1956 Dodge La Femme; photo courtesy DodgeLaFemme.com. Click image to enlarge
By Bill Vance
Dodge La Femme
Although women play a large role in the purchase of automobiles, and car companies employ female engineers and others to make them friendlier to women, it is highly unlikely that any company today would be bold enough to introduce a model with strong feminine overtones aimed specifically at females. But the 1950s were a different era, and Chrysler Corporation did just that with its 1955 Dodge La Femme, specifically directed at “Her Royal Highness – the American Woman.”
La Femme was inspired by the 1954 Chrysler La Contessa show car based on a Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe Newport series. Chrysler wasn’t the only one displaying concept models catering to women. General Motors, for example, presented its Cadillac Eldorado Seville Baroness, pink Pontiac Parisienne and Chevrolet Martinique models.
1955 Dodge La Femme; photo by Wikipedia user Christopher Ziemnowicz. Click image to enlarge
The public response on the auto show circuit to Chrysler’s La Contessa was encouraging enough that its Dodge Division decided to pursue the theme with a La Femme option package on the 1955 Custom Royal Lancer. It was a propitious time to do this because it marked an important year for Chrysler Corp., as it broke away from the tall and somewhat stodgy styling inspired by former president K. T. Keller, who insisted that a man should be able to easily enter a Chrysler product while wearing his fedora. It took until 1955 and the arrival of stylist Virgil Exner’s sleeker “Forward Look” to dispel that ponderous appearance.
To assess public opinion for its La Femme idea, Chrysler presented it as part of its new Forward Look at the International Salon in the Chrysler Building in New York City in January, 1955. The fashionable Heather Rose-Sapphire White La Femme two-door hardtop was intended to transport women, at least in their imaginations, far away from the drab world of cleaning, cooking and other boring household chores. It was made a production option on the Dodge Custom Royal Lancer and presented to a wider general audience at the Chicago Auto Show. A gold La Femme badge on the front fenders replaced the Royal Lancer script.