A few of these makes an attempt by no means made it previous the prototype stage, whereas others went into manufacturing, however none managed to dethrone the mighty ‘Vette of its pedestal. Seventy years and eight generations later, it stays America’s favourite sports activities automotive and arguably the nation’s most well-known automotive nameplate.
One of many earliest, most intriguing makes an attempt to develop a worthy Corvette rival got here from Plymouth, the now-defunct Chrysler division, which, on the time, had nothing in widespread with the world of sports activities automobiles.
Created by considered one of America’s most influential automotive designers
Picture: Stellantis N.V.
The story of this fascinating idea automotive started in 1949 when Chrysler’s president Ok.T. Keller determined that the company’s manufacturers desperately wanted new designs to reinvigorate gross sales.
He introduced within the forward-thinking designer Virgil Exner from Studebaker and gave him carte blanche to unleash his creativity.
Through the subsequent decade, Exner – interested by superior aerodynamics and enthusiastic about including tailfins to automobiles – created a sequence of fantastic ideas that revolutionized the company’s styling and set the usual for the American automotive trade’s post-war designs.
However, out of all Exner’s futuristic ideas, the XNR (a disemvoweled acronym of his final identify) stays essentially the most beautiful.
Constructed by the famend Italian coachbuilder Ghia
Picture: RM Sotheby’s
Unveiled to the general public on the 1960 New York Auto Present, the XNR was Virgil Exner’s tackle a thoroughbred sports activities automotive that might rival the C1 Corvette.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t constructed on a bespoke tubular body – customary for a sports activities automotive again then – however on a shortened and bolstered model of the compact Plymouth Valiant.
Exner and his group in Detroit put the chassis collectively, then shipped it to Italy, the place Luigi “Gigi” Segre, of Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia, supervised the bodywork and inside growth.
The Italians handbuilt the XNR’s physique utilizing metal relatively than fiberglass -which made the job a lot tougher, contemplating its extravagant shapes.
The 2-seat roadster featured an asymmetrical design riddled with a number of sorts of Exner’s favourite cue: the tailfin. The slim entrance finish acquired a mesh grille with twin headlights, whereas the hood was ornated with an offset scoop that ran the entire size of the panel, assembly the small, curved driver’s windshield.
On both sides, Exner designed a pair of horizontal, wing-like fins that accentuated the automotive’s width, however unquestionably essentially the most outstanding characteristic was the massive vertical fin mounted behind the motive force.
Powered by a powerful inline-six
Picture: RM Sotheby’s
The XNR did not simply seem like a futuristic race automotive but additionally carried out like one. Throughout preliminary runs on Chrysler’s take a look at monitor, it reportedly reached a high velocity of 142 mph (229 kph) with Exner himself behind the wheel and as much as 146 mph (235 kph) when pushed by knowledgeable driver.
Whereas these speeds weren’t mind-blowing, even for a 1960 automobile, they have been spectacular, contemplating that the idea was powered by a 170-ci (2.8-liter) Slant 6.
To be truthful, it wasn’t the identical engine as that discovered within the manufacturing Valiant, however a NASCAR-spec unit that acquired some intensive modifications like Chrysler’s Hyper Pak efficiency package deal. This package deal included a ram air consumption manifold with a four-barrel carb, redesigned cast-iron exhaust headers, a warmer cam, and a revised valvetrain.
Although Chrysler by no means launched an official output determine, a number of sources place its energy potential within the 250 to 300 hp vary.
It survived a civil struggle
Picture: RM Sotheby’s
Although the XNR was arguably the preferred idea in 1960, receiving reward from lovers and the automotive press, Chrysler by no means deliberate to mass produce it. As a substitute, after finishing its present automotive duties, administration determined to ship it to the crusher.
Nevertheless, Virgil Exner was hellbent on saving it. After unsuccessfully making an attempt to purchase the idea from Chrysler, he devised a plan to ship it again to Carrozzeria Ghia in Italy. This plan succeeded, and Ghia took possession of the XNR however ultimately bought it to a non-public collector from Switzerland.
A couple of years later, the gorgeous idea was bought once more to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the final Shah of Iran. However, it turned out that the Shah wasn’t too keen on the one-off, so the XNR switched homeowners a fourth time, ending up within the Center East as a part of the non-public assortment of a Kuwaiti automotive seller named Anwar al Mulla.
However if you happen to thought this was the final time the XNR switched homeowners, assume once more. Al Mulla bought it to a Lebanese collector who allegedly saved it underground. It’s unclear what occurred with this sixth proprietor, however a teen named Karim Edde discovered the idea automotive throughout the Lebanese civil struggle. In 2008, it was despatched to RM Restorations in Canada, the place it acquired a whole restoration.
The XNR idea at present
Picture: RM Sotheby’s
After the restoration was accomplished in 2011, the XNR was proven to the general public on the Amelia Island Concours d’Magnificence. A couple of months later, it was the star attraction of the Pebble Seashore Concours d’Magnificence, the place it acquired the Gran Turismo Trophy. Talking of which, the XNR has appeared in a number of Gran Turismo video video games, together with Gran Turismo 7, the present installment of the celebrated franchise.
Digital XNR apart, the true factor was bought for the ultimate time at RM Sotheby’s Monterey public sale in 2012, fetching $935,000.
Mark Towle’s Gotham Storage has additionally constructed two replicas, albeit each characteristic fiberglass our bodies. The primary is at the moment on show on the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California, whereas the second was bought to a non-public collector.
A ravishing instance of revolutionary American design and Italian craftsmanship, the Plymouth XNR has defied all odds and managed to outlive. Though it by no means received to problem the Corvette in dealerships or on public roads, it stays one of the vital intriguing idea automobiles within the historical past of the American automotive trade and arguably essentially the most beautiful Mopar ever constructed.
You may study extra about this fascinating automotive within the YouTube video beneath by
Roam New Roads.