Lost Heritage

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Lost Heritage

When you think of great automotive minds behind Dodge, Chrysler or Plymouth you think of Water Chrysler, the Dodge Bros. or Lee Iacocca, but not many mention Virgil Exner. Exner was one of the primary individuals who was responsible for bringing tailfins to the mainstream.

Between 1955 and 1963 Exner inserted his design expertise into the Chrysler brand. Exner introduced the Forward Look at Chrysler and just like the Jobs and Gates computer spying days, his designs were stolen before they hit the road. GM designer Chuck Jordan spied on Exner’s hidden 1955 Chrysler collection, moving Bill Mitchell, head of General Motors styling, to begin redesigning each car line, Chevrolets through the Cadillacs. Exner’s new styles changed the course of automotive design and history.

Although Exner’s designing expertise started at General Motors, he was instrumental in some Studebaker designs in the 1940’s and in many automotive military designs during WWII.

Exner was born in 1909 and died in 1973, but in between those years he set the pace for many car designs. The Karmann Ghia was strongly influenced by Exner as was the Porsche 917.

Over the years many designers can take credit for a unique design, but it is a rare time when an automotive designer can take credit for an entire era of vehicles and copies of their existential and practical design ideas by other manufacturers.

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