Saturday, February 25, 2017

Chrysler Conniption X-200

More details and pictures will be coming soon... but for now...
This is the story of my daily driver in pictures...

I went searching for a Chrysler 200 convertible in early fall of 2014 only to find that collectors had snapped up what few were left. Fiat had signaled an end of an era for Chrysler blaming slumping sales of ragtops. A salesman friend said he knew of one... some assembly required???
Just for legal reasons, let's just say this whole story is fiction (ahem)

The images below are B I G to begin with and are meant for BIG monitors... even so, they can be clicked on to E-N-L-A-R-G-E them even more.

In The Beginning...

This would've been the resurrection of the Sebring nameplate under the sport guise of an updated version of the infamous and classic 1970 Plymouth "Superbird" (above) with an interesting twist; It would only be available as a convertible!

The Design/Redesign Phase

NASCAR insisted way back then that a race car had to be stock from the factory and that a specific minimum number had to be built for public sale as street-legal cars. Chrysler was trying to woo Richard Petty away from their competitors (like Ford) with that aerodynamic nose and the down-force fin... they succeeded.

In fact they more than succeeded to the point where the "aero-style" cars became so dominant in races that in 1971 NASCAR had no choice but to either ban them or invent an entire new class for them to compete in. The problem was compounded into a safety issue when tire companies were unable to keep up with the increased speeds and new down force stresses.

(That's Petty pictured below posing with one of the Superbirds he made famous.)
The car was based on their then-popular Plymouth Road Runner model. The Superbird version of it was an updated '69 Dodge Daytona (above) and was named after the famous Warner Bros. cartoon character holding a racing helmet. This is often mistakenly referred to as a "SuperBee," which was based on the pre-1971 Dodge Coronet, and after on the Dodge Charger (neither of which had fins.)

The logo below appeared at the base of that insane fin. its horn even mimicked the "meep meep" sound the cartoon bird made.
Below is a bone-stock street-legal red 1970 Plymouth Superbird exactly as it rolled off of the factory floor and was sold at the local dealership to drooling customers. Directly beneath that is a design studio computer generated image of the proposed resurrected "2015" Chrysler Sebring Superbird convertible. Its spoiler/fin actually pivots back with the deck lid over the bumper to allow for the top to fold into the trunk. The plan was that it would come in the soft-top version only, as the hard convertible top required more plumbing and a beefier motor to raise and lower it.
There are around twice as many unpublished images on file still to come that will eventually appear as "bonus features" at the end of this article.

The project was canceled halfway through 2013 when Fiat changed the 2015 Chrysler 200's body style and angered many customers (and rental fleet owners) by deciding that Chrysler would stop selling convertibles altogether beginning with the 2015 model year.

At The Michigan Proving Grounds
Headquarters Campus In Disguise
The fin was removed (for obvious reasons against magazine spy cameras,) the Foose wheels would come later, and they even covered up the Chrysler emblem on the stock wheels with black tape.

The above single almost-completed example suffered the indignity of having its fancy paint blasted off and then replaced with stock "Deep Cherry Red" instead. After that, it was put into storage with the intention of returning it to stock and selling it as a used 2014 200 Convertible. That plan was put on hold and eventually the decision was made to destroy it because some proto-components couldn't be removed structurally... fortunately for me that paperwork got lost in the shuffle.

What killed the street-legal civilian '69 Dodge Daytona and the '70 Plymouth Superbird?
What else? ...*#X+$!?*& insurance companies. It got so bad that dealerships had to resort to selling the cars without the fins on them.

Why was the 1970 version's fin so TALL?
At the time they said it was engineering for airflow and stability and that the fin caught "unaffected" air...

Now remember this was before computer-designed cars in wind tunnels... so why?

...Enlarge the picture of the red one below. The truth (though Chrysler denies it) later turned out to be that it's that tall and canted back so that the "civilian" trunk lid could just barely be opened without pinching the owner's fingers in the process, or it hitting the horizontal component... LOL.

Thanks to a little complicated engineering, the new concept car's trunk actually opens normally too, spoiler and all, thanks to sturdy springs - much like the ones that hold the hood up!

A Forlorn Little Puppy Rescued From "The Pound"
AKA "Some Assembly Required!?!" remember, I'm making this whole thing up, these aren't real pictures...
I went searching for a 200 convertible in late 2014, only to find that collectors had snapped up what few were left as they signaled an end of an era for Chrysler. A salesman friend said he knew of one stored near Pittsburgh International Airport. When I found it in a anonymous warehouse waiting to be crushed so that it couldn’t be “reverse engineered," it had been repainted its aforementioned original "Deep Cherry Red," it had a different (and pathetic) unattached spoiler sitting on the deck lid-its bolts digging into the paint, the stock rear bumper cover had been slapped back on, there was no dashboard, the engine bay was vacant and there were no body components forward of the doors… The custom parts it turns out were in wooden and cardboard crates waiting to be destroyed along with an impressive list of stripped-off parts they also wanted protected from being "reverse engineered."

The front and rear custom bumper covers were eventually found stacked vertically and caked with dust on a rack in another part of the warehouse.
The rescue of this poor orphan took a year and a half to reassemble… this is only part of the story (some of which I'm not allowed to tell... like the identity of a well-known celebrity car designer... and what was required to reassemble it, and yet (get this) have it under full warranty from Chrysler.)
Note: The name and year of this project changed several times. After 18 months my sister said if it took that long for one of her cars she’d go down there and have a “conniption fit” at them… hence the final name. Though it's titled as a 2014, I didn't take possession of it in pieces until the fall of 2014 and it wasn't finally complete enough to be warranteed until May of 2016.
When asked what year it is, my stock answer is "That depends on what part."

I've been forbidden to so much as touch the engine or even mention it's specifications... needless to say it'd be very expensive to replace, some one-off parts have to be fabricated, and only one dealership in the whole country is authorized to even change the oil and do maintenance on it. The owner's manual/test driver book is over two inches thick.

The "Decorah Eagle" Hood
Now... You tell me... What would be more appropriate on the hood of a Superbird than a "Super Bird?"
The nearly life-sized, majestic and very patriotic bird is patterned after the famous "Dad & Mom," Decorah Eagles, its talons extended as if it's about to grab you up as prey. I've been a fan of them for years and they're well worth checking out using this link DECORAH EAGLES. There's a live camera(s) feed to the nest in the wild and tons of info on two of the greatest parents you'll ever admire and fall in love with as they raise their young.

Custom Body & Paint

Test fitting and reconditioning

L.E.D. Lights For The Custom Air Dam
Installation of lower spoiler lip.
There was some discussion about going with the "blackout" headlights from the "S" model, but I decided that since they weren't in the original studio design, I'd honor that and leave them stock.

Custom Grille

Walnut Interior trim
Chip Foose Wheels

Custom Goodyear 18" raised white letter tires (my nickname is "Jet")

Making It Official

Worth waiting a year and a half for!
I have to leave an extra half an hour wherever I go, because I come out and discover people taking cell phone pictures in grocery store and restaurant parking lots, and they invariably want to talk about it. It's a source of great pride for me and is helping with my PTSD around strangers.

Bonus Images (in no particular order)

Tell me of someone who hasn't taken a picture of their thumb at one time or another?

I promise mine won't wind up like this!

These images can be clicked on to E-N-L-A-R-G-E them.
...Let's just say that for "legal" reasons everything that you've read is fiction... (even though I'm driving around in it...)