 1976 and again to the Chrysler Horizon
(C2) in 1978. The lead picture on this page is a centerfold from the London Sunday
Telegraph in which they recognized the accomplishment of the Chrysler
product team (it shows Don Lander, VP of Chrysler Europe and Marc Honore, Director of
Product Planning in Paris with the 1978 European Car of the Year).

Here is a quote from Lee Iacocca in the July 22, 1979 Automotive

"The 50 leading auto writers of Europe ..... gave the (Car of the
Year) award to the new Simca Horizon .... because of the technological
innovations on that car - like automatic transmission, and on-board
computer, automatic speed control, electronic ignition, and electronic
trip computer. European technology? No way. They were all developed by
Chrysler engineers in this country and then made available to our
French company for use on the Simca Horizon."
What Lee said is true, but the power train, chassis, and body were
engineered in Europe (Chrysler France Technical Center at Carrierres,
near Paris). The car was planned and styled in Europe (Whitley
Technical Center near Coventry, England). This is the same group that
created the 1976 European Car of the Year - the Chrysler Alpine/Simca
1307/8 (C6).

Two Car of the Year awards in three years was a remarkable
accomplishment for a small company that had only 7% penetration of the
European passenger car market.

The 1976 Car of the Year votes by the 50 European automobile writers

1st. Chrysler Alpine/Simca 1307/1308 (C6) - 185 points

2nd. B.M.W. 316-320 - 136 points

3rd. Renault 30 TS - 102 points
These were followed by Peugeot 604, Leyland Princess, Jaguar XJS,
Lancia Beta HPE, Opel Ascona, Lancia Beta Monte Carlo,Vauxhall Chevette,
and Fiat 128 3P.

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The 1977 European Car of the Year was the Porsche 928.

The 1978 Car of the Year votes were:

1st. Chrysler/Simca Horizon (C2) - 251 points

2nd. Fiat Ritmo. - 239 points

3rd. Audi 80. - 181 points
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These were followed by Opel Senator/Monza, Peugeot 305, Alfa Romeo
Giullietta, Renault 18, BMW 32i, Saab Turbo,Toyota Starlet, Lada Niva,
Rover 2600, Datsun Sunny, Austin Princess 2, and Chrysler Sunbeam.

Chrysler - Europe had high expectations for the all new 1979 RWD
Chrysler Tagora (C9) styled in Coventry under the direction of Art
Blakeslee. Before the engineering and manufacturing programs were
completed, Chrysler's European companies were sold to PSA, a holding
company for Peugeot and Citroen.

The Chrysler designed and engineered
C6 and C2 products continued to be built by the new owners but the
"Chrysler" badges became "Talbot" - a new division of PSA. C9 (Tagora)
production was delayed one year so that it could be re engineered for
Peugeot 604 power train components. It was built by PSA in France in
1980, but it was not successful - probably because PSA did not
need the C9 market entry; they already had two competitive products in
the luxury market segment, the Peugeot 604 and the Citroen CX.

Design and development of the Chrysler C2 (Horizon)

This is the story of the planning, design and development of the
Chrysler Horizon (C2), European Car of the Year in 1978, as recalled by
the planners, stylists, and engineers in England and France who did it.
The planning, design and engineering of the C2 began and was
completed before the widespread use of computers, cellular phones or
video conferencing.

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The C2 design started in mid-1974 with a pencil sketch by Roy Axe,
the Director of Design for Chrysler's European products. Roy labeled it
"C6 SWB (short wheelbase)" because this was before the "C2" code name
was established. In late 1975, Roy was promoted to Director of Design
for Chrysler at the Design Center in Highland Park, Michigan.

In the summer of 1974, four C2 design themes were made into full
size clays for European management to select the a style in October of

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In developing the themes, the models were regularly viewed against
competitive vehicles to be sure that the C2 design proposals were
consistent with consumer expectations in the European light car market. The final clay surfaces were approved in November 1974.

About this time, the Vice President of Chrysler France, John Day,
gave the European Public Relations and Product Development offices the
assignment of securing Car of the Year honors for the C2. Having just
won the award in 1975 (with the C6), our expectations for repeating in
1978 were not high. But - we won again!

The 1978 European Car of the
Year Award was given in Amsterdam in February of 1979. It was presented to Mr. Perrin-Pellitier, the newly appointed head of the
Talbot Division of PSA; Chrysler earned the award but did not get the
recognition because of the timing of the sale of their European assets
to PSA.

