When Exner joined Chrysler, the company's vehicles were being fashioned by engineers instead of designers, and so were considered outmoded, unstylish designs. Exner fought to change this structuring, and got control over the design process, including the clay prototypes and the die models used to create production tooling.
After seeing the P-38-inspired tailfins on the 1948 Cadillac, Exner adopted fins as a central element of his vehicle designs. He believed in the aerodynamic benefits of the fins, and even used wind tunnel testing at the University of Michigan—but he also liked their visual effects on the car. Exner lowered the roofline and made the cars sleeker, smoother, and more aggressive. In 1955, Chrysler introduced "The New 100-Million Dollar Look". With a long hood and short deck, the wedgelike designs of the Chrysler 300 letter series and revised 1957 models suddenly brought the company to the forefront of design, with Ford and General Motors quickly working to catch up. The 1957 Plymouths were advertised with the slogan, "Suddenly, it's 1960!"
Fins soon lost popularity. By the late 1950s Cadillac, Chrysler and many other marques had escalated the size of fins until some thought they were stylistically questionable, and they became a symbol of American excess in the early 60s. 1961 is considered the last of the "Forward Look" designs. The 1962's were referred to as "plucked chickens" by Exner.
- The Forward Look Network - Online community for 1955-1961 Chrysler Corporation "Forward Look" vehicles
- The Exner Era - Chrysler Design Institute