Chrysler Thunderbolt: Built by LeBaron with Style Beyond its Years
The 1938 Buick Y-Job is credited as the world’s first concept car. But soon after, another vehicle rolled out that was as influential on the design of production cars that followed. It was the Chrysler Thunderbolt, and it was just as effective as turning heads.
The Thunderbolt was actually a LeBaron– and no not the car, but a car built by the coachbuilders named LeBaron. Through the 1930s, they had built incredible bodies for Cadillac and Deusenberg. Their works also included the stunning Chrysler Newport, and the Thunderbolt concept that you see here.
The car was built using the 1940 Chrysler New Yorker chassis. The powertrain came from the Chrysler Crown Imperial, utilizing its 323.5 cubic inch straight eight, making 143 hp. The car featured an aluminum body, which was designed by former Cord designer Alex Tremulis. The clean design was devoid of any outcroppings and was a truly stunning shape.
The real achievement of the Thunderbolt was the power retractable hard top. It was fully electric and was operated via buttons in the dash. Six Thunderbolts were built in 1940 and 1941, and they toured dealerships throughout the country. Unlike many concept cars from the 1950s that were scrapped after their use, it is believed that all six cars still exist and are in private hands.