APRvcf67 1959 Scimitar grille 01
1959 Scimitar grille 01

No lightweight — the aluminium Scimitar

If you had been at the 2020 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in the USA, you would have seen a rare sight among many rare sights.

For parading in front of you on the lush green lawns were the three Scimitar concept cars.

It was the first time they had been seen together in many a decade.

Created in 1958 by famed industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, the concepts were commissioned by Tom Nicholson, chairman of the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation.

Olin was a mining, chemical and aluminium company.

Nicholson and Stevens were good friends.

The purpose of the cars was to showcase the many uses of aluminium in automobiles.

To make the point abundantly clear, the aluminium exterior panels were left as unpainted, bare metal.

The steel panels were painted black to “prevent rust”.

Aluminium was also used in the grille, hubcaps, trim, bumpers and many interior parts.

The huge V-shaped motif in the grille was made of copper.



The trio comprised a two-door convertible, four-door Town Car Phaeton and a station wagon called the All-Purpose Sedan.

The convertible featured a roof which retracted fully into the boot.

The Town Car featured a ribbed aluminium panel over the front passengers which retracted into the roof.

The roof then folded into the boot to create a four-door convertible.

Stevens’ ingenious design meant the Town Car Phaeton could be configured as a four-door sedan, open-front town car or convertible.

The All-Purpose Family Sedan had a sliding roof panel over the cargo area.

When opened, the vehicle was able to transport tall objects such as appliances or furniture.

The trio was shaped at Stevens’ design studios in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and constructed by Karosseriewerk Reuter in Stuttgart, Germany.

To keep costs down, Stevens raided the parts bins of other car makers.

The chassis came from a Chrysler Yorker, giving a wheelbase of 127 inches/3226mm.

The engine was a Chrysler 413 cubic-inch/6.8-litre V8.

It was linked a TorqueFlite automatic transmission.

The rear tail lights were donated by a 1958 Chevrolet.

The Scimitars debuted at the 1959 Geneva Motor Show.

After Geneva the cars did the grand tour of American car shows.

In between show duties they were used extensively by Olin at sales conferences and product launches.

If you missed Amelia Island in 2020, as so many of us did, you can see the All-Purpose Sedan at the National Auto Museum in Reno, Nevada.

The convertible and Town Car Phaeton are held privately however.

Stevens would later apply the sliding roof idea to the 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire.

Between 2003 and 2005 GM’s premium truck brand, GMC, offered a sliding roof on their Envoy XUV model.

They expected annual sales of 90,000. Barely 13,000 sold.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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