The 1960 Plymouth XNR concept car was something entirely new for the automaker that traditionally favored taller, more practical designs for comfort. It was a radical, and unfortunately short-lived, attempt to break into the world of two-seater roadsters.
Concept cars are an outlet for automobile designers to test new design elements and technologies. They’re often displayed in order to gauge the consensus among critics and the public before manufacturers decide which design elements are incorporated into mainstream production, and which are slated to be scrapped.
The Plymouth XNR introduced the world to an astonishing and modern asymmetrical design that never made it to mass production despite popular acclaim. Interested in learning more? We've got you covered.
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History of the 1960 Plymouth XNR
The Plymouth XNR made its debut in 1960 with the
ChryslerCorporation predicted to market it as an affordable and more modern-looking alternative to the
Chevy Corvette. Named after Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner, the XNR was built atop the Plymouth Valiant chassis. The asymmetrical body was hand-molded and constructed per Exner’s design by the Italian design firm Carrozzeria Ghia. There was only one XNR ever made.
The XNR had a 106.5-inch wheelbase and sat 46 inches tall. The Valiant six-cylinder slant engine got the XNR up to 153 mph on Chrysler’s test track with an estimated 250 horsepower. It was a 3-speed manual with a leather interior and a head-turning Italian Red exterior paint job.
Still, none of that was enough to propel the XNR into market production. A managerial change-up, which led to Exner’s departure from Chrysler, as well as the projected cost to mass-produce the XNR, caused the concept car to fall by the wayside. Any plans for its development were axed after the automotive show circuit.
XNR design traits
The car’s body line rose to an elevated peak set not in the center, but in line with the driver’s seat. The headrest extended this asymmetrical bodyline all the way to the rear of the car, culminating in an elegant stabilizing rear fin that was prominently off-center.
Chrysler pointed out that this was a functional design. With the vehicle being so low to the ground, the driver’s head and shoulders would project into the airflow. So, the answer was to create an elevated bodyline and scoop which would block any wind resistance caused by the driver.
The two-seater’s passenger seat could ride open or be concealed under a tonneau cover, and the passenger side had its own retractable windshield. The passenger seat was about four inches lower than the driver’s seat to enhance the car’s aerodynamics.
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The fate of the XNR
After Exner departed from Chrysler in 1961, the XNR was shipped to Carrozzeria Ghia to avoid any chance of the vehicle being destroyed. The Ghia family later sold it to a businessman, and the car changed hands several times over the next couple of decades. It even fell into the ownership of the former Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Ultimately, the XNR spent several years hidden in an underground Beirut garage during the Lebanese Civil War before it was brought back to the surface again. It sold most recently at an auction in 2012 for $935,000.
In the 1960s, Carrozeria Ghia attempted to keep the XNR’s styling cues alive with its Asimmetrica—a car built much like the XNR but with a bit more practicality. This car, too, turned out to be more than any financial backer was willing to spend to get it into mass production, and the model was abandoned.
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How many Plymouth XNR models are there?
Chrysler only made one Plymouth XNR. After its auto show tour, it went to Italy, where the company that fabricated the vehicle kept and later sold it. That company, Carrozzeria Ghia, made a similar but more subtle roadster called the Asimmetrica, based on the XNR design. There may have been as many as 25 of the Ghia Asimmetricas built, but they never went into mass production.
Where is the original Plymouth XNR now?
The Plymouth XNR was sold to a private buyer at an auction in 2012 for $935,000. There is also a 1:1 replica of the vehicle, built by Gotham Garage, currently on display in
Los Angelesat the Petersen Automotive Museum.