When the Chrysler Atlantic debuted at Pebble Beach in 1995, half of the car culture swooned and half dismissed it “as a caricature drawn after awaking from a dream.”
Twenty years later, it deserves a second looksee.
We recently stumbled across a brilliant review of this brilliant Chrysler tribute to the classics. It was penned by *classic car authority* Wallace Wyss. He originally posted it about a year ago on his site Car Build Index.
Mr. Wyss conjures an image of 20 years ago on the 18th hole at the at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Bob Lutz, then president of Chrysler, was strolling around the 200+ array of legendary cars with his then design chief Tom Gale. Lutz wondered if they could build a concept car to rival the exuberant and frolicking designs of Figoni et Falaschi or Darrin.
… like the 1937 Bugatti 57S Atlantic
Apparently Bob wondered hard enough that Tom took it to his designers. Who in turn wondered hard enough that they channeled the curvaceous French coupes of the thirties born of Bugatti, Talbot-Lago and Delahaye.
The result of all this thinking outside the 90s box was on display the following year at Pebble Beach in front of the Del Monte Lodge. For obvious reasons, it is dubbed the Chrysler Atlantic.
Besides its inspiration from the Bugatti 57S Atlantic, its styling is also more than a little inspired by the Talbot-Lago T150 SS Coupe constructed in 1938, like the shape of the side windows and the curved boot.
Mr. Wyss admires the graceful nose most, which he says emulates the Jaguar XK-120. The honeycomb grille texture is rated “interesting” and he appreciates the twin grille as authentic to pre-war.
The side windows are as expressive as eyes… and work well with the bold and emphatic rear fenders. Like the Bugatti Atlantic, there is nothing dainty about this car.
MR WYSS: Disappointed by the modernity of the rear taillight. He dismisses it a “light bar”.
MR. LEGENDARY CAR GUY: [opposing point of view] I like the light bar. Since 1970, most rearview designs are sad and trivial. If cars were dogs, there is nothing to warrant a sniff!
MR WYSS: Disappointed by the wheels which he feels detract from the vintage look.
MR. LEGENDARY CAR GUY: I like their mixture of old and new into a kind of transcendent “goth” look.
Mr. Wyss does get excited about the dorsal fin styling cue from the Bugatti Atlantic:
“The rib down through the rear window and continuing over the roof is brilliant—a nod toward the prewar Bugattis with magnesium bodies where they couldn’t weld the magnesium so they had a rib sticking up that they put fasteners through to fasten the body halves together.”
Mr. Wyss also approves of the car’s emulation of the straight eights of the thirties. Lutz had installed in his swank Atlantic a straight eight made by mating two 2.0 liter Neon 4 cylinder engines.
We are told the car still exists on a pedestal at Chrysler Museum.
Except for the rare contemporary effort like this, it’s ironic. Seems like the most futuristic looking cars were designed way back in the fifties, don’t you agree? Feel free to comment on our facebook page. For more thrills, be sure to click on our Classic Car Prints.