Image credits: © Scimitar.

1959 Scimitar Concept

The Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation, a mining and chemical company, entered the aluminum business in the mid-1950s. Thomas S. Nicholson was the chairman of Olin and a friend of industrial designer Brooks Stevens. The aluminum had many practical applications in the construction of automobiles, so Stevens was commissioned to design three concept cars. The cars were built by Karosseriewerk Reuter of Stuttgart, Germany on mid-priced Chrysler New Yorker chassis.

These marketing vehicles were used to demonstrate functional and decorative applications for aluminum use in automobiles. The aluminum anodized quarter panels could be removed for aesthetic and maintenance purposes. Lightweight anodized aluminum was used to form the grille, wheel discs, trim, bumpers, and many interior treatments. Everything that is brushed aluminum is aluminum, and the black parts are steel.

The three Scimitars had the same paint schemes, same front and rear end fascia, and the same V-shaped grille (which doubles as a bumper) that was certainly an evolution of the prior Stevens-designed Cadillac Die Valkyrie concept. The big 'V' on the Valkyrie represented the American V8 engines. Brooks Stevens raced cars in both Europe and America and was very proud of the American V8 engines and used the front bumper to symbolize it. All three Scimitars were powered by a 413 cubic-inch OHV V8 engines offering 350 horsepower and backed by a TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The New Yorker's steel wheelbase measured 127-inches and its length was 216 inches. It was suspended by an independent front suspension with longitudinal torsion-bars, and a rigid axle setup in the back. The curved windshield was from Chrysler and the three-round taillights were from the late-1950s Chevrolet.

The Die Valkyrie was Steven's first use of the 'Washington coach' door line which featured an upward sweep that helped disguise the long door openings. A similar paint scheme and styling was applied to the Scimitar, with the name of the vehicle being inspired by the pronounced scimitar-like shape (a Turkish curved-blade saber), sweeping upwards from the lower front fender to the top of the rear fender.

To demonstrate the versatility and appeal to a wide audience, a hardtop convertible, a town car phaeton, and a station wagon (all-purpose sedan) were built. The hardtop convertible is the only two-door body style in the group, and the metal roof over the passenger compartment could be fully retracted into the trunk space. Stevens had also used the retractable hardtop feature on other concepts of the early 1950s, including the Paxton Phoenix, Valkyrie and the Gaylord Gladiator. The long rear deck and rooftop design of the Scimitar had similarities to the Ford Fairlane Skyliner of 1957, America's first production convertible with a retractable hardtop, which used a series of wires and electric motors to retract the hardtop into the trunk. With the touch of a button, the Skyliners hardtop literally unscrewed itself from the windshield frame and then folded neatly and tucked under a long, flat trunk lid that lifted on its own to make way for the top. The process took about 25 seconds to transform the Skyliner from a coupe into a true convertible. The Scimitar used two electric motors, whereas the Ford required seven.

The Town Car featured a ribbed aluminum panel over the chauffeur's compartment that slid into the hollow rear roof, which could then be lowered into the trunk to create a true four-door convertible sedan. This made the Town Car Phaeton capable of being configured either as an enclosed sedan, a fully open four-door convertible sedan or an open-front town car. A switch on the dashboard operated by the driver controlled the transformation from the sedan into a town car. Actuating the switch again automatically opened the rear-hinged deck, raised the rear roof section, and lowered it into the trunk area.

The All-Purpose Family Sedan had a sliding roof panel over the cargo area. When opened, the vehicle was able to transport tall objects such as appliances or furniture. Stevens would later adopt this feature to the Studebaker Wagonaire. In the early 2000s, GM used a similar design for their Envoy XUV, which had an SUV body, a retractable roof over the cargo area, fold-down rear seats, and a removable partition.

After completion, the three Scimitars were put on display at the 1959 Geneva Auto Show and then at the 1961 International Automobile Show in New York. Their promotional career lasted about three years and was shown all over, including Chicago, California, and Miami. They would remain a concept and were never offered for sale to the public.

The two-door currently resides in the Petersen collection in Los Angeles, CA. The station wagon is in the National Automobile Museum (Harrah Collection) in Reno, NV and the Phaeton is in private ownership in Houston, Texas.

by Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2020
Vehicle Profiles
1959 Scimitar Concept vehicle information

Town Car Phaeton
Coachwork: Reutter Karosserie

This 1959 Town Car Phaeton by Brooks Stevens is believed to be the only town car ever built with a rigid roof that can be retracted into the trunk. The car can be configured either as an enclosed sedan, a fully open four-door convertible sedan or an ....[continue reading]

1959 Scimitar Concept vehicle information

All Purpose Sedan
Coachwork: Reutter Karosserie

This 1959 Scimitar All-Purpose Sedan (station wagon) was designed as an all-purpose family vehicle and it incorporated a sliding roof panel over the cargo area, a feature Stevens would later adapt for the Studebaker Wagonaire. When open, the vehicle ....[continue reading]

1959 Scimitar Concept vehicle information

Hardtop Convertible
Coachwork: Reutter Karosserie
Designer: Brooks Stevens

This Scimitar Hard Top Convertible wearing a design by Brooks Stevens and built by Karosseriewerk Reuter of Stuttgart, Germany had a metal roof that fully retracts into the trunk space. The car is built on a 1959 Chrysler New Yorker chassis with a 41....[continue reading]

Town Car Phaeton by Reutter Karosserie
All Purpose Sedan by Reutter Karosserie
Hardtop Convertible by Reutter Karosserie

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