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There is an American side to the story as well. When Chrysler's
American management (President Gene Cafiero and Sales Vice President
R.K. Brown) saw the C2 clay model, they decided that the C2 was the
small car that they wanted for North America, ASAP. Now we were involved
in a tightly interlocked product in three countries separated by the
Atlantic Ocean as well as the English Channel. The trans-Channel C2
became a trans-Atlantic vehicle - a world car!

In the October 14, 1978 issue of Motor magazine, David Scott explained
why the European and American Horizons, while identical in appearance,
were totally different under the skin. The principle reasons were:

  1. carryover (Europe) vs new (America) front suspensions,
  2. different trailing arm coil rear suspension designs due to
    differing marketing requirements, and
  3. different engines and transmissions.

Consequently, while having identical exterior appearances and
wheelbases, the two cars were completely different.

Chrysler did not have the wordwide productive cability for 200,000
(per year) additional 4 cylinder engines and FWD transaxles for the USA
market, and needed to purchase (modified) Volkswagen Golf powertrains for the USA
built version (Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni) for two years.

The C2/Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni was recognized as an outstanding
design on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Motor Trend magazine made
the USA version Car of the Year in 1978.

The specifications for the production C2 (European version) were:

  • Drive: Transverse FWD, 4 cyl engine
  • Wheelbase 99.2" (2520 mm)
  • Overall length 155.9" (3960 mm)
  • Overall width 66.1" (1680 mm)
  • Curb Weight 2080 lbs. (945 Kg)
  • Engine 1118 cc to 1442 cc
  • Transmission 4 speed manual or 3 speed automatic
  • Suspension Torsion bar front, coil rear
  • Brakes Disc front, drum rear
  • Steering Rack and pinion

The people contributing to these recollections of their involvement
in the C2 program from 1974 to 1978 are:

  • Burt Bouwkamp - Executive Director of European Product
  • Royden Axe - Design Director, Chrysler Europe
  • Marc Honore - Product Planning Director, Chrysler Europe
  • Harry Sheron - Technical Director, Chrysler Europe
  • Joe Farnham - Technical Director, Chrysler France
  • John Webster - Chief Engineer, Huntsville Electronic Division
  • Curt Gwin - Executive Designer (C2 Product)
  • Dave Logan - Chief Body Engineer, Chrysler France

Early in the "packaging" phase of the C2 program, Leo Kuzmicki,
who was Chief Engineer of Advance Design, asked me to come to the
drafting room to see a layout where his designers had figured out how
to reduce C2 front overhang (FOH) by 1/2" (from 29" to 28 1/2", I
think). Leo had been a Polish fighter pilot who escaped from Poland on
foot when the Germans occupied Poland. Leo made it to England and flew
with the Polish contingent in the RAF.

Dick Newman, an Advance Design
engineer, proudly presented the results of their packaging study. This
was a memorable event for me because I had just come from the Chrysler
USA where we added 3" or more to front overhang on a whim. Reducing
front overhang was a virtue in Europe!

Shortly after I arrived for my new assignment in Europe, we had a
meeting to establish the vehicle specifications, package size, cost and
weight targets, etc. Joe Farnham presented a curb weight target for the
C2 of 900 kg. I was the new boss (from the USA) and asked, "How heavy
is that?"

From the podium, Joe looked me right in the eye and said, "I
just told you." The other French and English engineers in the room
must have wondered whether I was qualified to be their boss. After a
year or two, I embraced the metric system and no longer had to multiply
all weights by 2.2 and divide all lengths by 2.54 to understand them.

Dick Macadam (VP of Chrysler Design) gave me his secret - divide the
number of millimeters by 100 and visualize that number as the number of
"4 inches." For example, a 1700mm wide car is 17 "4 inch" increments
wide - which is 17 x 4 = 68
inches. Dick's advice helped me until I was able to think in the metric


When Chrysler USA decided to build the C2, it became a "World Car" -
a fashionable concept at the time! A European team was sent to the USA
to coordinate the refinement of the European design to meet USA
marketing, manufacturing and legal requirements. The objective was to
make the European and USA designs as common as possible.

I was subsequently based in Highland Park for 4 to 5 months in the
spring and summer of 1975. I represented the European Product Planning
Office. Along with me were a small team of Chrysler France engineers
under the leadership of Claude Daubertes. Also on location at Highland
Park were Roy Axe and a guy from Chrysler France Marketing.

problems arose from differing organisations, paperwork procedures,
metric vs English measurements and day to day coordination because of
the relative immediacy of the program in the USA compared to Europe -
3,000 miles and five time zones away. We had no decision making
authority of any consequence so design compromises were subject to time
consuming consultations with our European management.

