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
As with the original SuperBird, the new version slated for 2015 was based on an existing car - the Chrysler 200 convertible/sold in Italy as the Lancia Flavia. Italian/Fiat studio A, was working on a two-tone blue luxury hardtop/convertible version under the nameplate Lancia Flavia “Concetto di Lusso,” Studio B was assigned the sport version, which eventually became the "Superbird" which eventually became the "Conniption." Aside from my sister's nameplate inspiration, there was also a Dodge "Tantrum" project in the works that I liked the name of, but more about that later...

The Lancia Flavia “Concetto di Lusso" above was unfortunately destroyed in an freak test track accident, canceling that version of it.

Below are two original design proposals. The final version was the best of both of these melted into one (I wish they'd used the top/1A's "cat's eye" version of the headlights and considered replicating it until I found out how much 1-off molds would've cost along with altering the already altered front bumper cover to accommodate them.

NASCAR insisted "way back when" 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 rubber companies were unable to keep up with the increased speeds, heat, and extra down-force stresses blowing up tires.

(That's Petty pictured below posing with one of several Superbirds he made famous.)
The car was based on their then-popular Plymouth Road Runner model and was named after the famous Warner Bros. cartoon character holding a racing helmet. The Superbird version of it was an updated '69 Dodge Daytona (above.) This is often mistakenly referred to as a "SuperBee," which was based on the pre-1971 Dodge Coronet, and later on the Dodge Charger (neither of which had spoiler/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. Note the horizontal seam along the upper rear quarter panel. Its spoiler/fin actually pivots back with the deck lid over the bumper to allow for the top to fold backwards into the trunk. The plan was that it would come in the soft-top version only, as the hard convertible top mechanism 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 2012-13 when Fiat/FCA 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 as of the 2015 model year. The new 2015+ style hardtop (and absence of a convertible) is such a flop with customers, that FCA is (as of this writing) still deciding whether to discontinue the "new improved" 200 altogether or farm out its manufacture to China or Mexico. By 2017 Chrysler may dwindle down to having only three sub-nameplates in its inventory and they eventually could be rebranded as Fiats, leaving Chrysler suffering the fate of famous brands like Plymouth, Pontiac, Mercury, Oldsmobile etc.!!!

In Disguise at The Michigan Proving
Grounds/Headquarters Campus
The temporary fin used for aerodynamic tests was removed (for obvious reasons against magazine spy cameras,) and was later destroyed before I could save or have a mold made of it. The final version's carbon fiber or fiberglass fin would've been smoothly incorporated into the deck lid as in the design illustrations at the beginning of this article. This meant I had to have an expensive replacement made and I had trouble finding anyone who was even willing to try. What I wound up having made wasn't an exact match, but was pretty good. The Chip Foose wheels would come later, and they even covered up the Chrysler emblem on the stock wheels with black tape to delay the surprise that Chrysler was plotting its own high-performance sports car.

The above single almost-completed example suffered the indignity of having its fancy paint particle 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.

Sorry there aren't more, but my cell phone's battery died while taking pictures, and in the subsequent weeks it never occurred for me to take more.
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/customizer... 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 to laugh, "That depends on what part."

I've been forbidden to so much as touch the turbocharged 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. My "influential friend" bragged that the original laptop that the test driver(s) used was found and it was printed out in book form from it just for me. ...oooops! Now remember I'm just making all this up.

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.

Test fitting the hood after the engine and before the concept front fenders and nose reinstallation.

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
They made me blur out the engine ...sorry.

Walnut Interior trim
Latest version of their 6-speed AutoStick trans

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?

No ...that's not me.

I promise mine won't wind up like this!
My British/Triumph car phase - Rescues
As above, images can be clicked on to E-N-L-A-R-G-E them.
Just before they went out of business an attempt was made at a 1981 TR9 to attract the American market/ which was based on a beefed up late 70s TR8 / which was based on the mid 70s TR7; all three sharing the same basic body in order to save costs. Here it is at a shop having the soft top replaced and custom tail lights installed. I even got Brit vanity plates for it (and got pulled over by a dork cop for them.) I've searched all over for an identical twin of that trunk rack for my Conniption X-200 but can't find any in good shape.

Believe it or not, I actually used it to tow a Spitfire stock car around to race tracks, which caused a lot of astonished remarks thinking it was a dinky TR7 at first glance.
Another excuse for pulling me over were those custom British Racing Green driving lamps. The original round headlights that popped up were replaced with ultra bright rectangular ones permanently fixed into the nose behind heavily tinted glass. Those vertical chrome pieces forward of the doors are hinged Spitfire style hood clips that release it by pulling them out from the bottom. Like all stock Spitfires, the custom TR9's sheet metal forward of the doors then pivots forward in one piece over the front bumper (see below) like the cab of an 18-wheeler. The Buick turbocharged 3.8 liter V6 needed a hump on top of the existing hood hump to accommodate it along with additional hood vents.

I built up a lot of muscle showing off/opening-closing that hood below. ...and yes it was the 80s ...and yes that's a CB antenna.

...A 1980 Spitfire "Jetfire" ...a name I later couldn't use because GM bitched that they had dibs on the name ...groan.

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...)


  1. Please drop me a note and tell me what you think of my daily driver!

    1. Saw you at Frisch's over the weekend. I was with my group of friends getting something to eat before we went into Rock on the Range. Very cool car, dude. I hope I'll get to see it again next year!

  2. I remember - I enjoyed talking to you (:^)