1955 GMC LaSalle II Roadster Concept news, pictures, specifications, and information
GM flirted with reviving the LaSalle nameplate. A natty little roadster, (called a sports coupe), and a six-passenger four-door pillarless hardtop sedan teased Motorama-goers, but the bold idea went no further. Both LaSalle showcars were 'powered by' mocked-up, non-functional overhead cam V6's. External-Type brake drums featured cooling fins that were both aesthetic and functional. This unrestored roadster was ordered to be destroyed. Joe Bartz found it in a Michigan wreaking yard and plans eventually to restore it.
In the 1950s, GM created a pair of Motorama Show Cars which they named after Cadillac's companion marque, last produced in 1940. These vehicles were dubbed the LaSalle II. One was a six-passenger, four-door pillars hardtop codenamed XP-32 and given shop order 2217. the other was a two-passenger roadster codenamed XP-34 and shop order 2220. Bother wore fiberglass bodies and fitted with V6 engines.

Part of the reasons the cars were given the LaSalle name were in honor of legendary designer Harley Earl, whose first project with GM was the 1927 LaSalle.

The sedan version had suicide style (rear-hinged) doors and rested on a wheelbase that measured 108 inches and had an overall length of 180.2 inches and a height of 69.5 inches. The roadster was shorter, with a wheelbase of 99.9 inches and an overall length of 151.7 inches and height of 42.8 inches. Both cars had the same ground clearance of 5.1 inches.

These show cars were as impressive mechanically as they were visually. The fiberglass bodies rested on a custom-built steel frame with an independent suspension utilizing torsion bars in the front. Though the public was craving large V8 power, GM chose to explore the potential of lightweight, compact small-block V6 engine. The examples found in both cars, at the time, were just aluminum castings without internal components. These non-functioning V6 prototype engines were to have aluminum heads and blocks, fuel injection system, double overhead cam (DOHC), and an estimated 150 horsepower.

Carl Renner was the individual responsible for much of the vehicle's styling. Later, he worked on the re-styled Corvette for 1956. In the front of both concepts were a vertical grille opening based on the 1941 LaSalles which never made it to production. The grilles, which wrapped around to the sides, also had a 'bullet' guards design features. In keeping with the LaSalle tradition (used during their last years in business), 'LaS' emblems could be found on the hood of the car. The cars were painted pearlescent white with contrasting blue concave bodyside ellipses. The Roadster had 'Bahama Blue' while the Sedan had 'LeSabre Blue' coves.

The Sedan had a curved front windshield, similar to the one used on the Biscayne. The exhaust exited through a port in each lower quarter panel. The setup was different for the roadster, however, as its muffler, exhaust pipes, and ports were housed in the rocker sills and exited just ahead of the back wheels. Both vehicles rested on 13-inch turbine-style wheels with brake drums cast into their center sections. The setup allowed the removal of the brake drums in a very short amount of time.

Though the cars never made it into production, many of their design features and mechanical components would be integrated into GM products. In the 1960s, Buick began offering a V6 engine that would become an important part of their 1980s lineup. The side coves became a part of future Corvettes.

After the show cars career expired, they were sent to Warhoops Auto & Truck Salvage near the GM Tech Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan. In the late 1980s, they were rescued by Joe Bortz. By this point in history, the roadster had been cut apart but the sedan was mostly intact.

In 2008, the LaSalle II was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. At the time, its restoration was not yet complete. In 2012, both cars made an appearance at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2013
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