In the 1950s GM had the Corvette and Ford had the T-Bird. This left Chrysler as the “odd man out” of the Big Three when it came to a sports car. That almost changed in 1955 with the unveiling of the Chrysler Falcon concept vehicle. To this day, there are many who feel this very capable roadster, with its classic styling and solid performance, should have been put into production.
The Falcon was designed by Maury Baldwin and built by Chrysler’s Advanced Styling Studio. Three Falcons were produced, though only one is still around. It had a 105-inch wheelbase, cellular frame, and 276 ci (4.52 L) cast-iron engine joined to a two-speed automatic gearbox. The engine was rated at 170 hp and gave the Falcon a top speed of about 115 mph. O-60 time was 10 seconds, respectable for the time though hardly spectacular. But the Falcon was designed to be a gentleman’s car, not a teenager’s speed machine. Fuel economy (not that anyone in the 50s cared about that) was around 15 mpg.
The Falcon’s styling is “European” in the best sense of the word. It’s classic. It has fins, but they’re proportional to the rest of the vehicle. The large “egg crate” grille has aged well in terms of public perception, it’s prominent but not gaudy. So are the side exhausts. The Falcon had a manual top that stowed neatly in a compartment behind the single seat. The louvers ahead of the doors are a nice touch, accenting its sporty nature without making it look like a sports car per se.
Those who actually drove the Falcon gave it rave reviews. The steering was especially crisp and precise for a vehicle of its time. One drawback, in the minds of many, was Chrysler’s choice of a Powerflite transmission. It offered the convenience of automatic shifting but at a price. With no parking gear, the driver would had to engage the emergency brake to keep his beloved Falcon from rolling away. Another issue was the lack of headroom when the top was up. This problem would have been corrected, had the Falcon ever seen mass production.
In 1955, Chrysler was doing rather well, which probably explains why it didn’t throw its hat in the ring with the Falcon. The company’s lack of vision would come back to bite it in the behind a couple of years later, but that’s a story for another post.