Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What A Concept!

Some people are aware of the high-seas collision between the Andrea Doria (above) and the Stockholm in July 1956.  Like many things in history with the passage of time and generations fall off and others take their place, this was a big deal back then.  Sea voyages were beginning to recede as air travel began to really take off.  

51 people lost their lives in the collision and when all was said and done, the court inquiries determined the Andrea Doria to have been largely at fault.  Oddly enough the Stockholm, now the Astoria, is still on the Atlantic making passenger runs.

Concept cars are a common way for car companies to put their ideas for design or options into reality.  Usually they make one car and send it around to various national car shows.  Sometimes the ideas are used in subsequent models and sometimes not.   With the sinking of the Andrea Doria, Chrysler's Norseman was also lost.  Most car enthusiasts are aware of the Norseman if the memory of the Andrea Doria has faded into history.  

The Norseman was designed by Chrysler in Detroit but handed over to the Ghia company from Turin, Italy for actual construction.   

Only one was made and this model was lost forever.  Still rusting in a wooden box int he cargo section of the ship which is lying on its side and deteriorating.  Divers call it the Mt. Everest of diving because of the swiftness of the Atlantic waters and depth.  In fact, 11 divers have lost their lives diving around the site since it sank.  The last one in 2015.  

These are the only pictures of that lost automobile.  Some of the  features were a pillarless roof with the back window that slid up into the roof.  It also left out the butterfly window or vent windows.  Both were a first for car engineering.  The underside was encased in a smooth sheeting which gave the car better aerodynamics.  The headlights, door handles and trunk openings were all hidden.    

The car had 4 bucket seats and reel-type seat belts that fastened to the center console that ran the length of the car.  But that beautiful, fully functioning car never made it back home, and even the stylists who created it never saw it.  It has become part of automobilia lore, along with that old rusted out Plymouth Belvedere that was in a time capsule they opened a few years ago.  The butterfly-less front window would become standard in 10 years.  The sunroof would become a popular option down the road.  

The car was painted a two-tone green with a touch of red in the flared wheel openings.  One guy paid a diver to go down and see it in 1991 but was cancelled after scientists said the only thing that would be recognizeable would be the engine block.   But that wasn't the case - three years later a diver went down and saw car but was still rusted out and not-salvageable.  

Many think the 1965 Rambler Marlin was a close clone of the Norseman.  In fact, Richard Teague, who styled for Rambler in later years, helped style the Norseman.  

The plans for the Norseman was to take it on tour around the US then to Chrysler's Chelsea Proving grounds in Michigan and deliberately crashed to see how the unique cantilevered roof would survive.  

General feeling around the obviously disappointed Chrysler headquarters was better to become legend than just another intentionally wrecked dream car.  I agree.  But there is still room in the Cabin in the Woods garage for any other old car - legendary or not.

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