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It turned out that the C2 was a "World Car" in only sheet metal
appearance. Unique USA powertrain, crash test, lighting, and bumper
requirements changed many aspects of the European-designed vehicle.
Then, European management, under the influence of a Sales/Manufacturing
lobby, insisted on retaining the Simca 1100 torsion bar front
suspension on the basis that this would save a bundle of investment
money (an attractive argument in Detroit at the time) and assure for
the new C2 the reputation of the Simca 1100 for comfort and

While this decision saved investment money, it also
added a significant piece-cost and weight penalty to the C2, as well
as some loss of front leg room because the torsion bar suspension
required a higher floor pan than the originally planned McPherson strut
suspension, which was retained in the American design. The relative heaviness and cost of the torsion bar setup
was to penalize the European C2 throughout its life. I always felt that
this was a bad decision.

Other sources of diversification arose from differing requirements
for light switches, column controls, steering wheel, seat and door
panel designs. The European and American cars looked similar but by the
time we were through, I doubt if we had many common parts!

Probably the best part of the program arose from the decision to ask
for product help from the Huntsville Electronics Division. The result
was to add the trip computer (a far more consumer friendly design than
the teutonic monster launched by BMW shortly before) to the C2. That,
plus the automatic gearbox, gave us a unique offering at that price
level and probably earned us the European Car of the Year award. We
also spent a good deal of product money, including an electronic
ignition system, building in a significantly reduced maintenance
schedule with a diagnostic check capacity.

My best memory of the C2 "adventure in America" was being called in
to George Butts' (Vice President of Product Planning) office one
Thursday morning to be told that my wife Claire was suffering from loss
of voice and it was thought that it would be a good thing for me to
cheer her up. Whereupon George told me to pick up a return ticket to
Heathrow from his secretary, catch the afternoon plane for home, but be
back in the office in Highland Park on Monday! Neither Claire nor I
have ever forgotten that gesture.


I think often about working in the Chrysler Design Office at the
Whitley Technical Center near Coventry. These facilities were
subsequently purchased by Jaguar after the acquisition of Chrysler
Europe by PSA.

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I was the European designer that was sent over to Highland Park in
May 1975 with other members of a task force to work directly with USA
Design Staff to achieve common sheet metal surfaces for Europe and the
USA versions of the car. Bill Brownlie was the Executive Stylist in
charge and Rod Lloyd was the Chief Stylist. Both worked under Design
Director Dick Macadam. Many surface adjustments to our approved design
were required but the most significant one was to increase front fender
wheel lip flares to accommodate the tire chain clearance requirements
in the USA. The left picture is the European approved C2 design and the
right picture shows the fender lip as adjusted for USA requirements.
Both versions used the USA wheel openings.

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I have two thoughts about this period. First, is that there were two
schools of thought in Highland Park about the style of the vehicle for
North America. The European concept of a small 5 door hatchback with
genuine rear seat space, headroom, etc was not universally accepted -
despite the success of the VW Golf. Bill Brownlie, for one, pushed very
hard to change the design into a "2 plus 2" coupe but Dick Macadam held
to the management decision to build in the USA the C2 design as
approved in Europe. Also, a number of young designers at Highland Park
were enthusiastic about the European concept and style.

My second memorable experience is that we digitized the clay model
developed at Highland Park and transmitted the surface information to
the Whitley (Coventry) Design Center by satellite. This data was then
used to construct a clay "clone" model at Whitley for, amongst other
things, developing specific grille, bumper, taillight and ornamentation
designs for Europe. Although the data was transferred in this high tech
way, the clay model was constructed manually at Whitley from the
digitized surface data because we did not have a CAD controlled milling
machine for clay models.

Satellite transmission of surface data in 1975 may have been a
"first." I had never heard of transfer of digitized data by satellite
until then. In any case it was "high tech" for the time. We were not
particularly worried about security, computer hackers, etc as we would
be today.

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Had we followed up the C2 5 door with a C2 Short 3 door model to
compete in the European one-litre car market (Ford Fiesta, VW Polo,
etc), it probably would have looked like the model shown on page #6.
This model would have replaced the out-of-date rear engine Simca Mille.
The acquisition by Peugeot in August 1978 of Chrysler's European
interests ended our thoughts of expanding the C2 model range line
through the addition of either a 3 door short or a 4 door sedan model
(shown below).


When Chrysler USA decided to build the vehicle, the application of
USA, Imperial and Metric measuring systems and conversion between
dollars, pounds and francs, plus two languages, added considerable
interest and challenge to this new vehicle program.

