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The 1998 Chrysler Chronos Concept Car

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The 1998 Chrysler Chronos Concept Car

The Chronos is instantly recognizable, with smooth, aerodynamic styling that brings up memories of the original 300C and turbine cars, yet is completely modern. Even without seeing it, you can hear that unique V-10 rumble blocks away.

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The interior is as elegant as the exterior, with an unusual leather color and an elegant instrument panel and gauges. The expanses of patterned chrome are excessive but like the red interior of the Plymouth Pronto Spyder, are probably designed to "acid test" the material.

Our photos simply do not do the interior justice.

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The Chronos is clearly a concept: there are no outside door handles, leaving door opening to a key fob button (as many customizers do). The drivetrain has a limiter, so the V-10 sounds terrific but feels like a Fiat 500 towing a freight locomotive (the limiter can be removed). Finally, the interior is quite small, given the influence of classic British sports cars with long bonnets and boots (hoods and trunks) coupled with small, wood-adorned cabins.

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Like many concepts, the Chronos looks much better in person, where the light chrome-bluish paint can be seen properly, and the curves and proportions can be admired without the flatness of a two-dimensional photograph. Inspirations appear to include some 1950s Chrysler concepts: the 1955 Falcon concept, the 1953 Special, and the 1953 Chrysler D'Elegance (Chrysler design studio chief Jack Crain specifically credited the D'Elegance).

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Clever ideas include wheel emblems that always stay upright, dual centered tailpipes, and an electronically-controlled humidor, which is an ironic addition to come from the first company to abolish ashtrays.

Chronos concept car tires were large for the time, at 20 and 21 inches. The 350-horsepower, six-liter single overhead cam V10 engine was not related to the Viper V10, but was built from components of three 4.7 liter V8s. The suspension was largely borrowed from the Viper.

The interior is certainly more elegant than that of the Chrysler 300, not to mention many luxury cars. It looks like it should be the flagship Chrysler.

Tom Gale wrote: "If you're going for the flagship of the Chrysler brand, and the Chrysler Chronos clearly is, then everything must add up. The look must fit. The quality must be appropriate. And the ride must be exhilarating. It has to totally quench the thirst for perfection."

Why wasn't it made?

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When DaimlerChrysler was formed, key executives within Chrysler (according to published sources) believed that the luxury cars should stay within Mercedes. At the time, brand separation was low, with suspension tuning and minor sheet metal differences separating Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler.

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The Chronos was part of the search for the Chrysler icon that would raise Chrysler back to its traditional place as a cheaper and better alternative to Cadillacs and Lincolns, a search likely led by Tom Gale, who was also seeking a new and different place for Plymouth. Chrysler Corporation would likely be a very different place had Tom Gale been put in charge, rather than Bob Eaton (for one thing, it would exist).

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Even if the takeover had not taken place, the Chronos, as it was, would most likely never have been made because the interior was relatively cramped, beautiful though the overall effect was. However, one could likely see aspects of its styling on production cars - the grille was clearly part of the process that led to the 2004 Chrysler 300C.

SpecificationsChrysler Chronos
Track63.8" front/rear
Curb Weight4209 lbs
Length x Width205.4" x 76.5"

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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: FCGladiator

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