It starts with the name. While some call it the Dodge Storm or a Bertone, it is actually the Zeder Z-250 (just when you thought Nissan made "Z" cars). The sports car was created by Fred Zeder Jr., son of Frederick Zeder of The Three Musketeers, the engineering team that started the Chrysler Corporation. If you don't know the badge, don't worry, although the Z-250 was not even the first Zeder. Thirty years back, Zeder, Skelton and Breer designed a car with a high compression engine and four hydraulic brakes. That reached production as the Chrysler Six, the first modern automobile after Ford's Model T.
That propelled the car from 0-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds, and the quarter mile took just 14.7 seconds. Other parts like the brakes, radiator, clutch, steering, rear axle, fuel tank and electronics came from the shelves of Plymouth and Dodge. The rest like the tube space frame, the suspension and the two bodies were unique to the car, while the transmission was a brand new unit developed by the Spicer Division of Dana Corporation.
Bertone also turned it into a two-seater instead of the planned 2+2, because what worked on paper turned out to be impossible in reality. The car was then taken to Fiat's famous oval roof track for fine tuning, after which the Z-250 took first price at the Turin Auto Show. It was then shipped to New York onboard of the SS Andrea Doria (which sunk three years later after a collision with MS Stockholm). After picking it up at the docks, Zeder parked it in front of the Rockefeller Center, which resulted in such a massive traffic jam that the police had to ask him to move it.
Fred's guess was that Jim feared he wouldn't get any credit if it succeeded, but would take the heat if it failed. The official reason was that the car was too expensive to produce in order to sell it in profitable quantities. By the time Fred got back his car, people were driving Corvettes and brand new Ford Thunderbirds, not to mention Nash-Healeys, Kaiser-Darrins, and Cunninghams on the tracks. Just like the Oldsmobile or Pontiac "Corvettes," Chrysler's was killed as well before it could prove itself.
The next time Chrysler made a real sports car was in 1992.
Massive hat tip to Michael Lamm who covered the story in 1994. Photo credit: Just a Car Guy