Dodge briefly considered building a sports car in the early 1950s, but the project resulted in only one prototype. Today, the 1953 Dodge Tempest Z-250 is housed at the Petersen Automotive Museum, which recently produced a video of the unique car, shown by the museum’s chief historian, Leslie Kendall .
Imported European sports cars became popular in the United States after World War II, prompting Detroit automakers to consider homegrown alternatives, including the Chevrolet Corvette in 1953 and Ford Thunderbird in 1955, and the Some low-volume models. Chrysler didn’t make anything like it, but it did consider one.
1953 Dodge Storm Z-250
The Dodge Tempest Z-250 was the brainchild of advertising executive Fred Zeder, whose father (also called Fred) was a key figure in Chrysler’s early days and was involved in the development of the Airflow model. The young Zeder specified a Hemi V-8 and a tube-frame chassis with interchangeable bodies—one for road trips and one for racing.
The Bertone-designed body shown here was designed to be removed by simply unscrewing four bolts and replaced with a lighter fiberglass body for racing. Kendall noted that it’s unclear whether the fiberglass body was actually built. The car was originally white with a black roof and different hubcaps than the ones currently fitted.
The Storm was shown at the 1953 Turin Motor Show, but it may have appeared at other undocumented shows as well. When Zedd parked it outside his Manhattan office, it caused quite a stir, drawing so much attention that the police got involved, Kendall said.
Chrysler did consider a production version, but only briefly, Kendall said. Storm was put into storage and then bought outright by Zeder. He later donated it to a university but regained it, replacing the original engine which was no longer working at the time. He also repainted the car to its current color and added the current hubcaps during the second ownership period. Ultimately, he donated the car to Peterson.
It’s not just a show car. Before it was housed in a Los Angeles museum, Kendall said Zed took him for a ride around Palm Springs, laying rubber blocks and sliding through corners.
Chrysler did eventually introduce a Dodge-branded sports car, albeit without interchangeable bodies. The Dodge Viper was introduced in 1992 and kept the Corvette honest until it was discontinued in 2017, just as the Storm Z-250 might have done if Chrysler execs had decided differently four decades ago.