Story of the Week

Posted: 11.25.2014
The Plymouth XNR: Concept Car of 1960
By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/ Researcher
Images: Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection

The XNR was a remarkable show car that was introduced by the Chrysler Corporation in 1960. The name XNR was derived from the name of Mr. Virgil Exner, who was Chief Stylist of Chrysler design. Designed on a Plymouth Valiant chassis, the Plymouth XNR concept model was first introduced to the public on March 1, 1960. The styling theme was symmetrical, having the upper design feature off-center and in line with the driver. The concept model offered seating space for the driver and one passenger. It was 46 inches overall in height, had a 106.5” wheelbase, and was also powered by a Valiant slant six-horsepower engine. The model was produced in Italian Red and the body was skillfully built by hand.

Each detail of the XNR concept model had its own distinction which most people enjoyed. It ‘must see’ vehicles during the Auto Show circuit around the country. From the lean, low-rising slope of the air scoop to the muscular rear fin, the XNR concept model design was dominated by an off-center character line that gave the model a unique look. There was an auxiliary windshield for the passenger which at the time could be rotated flat to the car's top surface when not in use. The passenger seat was four inches lower than the driver's to keep the passenger below the wind resistance level.

The entire model was designed has an outer expression of inner strength and grace. This was a wholly logical development of a long line of good looking concept cars all created by the Chrysler Corporation under the leadership of Virgil Exner. It demonstrated the adage design that should be described as function. The interior of the XNR concept model was produced in black leather and aluminum material. The steering wheel was custom designed for the driver. Behind the driver's seat was a padded headrest that flowed to the rear as a vertical stabilizing fin. It also had a leather-covered glove box which could be removed and be used as a camera case. During the age of speed and sports car designs, the XNR was the ideal sports car machine. Chrysler said this about the XNR concept model, “The asymmetrical hood scoop/headrest and fin was created because the driver's head and shoulders would project into the wind on such a low car”.

Unfortunately, Chrysler Corporation decided that the XNR concept was too radical and too expensive to build and with Virgil Exner leaving Chrysler Corporation in 1961, the model had no chance of being refined or mass produced. The XNR Plymouth model was a striking concept car of the 1960's and many people had admired its design. After the XNR model had completed its Auto Show circuit the model was shipped back to Ghia to avoid the possibility of being destroyed. However, Ghia sold the model to a Swiss businessman who later sold it to Mohammad Reza Phiavi, The Shah of Iran. In 1969, it was shipped to Kuwait and later in the mid 1970's, the model was shipped to a Beirut resident Karim Eddie who hid the model during the war. On August 12, 2012, the 1960 Plymouth XNR show car sold for $935,000 at RM auctions.

In conclusion, the XNR Plymouth concept model introduced asymmetrical design to the world. Years later, the same bumper grille idea would reappear on 1971 Plymouths. The XNR will always be remembered for its originality and will forever be a part of automotive history.


A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Au-tomotive History Collection. (Bibliography: Butler Don. “The Plymouth And De Soto Story” Crestline Publishing 1978. “Plymouth Idea Sports Machine” Motor Trend magazine May 1960.)

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area.

If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email mcadmin@motorcities.org
 


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