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Historical Timeline 1950-1959

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Two-door hardtops are introduced – the Dodge Diplomat in the Coronet series, the DeSoto Sportsman in the Custom series, and the Newport in the Chrysler Windsor, New Yorker and Town & Country series.

A 104-day strike of United Auto Workers employees results in partially-paid life and medical insurance.

The DeSoto Body Plant opens on Warren Avenue.

New tank plants are announced for New Orleans, Louisiana and Newark, Delaware.

K. T. Keller is elected Chairman of the Board; L. L. Colbert is named President (November 3).

The six-millionth Plymouth and the two-millionth Chrysler are built.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Four-wheel, self-energizing hydraulic disc brakes.

Chrysler Engineering First:  All-electric window lifts.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Roll-down (recession) window in station wagon tailgates.


Land is purchased near Chelsea, Michigan for development of a proving ground.

The Chrysler Saratoga, New Yorker, Imperial and Crown Imperial are equipped with a new 331-CID HEMI® V-8 engine to replace L-Head straight eight.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Hemispherical combustion chamber V-8 with single cam suitable for mass production.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Hydraguide® power steering.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Oriflow® shock absorbers.

The Cranbrook model brings the two-door hardtop body style to the Plymouth product line.

Fred Zeder dies.

William C. Newberg is named President of DeSoto Division.

DeSoto expands its Warren Avenue plant to include engine production.

New idea cars debut – the Chrysler K-310 and the Plymouth XX-500.

The seven-millionth Plymouth is built.

A Chrysler New Yorker V-8 convertible paces the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

Briggs Cunningham chooses HEMI® engines for his LeMans race cars.

The HEMI® goes racing (pdf) Chrysler Corporation: The Official History by Charles K. Hyde


A new engine plant is opened in Trenton, Michigan.

A new 276-CID HEMI® is introduced for the DeSoto.

John P. Mansfield is named President of the Plymouth Division.

Three parade cars are built on the Chrysler Crown Imperial chassis – one each for Los Angeles, New York and Detroit.

More Virgil Exner-orchestrated idea cars arrive – the Chrysler C-200 convertible and the Chrysler Special coupe.

A special HEMI®, tested in a Kurtis Kraft Indianapolis roadster, is banned by racing officials as being too fast.

“Fresh Aire,” Chrysler’s first automotive air conditioning, is introduced.


The six-millionth Dodge is completed.

Dodge and Plymouth market smaller cars, using a short wheelbase body for the two-door convertible, hardtop and wagon models.

Chrysler Engineering First:  Powerflite® automatic transmission.

Dodge introduces a new 241-CID “Red Ram” HEMI® V-8.

Briggs Manufacturing Company facilities in the U. S. are purchased by Chrysler for $5 million.

DeSoto moves its six-cylinder engine production to the Trenton plant.

Body building facilities are opened at the Los Angeles plant.

A new plant is opened in Indianapolis, Indiana to produce the Powerflite – Chrysler’s first fully-automatic transmission.

Powerflite is offered on the Chrysler Custom Imperial and Crown Imperial.

Plymouth introduces Hy-Drive, a torque converter between the engine and the clutch.

Production of semi-automatic transmissions ends for Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge.

E. C. Quinn is named President of the Chrysler Division.

More idea cars arrive – the Chrysler D’Elegance, DeSoto Adventurer, Dodge Firearrow and Chrysler GS-1.

The eight-millionth Plymouth is built.

Lee Petty’s HEMI® Dodge wins five NASCAR races and finishes second in championship points.

A Dodge HEMI® V-8 breaks 196 stock car records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.


Cunningham’s C-4R HEMI® wins the 12 Hours of Sebring and finishes third at LeMans.

Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds are opened.

Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge offer Powerflite fully-automatic transmissions on all models.

Plymouth introduces Powerflite in mid-year.

DeSoto and Chrysler end production of seven-passenger, extended wheelbase sedans and limousines.

The San Leandro plant closes at the end of the 1954 model year.

Chrysler leases its former Briggs Manufacturing plant on Conner Avenue in Detroit to Packard.

Chrysler exhibits a gas turbine-powered Plymouth.

New show cars and idea cars include the Plymouth Explorer, Plymouth Belmont, Chrysler LeComte and Chrysler LaComtesse.

George Mason, American Motors president, dies.

A Chrysler HEMI® with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts creates 235 horsepower.

Lee Petty wins the Daytona Beach race in a Chrysler HEMI®.

Lee Petty wins the NASCAR Grand National championship driving HEMI®-equipped Chryslers and Dodges.

The Cunningham HEMI® again wins Sebring and place third and fifth at LeMans.

A Dodge Royal HEMI® convertible paces the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.


Virgil Exner’s striking new Forward Look cars revitalize the Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge and Plymouth product lines.

Chrysler Engineering First:  All-transistor auto radio.

Plymouth introduces the Hy-Fire engine, initially a 241-CID polyspherical-headed version of the Dodge HEMI®.

