Tuesday, November 18, 2014

World on Wheels custom: 1955 La Femme

There are many vintage cars and other vehicles with which I have a more personal connection and for which I will be making custom cards in the format of 1954-55 Topps World on Wheels, but for my third such card (see #1-2 on my blog from Aug. 30) I chose to work up the 1955 Dodge La Femme.

La Femme was Dodge's attempt to capture the market for autos that would appeal to women. Some of their sales literature said the car was created, "By Special Appointment to Her Majesty . . . the American Woman".

La Femme made it into production as the result of positive reviews of the concept car La Comtesse that Dodger had presented at the 1954 auto shows. Too, Dodge had learned that by 1955 it was the lady of the house that most influenced the color and luxury options on most new car purchases, so the company figured it could go a step further and make a market in a car designed exclusively for the fairer sex.

In essence, La Femme was a tricked-out Royal Custom Lancer two-door hardtop coupe. It was available for 1955 only in one color scheme: Sapphire White and Heather Rose. The Lancer badging was replaced with goldtone script "La Femme".

Inside, the car was upholstered in tapestry fabric with pink rosebuds on a silver-pink background and there was pale pink vinyl trim everywhere. 

Feminine touches included a pink calfskin purse with a brushed gold medallion in a pocket behind the passenger seat. The carry-along shoulder bag contained a face powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, lighter, comb and change purse in faux tortoiseshell plastic. The accessories were all by Evans of Chicago, a maker of women's fine garments and accessories.

In a pocket behind the driver's seat were a rain coat, rain bonnet and umbrella made of vinyl matching the upholstery.

The car featured Dodge's Red Ram 183-horsepower V-8 and the two-speed PowerFlite push-button automatic transmission.

The La Femme option package came at a cost of just $143, bringing the MSRP to $2,518.

A color change to Misty Orchid and Regal Orchid and a revamping of the interior appointments were made for the 1956 La Femme.

Company records apparently do not indicate the  number of La Femmes sold in 1955 and 1956, the only two years the model was offered. It is believed around 2,500 were sold combined in that time. 

Apparently a lack of aggressive marketing retarded demand. There was little print, TV or radio advertising, and few of the country's Dodge dealerships had a demonstrator in the showroom. A single-sheet brochure was all the dealer had on hand to promote the concept.

Marque specialists estimate that about 40 of the 1955 model La Femme survive, and about 20 of the 1956s. I saw one of the 1956 La Femmes at a car show once back in the late 1970s. It was immaculately restored and even a quarter-century after it rolled off the assembly line, it was still a real draw for the ladies.

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