Thursday, November 16, 2017

Complete Re-Designs ... or Major Facelifts?

Sharp-eyed reader "emjayjay" questioned in a comment to this post my assertion that 2011 Chrysler 300s were a facelift of the 300 series introduced for the 2005 model year.  I responded that I hadn't noticed that the 2011 model was a new design at the time, though a current Wikipedia entry notes that it was.  Troubled, I thought it worthwhile to delve further into the matter of 2011 Chryslers as well as another facelift controversy -- the 1955 Ford (and by extension, Mercury, that I won't deal with here because both brands had similar basic bodies that were updated in a similar way for 1955).  This post is my present take on the matter of facelifts that are so major that they seem to be complete redesigns.

Chrysler line 1939:

A couple of years ago I posted about the 1939 Chrysler Corporation models that (aside from Plymouth) appeared to be a redesign but seemed to me to probably be a major facelift.  I haven't changed my position on that, so you might link to that post, treating it as an introduction or companion piece to the present one.

Ford 1955:

For many years I thought that 1955 Fords were new designs: they certainly looked different from 1954 models.  But in recent years I've noticed some claims that the '55s were actually major facelifts.  For example, the current Wikipedia entry states (as of when the current post was drafted) that "The American Ford line of cars gained a new body for 1955 to keep up with surging Chevrolet, although it remained similar to the 1952 Ford underneath."  But the How Stuff Works site states: "Retaining the 1952-54 shell, the 1955 Ford was completely reskinned, emerging colorful if chromey, with a rakish look of motion and a modestly wrapped windshield."

Sort of a toss-up here, so I present images and an analysis below.

Chrysler 300 2011:

Now for the 2011 Chrysler controversy.

Motor Trend magazine published this "First Test" of the 2011 300 that reads more like a Chrysler press release than a critical evaluation.  It implies that the car is a new design.

Car and Driver magazine, on the other hand, held that the 300 was actually a facelifted 2005 model.  Here it stated: "Chrysler had to deal with that whole bankruptcy thing, and so the 2011 300 received more of a thorough face lift than the total overhaul for which it was due."  And here it added: "And as much as the 300 might have looked like Chrysler’s chef-d’oeuvre in 2004, the company couldn’t just sit back and let it be. For 2011, the 300 receives a refresh rather than the redesign for which it is due, but the update addresses the most important things."

In addition, Consumer Reports asserts here that "Chrysler's flagship, the 300C, is muscular and luxurious. An extensive freshening has made this cruiser a lot more competitive than before."

And finally, Popular Mechanics' review mentioned: "With ambitious refinement targets (the Lexus LS460 among them), the new Chrysler 300 required all-new sheet metal and suspension components."

These items tend to confirm my memory that 2011 300s were facelifed 2005s.  Certainly their appearance suggested that.

Let's look at some photos.


First is a "for sale" photo of a 1954 4-door Ford followed by a Barrett-Jackson photo of a 1956 Ford 4-door that has post-market wheels ('56 Fords were lightly facelifted '55s).  The window shapes aside from the wraparound windshield on the '55 are the same, as are the door cut lines, door handle locations, and the beltline.  The front door forward cut line distance from the wheel hub confirms that the cowling is in the same position -- a key indicator of continuity.  Also, the 1955's wheelbase is essentially the same as the '54's (0.5 inches longer, a little more than one centimeter).

These views of two-door Fords help confirm that 1955 Fords were heavily facelifted 1954s.

Here are side views of a 2008 Chrysler 300 (top) and a 2011 model, the '08 being essentially the same as the 2005 version.  Again, the cowling positions, door cut lines, aft window shapes, and gas filler doors are essentially the same.  Aside from all the new sheet metal, the main difference related to body structure has to do with the windshield.  The 2005-2010 Chrysler 300s had a fairly narrow windshield in the spirit of 1948 Hudsons.  A major problem was that this reduced visibility for the driver.  For example, sometimes stoplights would be obscured.  I know this because I owned a 2005 300.  So for 2011 the windshield was enlarged and its slope increased so as to improve visibility and aerodynamic efficiency.  Note that the windshields on both cars shown here are based on the same cowling position.  The differences are in the merger of the windshield and the roof and in the shape of the front window.

For the purposes of this blog, I consider continuity of body structural elements (cowlings, door posts, etc.) as the key factor dictating that any appearance changes from model year to model year can be considered facelifts, whether minor or major.  Therefore, until I learn otherwise from body engineers, the 1939 Dodges, DeSotos and Chryslers, and 1955 Fords and Mercurys, and 2011 Chryslers (and Dodges using the same body) -- represent major facelifts and not new designs.

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