Wednesday, July 21, 2010
by appointment to Her Majesty, the American Woman
The notion of the Designer Car was ALL the rage in the 1970's with ladies charging in to buy Pucci Mark IV's to go with their Gucci handbags. All of the domestic manufacturers were involved to one degree or another, with the near exception of Chrysler Corporation, Chrysler had a handful of offerings at the time, but largely resisted the trend, Perhaps they were in a "been there, done that" mood. They were recalling 1955.
For the Big Three, 1955 was the year to end all years. A fortunate combination of a robust economy, easy financing, and all new models for almost every big three manufacturer combined to create a record setting year. Industry sales were up over 40% from the preceding two years, and spring special editions, especially from Chrysler Corporation, were being well received.
So perhaps it is understandable that Dodge Division decided to market a very special car with a specific target in mind- "Her Majesty-the American Woman." After all, the suburbs were booming, two car households were expanding, and modern features such as power steering and brakes make the full sized American car more manageable for the little woman. So what woman could resist a car designed to be her very own, in Heather Rose and White with an interior of pink rose pattern upholstery and a plethora of accessories- including a stylish rain cape, fisherman's style rain hat and umbrella, a "stunning shoulder bag in soft rose leather.",complete fitted with compact, lighter and cigarette case.
Of course, we're speaking of the Dodge "La Femme", a $143 option package offered on the Dodge Custom Royal Lancer Coupe. And although it included a very unique color scheme, special upholstery, and even gold plated "La Femme" script on the front fenders and glove box door, the package did NOT include power steering or brakes, so Her Majesty was free to jam the gears and sprain her dainty wrists tugging on the steering wheel.
There was sufficient interest to offer a slightly revised edition in 1956, with in a new ensemble of Regal Orchid over Misty Orchid and a revised matching interior, just in case Her Majesty preferred purple. The accessories were slightly different, but the idea remained intact. And Her Majesty remained at home, Only about 2500 examples were sold in two years. including a handful with the high performance D500 engine. Perhaps that's how Shirley Muldowney got her start. And while Her Majesty the American Woman remained unmoved, we are told that the car was quite popular with at least one segment of the population- urban pimps. Approximately 60 of the unique cars have survived, even rarer are the accessories. A complete set of accoutrements might exceed the value of the car needing them.
Did the embarrassment over the failed La Femme cause Chrysler to sit out the Designer wars of the 70's? The world will never know, but think of the loss. We might have all been driving Bille Jean King Dusters.