1955 Dodge Royal Lancer: Flair Fashioned!
Dodge finally got some style in 1955. Not that the ’54 was ungainly, but starting in 1949, Dodges (and its Plymouth, DeSoto, and Chrysler brethren) got a little taller, plainer, and narrower than the competition, famously so due to then-Chrysler president K. T. Keller requiring a man to be able to get into a Chrysler Corporation product and not have his hat knocked off in the process. Yes. Hats were important in 1949.
All of the Chrysler Corporation vehicles for 1955 were redesigned, from basic Plymouth Savoy to the top-of-the-line Imperial, which became a separate marque, a la Cadillac and Lincoln, instead of the fanciest Chrysler, although then and to this day, these cars are still far too frequently referred to as “Chrysler Imperials.” The ’55s were much more modern and stylish than the somewhat staid 1949–54 models.
It was all part of Chrysler Corporation’s so-called “100 Million Dollar Look,” so named due to the reported cost of the all-new redesigned lineup.
As the brochure extolled, “New ’55 Dodge … Flair-fashioned and alive with beauty! Expect the unexpected when you take command of the brilliant new ’55 Dodge. Expect a new reserve of power, new ride, new handling ease … new luxury features and advances that cater to your every comfort, pleasure, and pride!”
Among the new optional items prominently featured for 1955 were a four-way power front seat, power windows, and “new, improved Full-Time Coaxial Power Steering.” Automatic transmissions now had a control lever sticking out of the instrument panel fascia. A standard feature on all models was the “New Horizon” wrapped windshield. As the brochure bragged, it was the “car of a hundred exciting surprises.”
There were three model lines for 1955: the base Coronet, mid-level Royal, and the top-of-the-line Custom Royal. One cool new feature, and oh-so 1950s, was the three-tone paint option. And the colors! So many colors! Among the unashamedly bright and cheerful selections were Chiffon Green, Cameo Red, Parisian Blue, and Fantasy Yellow.
Regardless of model designation, the 1955 Dodges had a 120-inch wheelbase, an overall length of 212.1 inches, and were first revealed to the buying public on November 17, 1954.
Model year production was 273,286 units, while the calendar year sales totaled 313,038 vehicles.
Our featured car is a two-door Royal Lancer, Lancer being Dodge’s designation for pillarless hardtop, regardless of model. It had a factory price of $2370 (about $27,150 today), a curb weight of 3425 pounds, and production of 25,831 units.
The other Royal models included a four-door sedan, six-passenger station wagon, and an eight-passenger station wagon. If you wanted a convertible, you had to splurge for the top-of-the-line Custom Royal version for $2723 ($31,195).
While the basic coronets came with a 123 horsepower, 230-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, both the Royal and Custom Royal came with the 270-cu-in Red Ram V-8 with 175 horsepower.
If that wasn’t enough power for you, you could also get the Super Red Ram V-8 with 183 horsepower at 4400 RPM. That last figure was with the Stromberg two-barrel carburetor, but if you ordered the Carter four-barrel carb, power was bumped to 193 horsepower at 4400 RPM.
And while the majority of ’55 Dodges were introduced in November 1954, the Royal Lancer and the Coronet Sierra station wagon appeared a little bit later on December 17. The Custom Royal four-door Lancer appeared in April.
Perhaps the most unusual 1955 Dodge was the La Femme package, available only as a two-door Lancer hardtop. It came only in Heather Rose and Sapphire White two-tone color combinations.
Meant to appeal to the fashionable sophisticated woman, special features of the La Femme included color-keyed floral-tone upholstery, an umbrella, cape, boots, and even a shoulder bag.
No matter who you ask, response to this special model was likely not what Dodge had hoped for. Though the package returned for 1956, it is estimated that less than 2500 were made in 1955–56.
As a matter of fact, when I first spotted our featured car at the weekly Freight House cruise-in on the Davenport riverfront back on May 17, I thought it was a La Femme, but closer examination proved it was just a very brightly hued Royal Lancer hardtop.
So while it was perhaps not quite the rare birdie I initially thought, it was still a beautiful car, and I was pleased as punch to gawk at it! I’d happily and proudly drive it.