Imperial becomes a separate brand, independent of the Chrysler brand.

The Powerflite transmission is now controlled by a dashboard-mounted lever.

Seat belts and air conditioning are offered as dealer-installed options.

Chrysler idea cars debuting this year are the Flight Sweep I, Flight Sweep II and the Falcon.

The nine-millionth Plymouth and the seven-millionth Dodge are manufactured.

The Chrysler 300 is introduced as America’s most powerful stock car.

Dodge launches the LaFemme, the first car marketed expressly to women, featuring a two-tone Sapphire White and Heather Rose color scheme and matching compact, lipstick case, change purse, umbrella, rain hat, makeup case and other accessories.

With the dual four-barrel 331-CID HEMI®, the Chrysler 300 is the first production car to deliver 300 horsepower.

A Carl Kiekhafer-prepared Chrysler 300, driven by Tim Flock, wins at Daytona Beach.

Chrysler bumps the HEMI® to 250 horsepower in the Chrysler New Yorker and 280 horsepower in the Imperial.

Frank Mundy wins the AAA Championship in a Kiekhafer-prepared Chrysler 300.


Chrysler Engineering First:  Torqueflite® fully-automatic transmission.

Push-button transmissions are introduced (right-hand drive vehicles retain the 1955-style dash lever for one more year) and will remain in production through 1964.

Chrysler’s “Highway Hi-Fi” in-dash record player is an intriguing option; this forerunner of tape and CD audio systems will be offered through the 1958 model year.

The American-built Imperial seven-passenger, extended wheelbase sedans and limousines end production.

Parade cars dating to 1952 are updated with styling themes from the 1956 Imperial.

Leading the pack at the start of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race is a 1956 DeSoto Adventurer pace car.

Chrysler Corporation assumes a major role in the development of ballistic missile systems for the military.

Chrysler introduces transistorized car radios, marking the beginning of a new era of on-board automotive electronics.

M. C. Patterson is named President of the Dodge Division.

This year’s idea cars are the Dart and the Plainsman.

The aluminum piston foundry at Highland Park is expanded.

A DeSoto Fireflite HEMI® convertible paces the Indianapolis 500.

The Chrysler 300-B’s HEMI® is increased to 354 CID and 340 horsepower.

Buck Baker wins the NASCAR Grand National Championship in a Chrysler 330-B.

Chrysler 300-B sets World Passenger Car speed record at Daytona Beach – 133.9 miles per hour.

Don “Big Daddy” Garlits begins a 46-year winning association with the Chrysler HEMI®.


The Trenton plant is expanded and re-equipped for production of new “B” V-8 engines for the 1958 model year.

The Newark tank plant is renovated to become an assembly plant for Plymouth and Dodge cars.

Imperial introduces curved window glass, another industry first.

The Dodge-derived DeSoto Firesweep enters production at Dodge Main in Hamtramck.

Chrysler Engineering expands development work on gas turbine engines.

The new Ohio Stamping Plant opens at Twinsburg, Ohio.

Chrysler Export Division purchases Ensamblaje Venezolana, soon renamed Chrysler de Venezuela S. A.

The three-millionth Chrysler and the ten-millionth Plymouth are built.

The Chrysler 300-C HEMI® is increased to 392-CID and 375 horsepower.


Chrysler Engineering First:  Cruise control.

Chrysler purchases a 25 percent interest in SIMCA (Societe Industrielle de Mechanique et Carosserie Automobile) from Ford Motor Company and begins importing SIMCA cars.

Chrysler International S. A, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is formed to succeed Chrysler Export Corporation.   

The new Chrysler Electrical Division begins operations in Indianapolis.

Presidents of the Chrysler automotive divisions, M. C. Patterson (Dodge), J. B. Wagstaff (DeSoto), C. E. Briggs (Chrysler and Imperial) and H. E. Cheesborough (Plymouth), receive a new title – General Manager.

The Imperial D’Elegance and the Plymouth Cabana are new idea cars.

DeSoto production moves from Wyoming Avenue to Jefferson Avenue for the 1959 model year.

Wyoming Avenue’s main assembly building becomes the center of Chrysler’s export operations.

Production of the 1959 Imperial moves to the old Graham/DeSoto plant of Warren Avenue.

Autopilot speed control is introduced on the Imperial.

The Chrysler-built Jupiter-C missile launches Explorer I, America’s first successful satellite

The eleven-millionth Plymouth is built.

Installation of HEMI® engines in Chrysler 300 models ends.

Don Garlits breaks the 170 mph barrier in his “Swamp Rat” HEMI® dragster.

The Chrysler 300-D HEMI® sets a Class E speed record at Bonneville of 156.387 mph.


Chrysler Engineering First:  Electronically dimmed rear-view mirror.

A new plant opens in St. Louis for 1960 production.

Chrysler acquires a minority interest in Chrysler de Mexico.

Chrysler International acquires Chrysler South Africa Ltd.

The Evansville plant is closed; production moves to St. Louis.