Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dodge's Molded Grenada

They were popularly called "dream cars" back in the 1950s, though the term used now is "concept cars."  Then or now, the expectation was that such show cars would probably look flashy, exciting, provocative and so forth.  "Dumpy" was not expected.  But Dodge managed to pull that off with its 1954 Granada.

At that time, Chrysler Corporation had been showing Italian-influenced concept cars styled by corporate styling director Virgil Exner himself, by stylists under his supervision or by Italian coachbuilding firms under contract to Chrysler.  The Granada was one of the few exceptions, probably having been styled by personnel at Briggs Manufacturing, a contract body maker being absorbed by Chrysler about that time.

The Granada's body was built of glass fiber, a subject of great interest in Detroit in the early 1950s.  General Motors' new Chevrolet Corvette sports car had a glass fiber body assembled from many sub-sections with great difficulty.  The main problem was that, due to shrinkage, there was enough variation in the size of the parts that fitting them together often resulted in unacceptably wide gaps.  In contrast, the Granada outer body had only seven parts -- the doors, hood and trunk lid counting for four of these.  This theoretically would reduce the number of fit problems if something like a Granada entered production.

The major part of the body was one piece of fiberglass that was probably formed over a small number of "female" molds that would be removed once the body shell had "cured."  The result was a shape that looked somewhat like molded Jello.


As I mentioned, the Granada was dumpy looking.  Though this dumpiness was actually comparative; Exner-instigated designs at the time were classy-looking, and the Granada did not look classy.  On the other hand, the Granada's design wasn't really bad: just inadequate.  Given the task of having its body built with a minimal number of parts, whoever designed it did a reasonably good job in the context of 1953 when it was built (it was first shown to the public at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January, 1954).

Specific criticisms might include the high cowl and hoodline, though the cowling was probably dictated by engineering considerations.  The "frenching" (a 1950s term) around the headlights has a high peak; I would have dropped the fenderline an inch (2 cm) or so right over the headlights and extended the frenched lip slightly farther forward.  This would be aerodynamically unacceptable today, but was perfectly fine in the 1950s.  Those odd, fin-like appendages back of the passenger compartment were probably added to firm up what otherwise would have been a too-soft rear design.  But they are not attractive.  One solution would be to eliminate them and firm up the rear.  Another would be to add a rear-fender curve over the rear wheels even though this was already something of a sports car styling cliché.  The grille opening ensemble is okay for 1950s design.

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