By John Quilter
All photographs taken by, and copyright of, the Author
In the mid-50s women were becoming more accustomed to owning their own car and Chrysler Corporation wanted a capitalise on this trend by producing a car that was specifically created and appeal to the ladies. To that end the Dodge division launched the La Femme in 1955. This was a special trim version of the Custom Royal Lancer two door hardtop. It was only supplied painted in pink and white with a pink and white vinyl and flower pattern cloth upholstery. These cars were supplied with some unique accessories for my lady, such as pockets in the back of the front seats for a soft rose leather shoulder bag, which was fitted with a lighter, lipstick, coin purse, cigarette case, and comb. The special pocket behind the driver’ seat housed the rain hat, rain cape and umbrella. The photograph below shows the specially constructed umbrella in use. I made this using the same white with pink flower material that was used on the seat upholstery.
These cars were only made in 1955 and 1956 and best research indicates only about 2500 were produced in total. It appears that marketing of this women’s car concept was not as successful as it could have been and it is likely that not every Dodge dealer at the time even received one for their showroom or to demonstrate to the potential lady customer or her gift giving husband.
All came with the Dodge hemi head V8 engine, the 1955 with a Super Red Ram of 270 CID and 183 horsepower or an optional version with four barrel carburetor and dual exhausts developing 193 horsepower. All came with Dodge’s Powerflite automatic transmission. By 1956 the engine size had been bumped up to 315 CID and three versions were offered ranging from 218 to 260 horsepower with two four barrel carburetors for the lady that wanted her La Femme to really step out. Badging on the front fender was in gold script.
To make a replica of the 1955 version I was able to obtain a long out of production Tron resin kit of the Custom Royal Lancer convertible. To create the La Femme it was necessary to fabricate a roof and attach it to the chrome white metal windscreen frame and rear deck. This I did with a small section of sheet aluminium after making various trial patterns with card stock.
I wanted to replicate the flowered upholstery as closely as possible so I searched a local fabric shop for women and found a white fabric with red spots but obviously the pattern was way too big for a 1:43 scale car. See the background to the photograph above for an example of the fabric. The solution was to colour photocopy it in 25% reduction and then cut out sections and glue them to the seats and a small portion of the door card.
Photos available on Google Images and my February 1988 copy of Collectible Automobile magazine provided many detail aids to this project. The Tron kit contains some photoetch for the side moulding, the vent windows, the grill edge moulding and screen wipers. The most difficult part is forming the curved rear window and properly proportioning the roof, photos and a Brooklin 1956 Plymouth Fury hardtop assisted in this.
The kit supplies decals for the V8 badges, the front and rear Dodge badges, the hubcap badges, the steering wheel badge plus the dashboard gauges and radio unit. It also contains multiple colour seat upholstery decals but not in the pink and white colours needed for the La Femme, hence my work around with the photocopied fabric.
This Tron kit contains a white metal base plate, fascia, twin exhaust systems and wheels which are cleverly made in such as way that white walls can be painted on before the black rubber tires are fitted. The La Femme badging was done with a bit of a squiggle of gold paint applied with the point of a sharp toothpick. I upgraded from the flat photoetch door handles to those for a Brooklin 1955 Dodge sedan as these are better detailed and chrome.
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