1953 Dodge Storm Z-250 is the sports car that could have been

Dodge briefly considered building a sports car in the early 1950s, but the project only resulted in a single prototype. Today, the 1953 Dodge Storm Z-250 is in the collection of the Petersen Automotive Museum, which recently produced a video about this unique car, presented by Leslie Kendall, the museum’s chief historian.

Imported European sports cars became popular in the US after World War II, prompting Detroit automakers to consider domestic alternatives, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird, released in 1953 and 1955 respectively, along with some models featuring lower volume. Chrysler didn’t produce an equivalent, but it was considering one.

1953 Dodge Storm Z-250

1953 Dodge Storm Z-250

The Dodge Storm Z-250 was the brainchild of advertising executive Fred Zeder, whose father (aka Fred) was a key figure in Chrysler’s early days and had worked on the Airflow models. The younger Cedar specified a Hemi V-8 and a tube frame chassis with interchangeable bodies – one for road touring and one for racing.

The Bertone designed body shown here was designed to be removed by undoing just four bolts and replaced with a lighter weight fiberglass body for racing. It’s not known if the fiberglass body was actually built, Kendall noted. The car was originally white with a black roof, with different hubcaps than those currently fitted.

The Storm appeared at the 1953 Turin Motor Show, but it may have had other undocumented show appearances as well. It caused a stir when Zeder parked it in front of his Manhattan office, attracting enough attention that the police were called, Kendall said.

Chrysler considered a production version, but only briefly, Kendall said. The Storm went into storage and was then purchased directly from Zeder. He later donated it to a college, but reacquired it and replaced the original engine, which was no longer working by that time. He also had the car repainted in its current color and added the current hubcaps during this second ownership period. Finally he gave the car to the Petersen.

This is not purely a show car. Before it was housed in the Los Angeles museum, Kendall said Cedar took him on a ride around Palm Springs, putting rubber patches and sliding through corners.

Chrysler eventually released a Dodge-branded sports car, albeit without the interchangeable bodies. The Dodge Viper came out in 1992 and kept the Corvette honest until its 2017 discontinuation, just like the Storm Z-250 would have if Chrysler executives had made a different decision four decades earlier.