By Vern Parker
Every Chrysler Corporation car in 1955 had
"Forward Look” styling. In Athens, W. Va., Joe Friedl was a high school student
in those days and he remembers the three tone color combinations on some of the
After the passage of 55 years Friedl, now a
Vienna, Va., resident, began looking for an antique car. "I wanted a 1950s car
to fool around with,” he says. Any car he bought had to be in working order
because, he explains, he did not want to buy a part time job restoring a car.
In the autumn of 2010 he saw an ad offering for
sale a 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer two-door hardtop. Since the car was relatively
nearby in Woodbridge, Va., Friedl went to investigate. He was pleased when he
saw the car had a three-tone paint scheme. The top was black, the bottom was
purple and the center portion including the engine hood and trunk lid was cream
colored. Strips of stainless steel separated the different colors.
To Friedl this multicolored Dodge personified
the 1950s. A cursory inspection revealed hardly any rust and no body damage. On
a test drive he noticed no telltale smoke from the tailpipe. The seller told
him the car had mostly sat still for the last five years. The odometer showed about
Friedl purchased the car and the seller agreed
to follow him home.
Since that day a year ago Friedl has found no
surprises in his car, unpleasant or otherwise. He has learned that under the
hood of the 3,425-pound Dodge Royal Lancer is a powerful Super Red Ram V-8
engine beneath an oil bath air cleaner. The 270-cubic-inch engine delivers 175
horsepower to the rear drive wheels via a PowerFlite automatic transmission.
On earlier Dodges the gear selector lever was
attached to the steering column. Gear selection on later Dodges was
accomplished by push buttons. The gear selector lever on Friedl's car protrudes
from the dashboard within easy reach of the driver's right hand. From the top
the gears are:
There is no parking gear. That function is
handled by the hand brake or the reverse gear.
Records indicate that 25,831 models like the one
Friedl enjoys were built. When new the base price was $2,395. He says this was
the final year for Dodge to have a six-volt electrical system. The black and
cream colors on the exterior are carried over inside the cabin. What isn't
chrome on the dashboard is painted black. The two-spoke steering wheel is half
cream color and half black and features a flashy 360-degree chrome horn ring.
The upholstery is a combination of cream and black fabric or vinyl.
Although there is no power equipment or air
conditioning this Dodge 56 years ago was considered well-equipped. Besides an
AM radio and a heater the cowl ventilator at the base of the windshield draws
fresh air into the cabin. The windshield washer fluid in a bag in the engine
compartment is sprayed onto the windshield when the driver steps on a plunger
with his left foot. If more fluid is wanted the driver simply pumps more.
The Dodge provides a comfortable ride compliments
of the 120-inch wheelbase while rolling on 7.60x15-inch tires. The wide white
sidewalls and full wheel covers give the car a dressy appearance. The panels
surrounding the four taillights are outlined in chrome. At the other end of the
Dodge are chrome "eyebrows” over the headlights.
The chrome trim on the sides of the Dodge
gracefully sweep up to near the base of the windshield on top of the front
fenders. Incorporated with the trim at that point are the two outside mirrors.
"They look nice,” Friedl says, "but you can't see them from the driver's seat.”
The Dodge never had seat belts but Friedl plans
to install some. "I would feel more comfortable with seat belts,” he explains.