We were successful because while we were working in different
languages and currencies and measurements, we were working to a common
objective of Car of the Year recognition on both sides of the Atlantic

Al Bosley, a product engineer in the Highland Park M.O.S.
(Management, Organization and Systems) Department, was assigned the
task to be sure there were no systems problems in engineering and
releasing the "common" design. Bob says that three issues were critical:

  1. Engineering Standards - All accepted Chrysler USA
    standards because Chrysler Europe had few standards and they were
  2. Engineering Drawings - A warning note was added to all
    drawings because Europe and USA used different drawing projections:
    i.e. first vs. third angle projections.
  3. Part Numbers - Chrysler France used a 6+2 system (six
    leading digits plus a two digit suffix indicating the manufacturing
    process - cast, finish machined, etc.) Chrysler USA used a 7 digit
    number and Chrysler UK also used 7 digit - but different - numbers. We
    went to an eight digit system adding 0 (zero) to USA and UK drawings -
    but providing for 11 positions in the computer system for future
  4. Bob notes today that these were technically simple solutions but it
    took an inordinate amount of time to reach agreement because of local
    pride. Europe approached it as "their" design but the USA position was
    that as the senior company they had the final say on how it was to be.

In France it is customary to christen the first prototype car in the
same way that a new ship is christened at launching. This is a picture of me doing the honors at the Chrysler France
Technical Center. The audience is the technical center staff. I did not
date the picture but I estimate that it would be spring of 1976.

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I don't remember exactly how many C2 prototypes we built, but in a
new model program we normally handbuilt 12 to 15 vehicles for testing,
evaluation, and development. We also built an additional three or four
prototypes for certifying that the design met legal and safety -
including crash-standards. The cost of the prototypes was $200,000 to
$250,000 for each one.

During the joint design/development of the car we encountered a
number of problems because the USA requirements for the car differed
from those for Europe. We were able to reach a single body design in
many cases but I recall two examples where we were unable to agree on
the same design so they became different between the USA and European

  1. Chrysler USA product engineers wanted a simple single action
    glass for cost and weight reasons. This meant that in the down position
    the glass protruded about 6" above the door beltline. This was unacceptable in Europe for marketing reasons, especially for a car
    in the light car segment without air conditioning. The result was
    different designs for glass drop and glass seals. To drop the glass to
    the beltline on the European C2, we invented a unique articulated glass
    drop which I called a "variable offcenter hexagon design." It worked
  2. Chrysler France manufacturing management insisted that the cowl
    outer windshield aperture and roof outer panel be stamped in one piece
    from one blank of steel. They insisted on this construction for better
    dimensional control of the windshield opening. The Chrysler USA
    manufacturing management considered the one-piece design proposal to be
    unfeasible from a manufacturing standpoint and insisted that the cowl
    and "A" pillar stamping be stamped separately from the roof panel.
    Consequently, although the vehicles looked the same in the windshield
    area, the American Horizon/Omni had a welded and metal finished joint at
    the top of the "A" pillars and the C2 did not.

Chrysler Europe could not have incorporated the Electronic Trip
Computer into the C2 without the help of the engineers from Chrysler's
Electronic Division in Huntsville, Alabama. The components of the trip
computer are shown in this picture.

Technology Electronic device Audio equipment Electronic instrument Electronic component

An interesting part of that story that I remember was that Chuck
Thompson, the Huntsville trip computer design leader, couldn't find a
fuel flow meter that would accurately measure the low fuel flow at
engine idle so Don Gero (a Huntsville engineer) who was, at that time,
based in Paris and serving as Liaison with the Chrysler France
engineers - recommended that Huntsville program the Trip Computer to
record a preset fuel flow rate (that Chrysler France engineers
provided) at engine speeds below 1000 RPM. Above 1,000 RPM the fuel
flow meter was able to accurately measure the fuel flow rate.

The C2
engineers in France worked with visiting Huntsville engineers, Chuck
Thompson, Ken Miller, and John Webster, to establish how much fuel the
engine would be using at idle RPM. (Later - when the USA started using
the Trip Computer - the fuel flow meter supplier was able to develop an
improved version that was sensitive enough to record idle fuel flow.)

The Trip Computer was one of the first applications of the bluish
green vacuum fluorescent display technology to an automotive product.
There was considerable concern over the reliability of the lengthy
thermionic cathode filaments in these display devices and Huntsville
conducted an elaborate series of vibration and other environmental
tests to qualify vendors of this new technology for the automotive
environment. The Futaba Corporation of Japan won the purchase order and
delivered top quality vacuum fluorescent displays that were also used
in Huntsville produced electronic digital clocks and automotive radios.

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