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Highland Park Confidential

Behind the Scenes at the Chrysler Design Styling Center

Thanks to the design revival at DaimlerChrysler of late, there’s been a ton of attention focused on what the exciting new models will look like. We can’t get enough spy photos of the new Challenger and the buzz on the upcoming 300C, Magnum, Charger, Ram pickup and Viper is equally exciting. But unless you’re an insider at Auburn Hills, spy photos and rumor mill gossip are as good as its going to get until these awesome rear wheel drive Hemi machines are officially announced and trotted out from behind The Curtain. You’ll just have to be patient…and wait.

But what if you could sneak behind the lines and catch a glimpse today? Well you may not be able to do that for the future models, but thanks to Steven R. Bollinger, son of noted Chrysler stylist Steven N. Bollinger, we can get a good look in the rear view mirror at once top secret Chrysler design studies.

Though he passed away in 2006, the senior Bollinger worked as a Design Specialist at Chrysler’s Highland Park Design Center from 1969 through 1988, with a stop at Chrysler’s southern California Pacifica Design Center near the end of his career. Bollinger was right there in the thick of things and had a direct impact on many unforgettable production models as well as some intriguing exercises that didn’t make it to the showroom.

Educated at the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Design, Bollinger did stints at GM (1962 to 1963) and Ford (1964 to 1969) before settling in at Chrysler. When he passed, he left a large collection of fascinating career artifacts to his son. We had the good fortune to review the collection and have managed to draw some valid conclusions about the designs that we present here. So put away the Ninja costume and night vision goggles, your top secret visit starts now.

1975 B-Body

As the intermediate sized B-Bodies entered the 1970’s, greater emphasis was placed on personal luxury than high performance. It’s no secret the move was driven by shifts in marketplace demand and the incredible success of the posh1973-up Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix two-door luxury models. With their long hoods, classical grille treatments and externally padded greenhouses, they spawned a host of competitors like the highly effective 1975 Chrysler Cordoba. Bollinger penned these personal luxury car illustrations that offer a glimpse of what might have been.

Notes attached to this pleasant design from April 8, 1972 read; “The customer’s interest in visibility will affect roof design. The need for improved cooling performance, related to clean-air systems, may lead to hot air exhausts in hood and fender surfaces”. The thin A-pillar and gently curved windshield predict the 1975 Plymouth Fury, Dodge Charger and Chrysler Cordoba B-Bodies while the wheel arch brows were employed on the Fury. An avid SCCA sports car racer, the fluted beltline treatment hints at the form used on the late sixties Alfa Romeo Guilietta.

Dated July 11, 1972, notice the 1975 model year drawn on the license plate area of this intermediate-size B-Body design proposal. The attached notes read; “Front end design will be affected by emission control systems which will require increased cooling areas, while bumper performance will have to be maintained at federal standard levels”. Aerodynamic concerns – and federally mandated CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) standards were not yet of critical importance when this design was delivered for consideration.

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