by: Marshall Foxworthy
1955 Chrysler Falcon show car was an “Idea Car” of
the Forward Look line of show cars. Conceived
between 1952 & 1953 by Virgil Exner, it was
completed in 1954 as a 1955-56 show car. The various
design studies and development of this car can be
seen in the photos taken of the styling model and in
the handmade model presented to Virgil Exner by Ghia.
Oddly enough this model is in the Exner collection
at the Henry Ford Museum. It is interesting to note
that Ford ended up using the Falcon name for its new
compact sedan in 1960 and is still used to this day
in Australia. Falcon sounds more like a sports car
than a compact sedan. This sleek two seat “sport
roadster” could have given Thunderbird and Corvette
a run for their money.
Clay styling model
Model built by Ghia for Exner
Differences between design and engineering
departments of Chrysler at the time negated a
production run. The prototype cars were built with a
105” wheelbase and were Hemi powered. Some period
literature claims that a 276 Hemi was used. The only
known example has its original 331 Hemi. Features
included a “Power Flite” automatic transmission,
power brakes, power windows and bucket seats. The
controls that operated the various systems were
small levers centered on the lower dash. The simple
grouping of four instruments, two in a pod over the
steering column and the controls all make up for an
elegant sporty interior. The convertible top could
be completely stowed under a hatch that lifted up
behind the seats.
Period photo of Falcon
has been a controversy over the years on exactly how
many of these show cars were built. Some say three,
some say one. Most point to the fact that several
color variations of the car, red, silver and black,
that were shown prove the existence of the three
cars. It is also known that the one extant Falcon,
owned by Joe Bortz, had been painted several colors
in the past. The photographic and period documents
point to the existence of at least two similar cars.
Some of the original promotional photographs show
one style with at least four distinct differences
from the extant silver Falcon of Joe Bortz. The
first being a different grill and nose treatment,
(see above). The second difference is the spacing
between the louvers on the front fenders wheel
opening and the edge of the door. The third being
the placement of the power window switches on the
door and the fourth difference is in the cant of the
windshield at the door post. It is highly unlikely
that such drastic changes were made to just one car.
Perhaps a document dated May 27, 1954 gives a clue.
The letter was from Luigi Serge of Ghia to C.B.
Thomas of Chrysler. The letter confirmed prices and
orders for prototype vehicles to be built by Ghia.
The first three items were as follows; 1) Model
A-488 “Chrysler Sports Roadster”, $20,000 for the
body and $2,500 for mechanical modifications. 2)
Model A-488, same body as the first car at a 25%
discount over the first car. 3) Model A-489 “DeSoto
Sports Roadster”, $16,000 for the body and $15,000
for the monocoque frame. Three cars could have been
produced. Only two can be confirmed by photographs.
The Falcon was shown at various car shows between
1955 and 1956. Other appearances at the time found
the Falcon in the public eye other than at a car
show. A photograph from the Chrysler archives shows
the Falcon at Watkins Glenn with Virgil Exner behind
the wheel. In 1956 the Falcon made an appearance in
the movie “Four Girls in Town”. With only a short
time on the silver screen, this car showed off its
design potential. A likeness could even be found in
a set of cigarette package trading cards in Europe.
Even today a small die-cast model is available to
Cigarette trading card
It is unknown which of the three cars listed in the
Ghia letter we can see today as Joe Bortz’s Falcon,
but it is clear that the Falcon embodies simplicity
of trim decoration and an emphasis on form that
creates a timeless design that with few changes
could be seen on the road today. Look at today’s
Daimler-Chrysler products and you might just see a
bit of the Falcon.