06 August 2012

Plymouth XNR

Virgil Exner (1909-1973) was an automotive designer who produced some of the best looking cars of the 50s and 60s. He started his career with the Raymond Lowey Studio in 1938. After designing the Studebaker Starlight in the early '50s, he joined Chrysler and designed some of these memorable autos; Chrysler 300 ,Chrysler New Yorker, Plymouth Fury, Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Coronet.

Here is one of Exner's concept cars. It might have a touch of Lowey in it, even after he'd been gone 2 decades. It certainly bears a little resemblance to Lowey's  Avanti of the same era.

Exner chose to power the XNR with a 170-cu.inch* slant-six engine with a Hyper-pak intake manifold, four-barrel carburetor, ported cylinder head, high-performance camshaft, and split exhaust. To get a short, sporting wheelbase, he chose to base the XNR on Plymouth’s new Valiant chassis, upon which the Italian firm Ghia then draped a body made entirely of steel.

*Some sources say it had a 225 slant six, but I don't think that engine was being produced at that time.

It certainly would have been an interesting car, and with Ford leaving the sports car market by turning the Thunderbird into a luxury car, it would have given the Corvette a run. It was tested at 146 mph. With a fiber glass nose cone ala the Superbird of a decade later, it was clocked at 152. Not bad for something built of stock parts.

There was only the one example made. Tax laws demanded that it be shipped back to Italy after it's use as a show car, and it ended up being owned by the Shah of Iran, who sold it to a Beirut businessman before fleeing the county in 1979. It managed to survive war torn Beirut of the 80s and is now seen at car shows around the world.

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