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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

5 Chrysler Concepts That Never Got a Chance



Every year, cars get faster, stronger, and more high-tech, and we owe this constant improvement wholly to the automakers’ tradition of concept cars. Concept cars are vehicles designed and produced in limited quantity that explore the limits of the automobile craft. Inspired by science fiction and modern fashion, designers and engineers build models intended to dazzle, with sensuous lines, unfamiliar mechanics, and unprecedented technology. These are the epitome of dream cars, and they inspire carmakers and buyers alike.

Since the beginning, Chrysler has been one of America’s leaders in innovative concept cars. In fact, many of its concepts influenced the trajectory of the auto industry. Still, not every concept can come to fruition, and here are five concept cars that never made it past the convention showroom.

1. LeBaron Newport


In 1941, the vice president of Chrysler commissioned two concept cars from LeBaron, a small custom coach company that frequently designed cars for various automakers. With 90 days’ notice, the engineers at LeBaron were able to produce five exceptional models of the LeBaron Newport, a dual-cowl phaeton with flowing, classic lines.

The Newport’s fenders continued uninterrupted all the way around the car — the first American model to do so — and its hood, doors, and deck mimicked this seamless style with beautiful simplicity. The open top of the phaeton style made the car sporty and exotic. The teardrop shape of the rear fenders made the vehicle especially aerodynamic for its time, and this detail would later be copied on more expensive Buick models that actually roved the streets.

2. La Comtesse


In 1954, Chrysler’s show took on a fun gimmick with twinned “his and hers” cars, Le Comte and La Comtesse. Though the cars were nearly identical, La Comtesse was slightly flashier, with an attractive two-tone paint job and clear plastic roof to allow passengers to see the sky. The designers were angling for feminine eyes, as each car came equipped with accessories like a matching umbrella and handbag as well as a lipstick and compact for the girl on the go. Indeed, it would have been difficult for anyone to avoid this car’s wiles; with an exterior of pink and pigeon-gray, an interior of cream and dusty rose leather, and chrome detailing inside and out, La Comtesse is and was a looker.



3. DeSoto Cella


Though the DeSoto Cella never even came close to becoming a true car — designers never produced a model larger than 3/8ths scale — it was one of the most innovative autos of its time. The pet project of DeSoto’s chief engineer, the Cella was truly a future automobile, as it gained power not from a gasoline motor but from hydrogen fuel cells that drove electric motors located at each wheel.

Of course, this car of the future didn’t stop there: The standard Cella also boasted a built-in refrigerator, television, and stereo and uncommon safety features like a padded dashboard and seatbelts. If Chrysler had put time and energy into making the DeSoto Cella real after it was shown in 1959, we might have had safer, more entertaining, and more fuel-efficient cars for decades.

4. Cordoba de Oro


The Chrysler Cordoba was a fast-selling affordable luxury coupe that Americans loved, but Chrysler’s concept Cordoba de Oro was the Cordoba’s younger, hotter brother. Painted striking gold with interior gold trim to match, the Cordoba de Oro looked absolutely swanky in its 1970 Chicago showroom. The de Oro’s designers used the car to experiment with many technologies drivers can recognize as standard in today’s Chrysler cars, including shoulder seatbelts, airbags, and cameras and monitors to replace the rearview mirror.

5. Neon Aviat


Many may not remember Chrysler’s small, spunky compact Neon line, and even fewer will be able to recall the concept car based on the Neon’s style. However, 1994’s Neon Aviat remains one of Chrysler’s most fascinating departures from traditional automobile style and claims unconventional features that cause both confusion and elation. The Avait’s most ostentatious design elements were the gigantic side air scoops that funneled air inside the bodywork of the rear wheels. As a result, the back of the car looked like rocket engines prepared to propel the car into the space age.


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Mom’s Survival Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter


In the early 2000s, budding Potter fans had little hope for leaving their humdrum muggle existence behind and entering the magical worlds of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. No matter how many times they read the series, they were left to wait desperately and despairingly for an acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which they knew in their heart of hearts would never arrive.

Today’s generation of “Harry Potter” acolytes has it much easier. Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida offers young and old fans alike a wizarding wonderland full of shops and rides designed to dazzle even those with a superficial knowledge of the series’ sensational secrets. With 20 acres of magical fun, it is no wonder this addition to the amusement park has brought in millions of attendees to dramatically increase the park’s profits. In fact, only six months after the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010, the park announced that it had sold its millionth brew of butterbeer.

Your family may be utterly enchanted by the promise of Universal Studio’s magical realm, but you probably have some doubts about the shops, the rides, and the crowds. Fortunately, with a little guidance, you can prepare fully for your trip to the Wizarding World — unlike Harry while he searched for those Horcruxes.

Stay On-Site


If you and your family make hotel reservations at any of Universal Studio’s four on-site hotels, you are granted early admission to the parks, which means you and your kids will have one hour to see the busiest attractions before the rest of the biggest crowds arrive. Because the Wizarding World remains the newest and most visited region of the park, you can spend your morning touring the shops and riding the rides.

However, it is important to note that Universal Studio’s hotels can be a bit costlier than off-property lodgings. You can stay on budget by booking your flight to Florida on Flights.com. Alternatively, you can stay at a budget hotel for most of your trip and move on-site for the night before you plan to visit the Wizarding World.

Eat the Food


You might be tempted to smuggle in your own snacks and lunches to save money. While in-park meals can be expensive, in the Wizarding World, the experience is well-worth the price. Unlike hamburgers and French fries you’re likely to find in other amusement parks, the Wizarding World offers all the unique British cultural foods mentioned in the books, many of which your kids likely have never seen or tasted before.

There are a handful of restaurants and food stands to fill you up when your energy flags, but the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley and the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade are by far the most bountiful and immersive. For dessert, stop by Honeydukes or Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour.

Use the Facilities Beforehand


Little ones don’t have the best track record for letting you know when they need to go, and unfortunately, the Wizarding World has precious few restrooms to relieve the pressure of tiny bladders. Diagon Alley is particularly egregious of this crime, as there is only one bathroom located in a far, back corner — and as you might expect, there is always a long wait. Before you head to the Wizarding World, and Diagon Alley in particular, you should schedule a family pit stop to mitigate potential bathroom emergencies.

Look for Magical Secrets


Just like the books, the Wizarding World parks contain countless cute (and crucial) details designed to delight those paying close attention. If you and your family keep your eyes peeled, you might be able to spot any of the following hidden treasures around Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts Castle.

  • Shrunken heads singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home” in Knockturn Alley
  • Talking snake in front of the Magical Menagerie
  • Self-playing cello in the window of Dominic Maestro’s Music Shop
  • Moving cat made of Measuring tape in Gladrags Wizardwear
  • Kreacher peeking out a window at 12 Grimmauld Place
  • Moaning Myrtle’s cries in the Hogsmeade restrooms
  • The red phone booth outside King’s Cross dials the Ministry of Magic with 62442 (“magic”)
  • Potions class in session in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride
  • Voldemort appears in front of Malfoy Manor during Hogwarts Express ride to Diagon Alley
  • And literally hundreds more.




Photos by Scott Smith on Flicker’s Creative Commons.
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