The 1959 Dodge Custom Royal is a sinister looking beast. The inwardly-angled curving “eyebrows” over the headlights, the massive chrome grille that looks like it feeds on small children and just the sheer hulking size of it – this a two door coupe that measures in at just over 5.5 metres long.
To me it’s just looks mean and nasty. It’s got an angry face, but it’s still proportionate and beautiful. It’s a product of the pinnacle of the chrome-and-fins era and it’s as bold as it is menacing. Personally it’s my favourite car of that period. Nothing else matches it for style and aggression.
Some might prefer the Plymouth Fury which has a meaner name and was made famous as the titular murderous vehicle from Stephen King’s short story and film adaption Christine. The Fury might have the name and the cinematic pedigree but it doesn’t look as nasty as the Custom Royal. Visually, the Dodge oozes menace.
I mean, the grille looks like it has futuristic cannons mounted in it (pretty sure they’re just indicators, but let’s not spoil the illusion). From the front it looks like it wants to kill you.
It’s not completely without comedy; the rocket ship taillights and enormous fins suggest a level of speed and manoeuvre-ability this car simply does not possess. The 5.7 litre V8 was good for 300hp off the showroom floor, which is pretty tame by modern standards. Surprisingly – considering the lavish accoutrements adorning the vehicle both inside and out – it only tips the scales at just under 1.7 tonnes, so on-road performance was probably pretty decent for the time.
It also has enormous rear aerials that could make people mistakenly think you’re going fishing.
Around twenty years ago I saw one for sale, an old heap in need of total restoration. The seller wanted $400. I still hate myself for not buying it.
Nowadays I’d only by one that’s already been restored. I don’t have the patience or the skills to do justice to a 60-year-old project car.
But if one came up for sale and I had the cash I’d snap it up in a flash. I love these cars. They’re big, bold and shamelessly excessive.
Plus the Dodge has just enough menace about it to appeal to me, that sinister edge that makes it hard to stop staring at. If Satan was cruising the streets of America back in the late 50’s this is what he’d drive. It’s got a face that says “grrrrr!” and a boot big enough to accommodate numerous dead bodies.
If that’s your kind of thing. Which it shouldn’t be. Because that’s bad.
Add that to the old-school V8 rumble it would have and you’re looking at a seriously cool car, one with a whole lot of “don’t mess with me” attitude. A Yank Tank that out-styles pretty much all the others of the time and just about everything since.
If only there was one in my garage.