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08/07/2010 789

Plymouth [2] - Belmont

Plymouth's sleek Belmont concept car rode on a Dodge chassis and was powered by a Dodge V-8. It was the 1st Plymouth experimental car with a light plastic body, had an overall length of nearly 192-inches and was only 32 inch high at the top of the door. The 150 horsepower engine came mated to Plymouth's Hy-Drive 3-speed semi-automatic transmission. Finished in a light green metallic paint, the Belmont's exterior went well with the white leather 2-seater interior and had a full set of racing instruments, and radio controls built-into the center armrest.


The Plymouth Belmont was the first plastic-bodied (reinforced fiberglass) Chrysler “idea car,” an experiment in new materials and design brought out in the same year as the DeSoto Adventurer.

The Belmont was a two seat V8-powered sports car, which the dealers had high hopes for, as being aimed at the Thunderbird and the Corvette. Not to worry. In the usual Chrysler Board mentality, the car and the design was retired before 1955, as being “too old.” Plymouth just shook its head and dug in again, working against odds as it went about setting new records, sales, speed, and design for 1955. Possibly, Chrysler had seen the sales figures set by the 1953 and 1954 Corvette and were underwhelmed by them. However, surely after seeing the sales recorded for the 1955 T-Bird, they probably kicked themselves in the rear area a few times.
The Belmont was a convertible, made for the 1954 Chicago Auto Show by Briggs Manufacturing (rather than the usual Ghia, because Chrylser had just bought Briggs); it was designed in the Advanced Styling Studio, under the supervision of head stylist Virgil Exner. Underneath the fancy curves was a chassis shared by Plymouth and Dodge, with a 114 inch wheelbase. The V8 engine was, according to the numbers, the 14th allocated to Plymouth, which had no V8 powered cars at the time; it was used in Dodges as the Red Ram, and squeezed 150 horsepower out of its 241 cubic inches, good at the time. The transmission was the corporate semi-automatic, sold by Plymouth as the Hy-Drive.

The Plymouth Belmont was long (191.5 inches), low (49 inches), and sleek, painted light metallic blue (it would later be repainted in red), with what passed for an aerodynamic theme; it also had turbine styling cues, not surprising given that Chrysler was seriously intending to release a turbine engine at the time (“[Chrysler’s] gas turbine has solved high fuel consumption, exhaust heat problems usually associated with turbine engines.”) The roof itself was a soft top hidden behind the seats, with a hard cover.

According to Second Chance Garage, Belmont used a stock engine, except for chrome valve covers and a low-profile air cleaner (to allow the hood to close) on the standard Stromberg WW-3-108 carburetor. The wheels were stock Chrylser options, and tail lights were from the prior year’s Chryslers; various pieces were taken from standard cars across the Chrysler Corporation lines. The windshield itself was made of Plexiglass. Virgil Exner had gotten permission to keep the Belmont after it was shown; it was sold in 1968, and changed hands a couple of times before being left on its own a garage. It was later rescued and is now in Don Williams’ collection in New Jersey.



1954  Chicago


Virgil Exner
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