Monday, July 29, 2013

Plymouth Belmont, a Briggs Design

Briggs Manufacturing for many years had been an independent firm building bodies under contract to various automobile companies.  But in 1953 it was purchased by Chrysler Corporation.  That year Briggs created two show cars with bodies made of fiberglass, a material of great interest at the time. One car was the Dodge Granada which I discuss in a separate post. The other was the Plymouth Belmont. Although both were displayed under Chrysler brand names, their styling was created outside the influence of the corporation's styling staff which at the time favored elegant Italian-influenced designs.

The Belmont's styling was by Bill Robertson working under the direction of Briggs' Al Prance.   Both the Granada and Belmont were two-passenger "sports cars" built on passenger car chassis and running gear.  Both had high, rounded cowlings and similar, perhaps identical, windshields.

Like the Granada, the Belmont was confusing to some car fans because its styling was at such great variance from the Italianate concept car themes by now (1954, when the Belmont and Granada where first shown to the public) expected from Chrysler.


The Belmont's styling is in keeping with they way sports cars were expected to look in the early 1950s, in particular its flowing fender line.  However, the Belmont was longer and wider than real sports cars of the day, as the rear view I found on the Internet suggests.

As for specific criticisms, I think the rear fender kick-up is too extreme, too high.  I think the sides look a little too puffy, but that opinion can be fairly debated.  The high, rounded cowling might have been necessary for engineering reasons, but adds a little heaviness to the design.  The bumpers were stock Plymouth items, and therefore not part of the stylist's intent.  The air intake vent on the hood was a styling cliché of the early 50s.  It does add interest to the hood area, but added interest could have been accomplished by other kinds of panel sculpting.  The headlamps seem small for the times, so I would have liked them a little larger.  Plus, the chromed "frenching" (a 50s term) around them gives the car's face a a strange appearance.  The front could have been better composed had the stylist been allowed to design a bumper that harmonized with the grille shape and content.  Overall, the Belmont's appearance might be classed as "clean," but heavy looking; not a successful design.

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