The best modern Chrysler Concepts | Axon's Automotive Anorak

07th March 2024
Gary Axon

As I mentioned last week, Chrysler has a history of being precariously close to going out of business on more than one occasion over its 99-year existence. To help save itself and its reputation – more than any other car maker that springs to mind – Chrysler has successfully used pre-production prototypes and concept cars to help show confidence and renew interest and trust in its future. Here are some of Chrysler’s standout concepts from the modern era, including the new Halcyon.


1. 2024 Chrysler Halcyon

This new Halcyon Concept Coupe is the first all-new prototype for Chrysler for quite some time. It's a stunning streamlined super four-door coupe that makes the likes of Audi's E-Tron GT and Porsche's Taycan look a little apologetic. With luck, this new concept car being significant as it is will signify a new life, career and direction at the slightly abandoned Chrysler brand, which said goodbye to its long-serving 300C saloon last year.


2. 1986 Chrysler Portofino

The Chrysler Corporation cunningly previewed its forward-focused and game-changing ’cab forward’ LH series design language (later seen in the production Chrysler LHS, Concorde, Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, etc.) with the first of its attention-grabbing concept cars in 1986 with its Lamborghini-powered Portofino.

With its steeply raked windscreen and upward swinging scissor-style doors (as repeated now I the new Halcyon concept), the Portofino was unusual in combining a four-door saloon format with a mi-mounted motor sourced from a Lamborghini Jalpa, Chrysler having just taken (brief) control of the celebrated Santa Aga supercar maker. The Corporation went on to exploit it extreme cab forward look with the Chrysler Cirrus concept in 1992.


3. 1991 Chrysler 300

The 300 concept car built on the positive reaction to Chrysler’s Portofino concept of five years earlier. Reviving the iconic ‘300’ number for Chrysler, the aggressive 300 concept used the same 8-litre V10 engine then under development for the production Dodge Viper RT/10. It also suggested the purposeful Viper’s form in the dramatic sweep of its long four-door sedan body. Said to have been inspired by the cultivated Swiss Monteverdi High Speed GT models of the late 60s/early 70s, the 300 concept almost made production and became something of a 1990s icon for the rejuvenated Chrysler brand.


4. 1994 Chrysler Expresso

The amusing Expresso predicted the compact high-roof hath format that Chrysler would go on to introduce it its popular retro PT Cruiser in 2001. The Expresso was initially designed to be a taxi car of the future, offering usable storage under the seats and other clever adaptable storage space in a short package, like an aircraft. This whimsical concept was given a happy, friendly face with door handles and upper door frames that gave the side of the car a smiley cartoon quality. The Expresso also pioneered sat nav in an American car.


5. 1995 Chrysler Atlantic

Chrysler created a real wow when it unveiled its long, low and curvaceous Atlantic concept at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours. Taking inspiration from the glorious coachbuilt 1930 French grande routier creations, typified by the teardrop Talbot-Lago and Bugatti coupes of the pre-war era, the Chrysler caused a sensation as a dramatic piece of rolling automotive sculpture. Using two four-cylinder 2-litre Chrysler Neon engines joined together to create a straight-eight motor, the Atlantic was a drivable and fully functioning dream car, which for many motor industry observers was the greatest of all post-war concept cars.


6. 1997 Chrysler Phaeton

With its reputation for presenting jaw-dropping concept cars firmly established by now, in 1997 Chrysler did it again with its imposing dual-cowl Phaeton concept. A monster of a car, the 1997 Phaeton draw inspiration from Chrysler’s original Imperial Dual Phaeton prototype of 1941. It used a 5.4-litre, 48-valve V12 motor under it long coffin-shaped bonnet and featured two windscreens and no roof, just like the 1941 original.


7. 1998 Chrysler Chronos

Yet another dramatic large and powerful sedan, the Chronos took its inspiration from Chrysler’s d’Elegance prototype coupe of the early 1950s. Using spectacular surface treatments and (then) huge 20” alloy wheels, the beautiful Chronos had four doors, yet cleverly resembled a svelte two-door coupe. With an exceptional luxurious interior to match its seductive external design, the Chronos was sent for limited production, but the Daimler-Chrysler merger deal got in the way and sadly the project was cancelled.


8. 2000 300 Hemi C

Chrysler revived its iconic 300 nomenclature once again in 200 for its striking 300 Hemi C convertible. Forecasting a number of styling cues for the later production first-generation Chrysler Sebring, the 300 Hemi C used a high-output Hemi V8 engine, but was never scheduled to be built.


9. 2001 Chrysler CCV

Chrysler created the polar opposite to many of its previous wild and flamboyant concepts with the inspired CCV. My personal favourite of all of the Corporations many outstanding concept cars, initially CCV stood for China Concept Vehicle in response to a mid-1990s invitation from the Chinese Government to create a simple and basic car suitable for its local roads and conditions. Using a very lightweight plastic body (made from recycled plastic bottles) and a small 750cc four-stroke motorcycle engine, by the time the CCV was presented to the Chinese, their tastes had already been corrupted by the then-recent importation of luxury German saloon, such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi 100; these being everything that the Chinese conditions and needs didn’t really address.

Thus the CCV meaning was changed to Composite Concept Vehicle, with a limited number of the cars built for assessment in under developed countries. Taking clear inspiration from a Citroen 2CV which the car’s French designer had grown up with, the innovative CCV used just four major plastic body pieces which were simply glued together to keep the build and purchase price as low as possible for suitable markets. Tragically the CCV never made the mainstream production this clever concept deserved. Had it done so however, I for one would happily have one parked on my driveway.


10. 2004 Chrysler ME Four-Twelve

The Four-Twelve could not be much further removed from the CCV had Chrysler tried, this exciting concept being for a mid-engined Chrysler supercar being one of the Corporation’s most dramatic of proposals. Built on an alloy honeycomb and carbon fibre chassis tub, the Four-Twelve used a Mercedes-Benz 6-litre V12, giving a sub-3 seconds 0-60mph (0-96 km/h) acceleration time, with a maximum speed of 248mph (300 km/h). Unfortunately, like the wondrous Portofino, 300, Atlantis, Chronos, CCV, plus many other promising Chrysler-branded concepts before it, the Four-Twelve remained just a dream. Let’s hope the promising new 2024 Chrysler Halcyon Coupe Concept lets to a bright future for the brand.

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