1961 dodge flitewing 15
1961 dodge flitewing 15

Flitewing a flight of fantasy

The Dodge Flitewing was developed to establish Chrysler’s styling and engineering themes for the 1960s.

Constructed by Ghia, in Italy, the Flitewing was fully operational but today is one of those Chrysler dream cars that has been largely forgotten.

The Flitewing debuted in December 1961.

Styled by Virgil Exner, the car’s main design motifs were intended to set the theme for Chrysler’s upcoming 1962 range.

And if it looks like a puffed up 1960 Valiant, you are right.

It does.

That’s was Exner’s intention.

This approach to design was the exact opposite of what Ford and GM had done in the past.

Usually new design ideas were introduced on Cadillacs, Buicks and Lincolns and then, over a couple of years, progressively applied to mainstream brands.

Exner was able to convince Chrysler’s management the styling of the economy Valiant ought to be replicated across the entire Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler brands.

No one has ever really explained why Exner wanted to do this, nor has it been revealed why the Chrysler Board agreed to it.

What we do know is that it was not a success.

Car buyers took exception to their more expensive Dodges looking like a lower priced Valiant.

When combined with the ill-conceived and hurried downsizing of the 1962 Dodge and Plymouth ranges (because Chrysler’s boss, Bill Newberg, thought GM were downsizing for 1962) the result was sales disaster.

Exner was replaced as Chrysler’s design boss by Elwood Engel in November 1961, so he was not around for the Flitewing’s debut.

Newberg also exited soon after, over an alleged conflict of interest.

One of the Flitewing’s design objectives was curved side glass that sat flush with the sheet metal and the elimination of the B pillar in the centre of the car.

To achieve these objectives the Fliitewing featured flip-up door windows, in place of conventional roll-down glass.

When the door was opened, a window-roof canopy automatically cantilevered upward, and vice versa.

The electric motors to operate the complicated mechanisms were located in the boot and connected to the doors and side glass by flexible cables.

The car sat on a production chassis with a wheel base of 118 inches/2997mm.

Motor was a standard 383 cubic inch/6.3 litre V8.

Inside, the speedometer was made up of 13 individual “elliptical windows showing 10mph increments, replacing the conventional dials,” so said the PR blurb.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au


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