Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Refining One of Virgil Exner's Last Masterpieces
For this week's design tweak, I chose a 1961 Plymouth Fury 2 door hardtop. While I find the original Exner design stunning, its contemporary buying public didn't agree. Many automotive hacks wracked their brains trying to colorfully describe this car—The Car that Ate Tokyo—a riff on the Japanese horror flicks of the day, comes to mind, and they still do to this day in classic car magazines. The "pinched" grille and dramatic headlight placement seems to be the car's main issues, although the suddenly finless body was referred to as a "plucked chicken" by Exner himself. My main issues are with the details. There are fussy chrome doodads, fussy side sculpturing and an abundance of shiny chrome slathered in the front. Ironically, Lexus is just now introducing its new "spindle" grille across its entire lineup, and it's almost exactly the same shape as this '61 Plymouth. See the BTW sidebar at the end of this post. Let me describe how I "fixed" it to my own tastes.

T H E   C H O P — First I "radiused" the rear wheel wells. This means I opened up the fenders to reveal the entire wheel and tire. The original had a very low wheel opening which didn't really relate to the front wheel well and made the rear end look like it was dragging. I think this change did the most for "lightening" the look of the car. I resculpted the sides, continuing the front fender shoulder all the way to the back of the car instead of ending it at the front door. I also eliminated the ornate trim behind the front doors, and lowered the entire car about 3 inches so it sat closer to the ground hugging the tires more. At the front, I blackened-out the grille, which simplified the look of it, and made the dramatic "swoosh" around the protruding headlights work better. I added a satin chrome "header" above the now-black grille, with P-L-Y-M-O-U-T-H letterspaced across it. This serves to "rationalize" the grille shape, giving more prominence to the horizontal aspects of it, rather than the angularity of the opening. The front bumper was simplified too, deleting the rather baroque center section with its five raised ridges, and I raised it a few inches so it wasn't so close to the ground.

The original photo of the '61 Fury. Note the odd way the front fender shoulder sculpturing stops at the front door cutline, though the chrome trim continues. Also, just behind the front door is a set of chrome hash marks that seem really out of place, though they do serve as a start for a small sliver of white paint, matching the two-toned roof. The rear of the car seems to drag, a combination of the now-finless rear fenders and very low wheel well opening.


Exner has the last laugh after all, as Lexus introduces its brand new "Spindle" grille on its entire lineup. I call it an updated '61 Plymouth grille!

U P D A T E :  For some reason my chop wasn't enlarging from the thumbnail. Now it should be.

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