Monday, November 2, 2009

By appointment to her Majesty, the American Woman...

The 1955 and 1956 Dodge La Femme

Being that I am now the owner of a "Rose Mist" vintage car myself, I decided to go looking for other bits of automania from the 1950s and the 1960s that put the driver in the "pink" as it were.

I have known about the Dodge La Femme for years and seen one - just one - one time on the streets of Columbus about 25 years ago.  When I told my friend Jody it sent her into all consuming spasms of desire. 

And whats not to love?

The car was developed as a way of marketing to women at the time that most Americans - just not the well to do - were considering a second family car.  The thinking was, that cars were inherently male things, even though the men that drove them referred to them as "she" and "her", as in "she's a beaut!"

Oldsmobile (and did you know you rearrange that into spelling Slob Model if you lose the "i") actually went so far as to hire a woman named Peggy Sauer to their design team in the mid 1950s and marketed her as the female member of the design staff, which implied that poor Peggy was a token, and that she was given token work.  Poor Peggy.

SO the Dodge boys - a bunch of heterosexual brutes - came up with the idea that to make a car attractive to a woman, they had to "Fem" the damned thing out in "Fem" colors.  To make it ever so gay, they picked a total pallet of color that encompassed white, pink, orchid and another shade of orchid, and then some charcol (not black because that was a mans color) and then added in some gold trim for good measure.  All of this was splashed, bathed and applied to the regular old Dodge, and was christened the LaFemme, in script no less, just in case anyone got it wrong and thought that this was a mans car.

Inside the straight guys went even more over the top.  The figured that women expected a car to come with a matching parasol and raincoat, and a purse too.  Because that's what women want, right?

Wrong.  Its hard to sell a car in these colors just for a woman when the same colors are showing up on other cars.  And "pink", except for a few years in the 1950s simply isn't a popular car color, unless you're selling a lot of Mary Kay cosmetics.

Well, the car flopped, but it did so with great panache.  And , it turned out that women just wanted a car, and men didn't want to be seen driving the things.  So Dodge sold a few and then very quietly exited the business. 
Thank God for car collectors - else wise these cheery reminders of female oppression would have all gone to the trash heap. 

But if you see one, take a minute and really think about what it represents, and relish the moment.  These cars are rarer then rubies.  Just a handful survive.  And if you see a stout hearted fellow driving the thing, salute him.  "God love you!" call out, because that is something that the Dodge people never thought would be: a man with real balls to drive one.


  1. i drooled over one of these once.....but thought better of buying. i mean, how much femme can one person pull off?

  2. Well, one can go for cliche, but I say go for full throttle Camp...

  3. Oh my God... how have I gone this long without knowing of La Femme's existence??? (And, for a while, I was a minor "scholar" of 1950's autos, and never even heard of this grande experiment.) Fabulash. I wants one. NOW.

  4. I always thought it posed an interesting dilemma in French car in French is "le autmobile"; and this is a "la Femme". Talk about your gender confusion.

    Collectible Automobile did an article on them about 20 years ago - I can find the issue date and I'm sure you can order the back issue. The article very well photographed, although the woman wearing the raincoat and umbrella doesn't look as happy in the picture as the mannequin does in the pictures above.