Steven Juliano is a collector of rare Chrysler products. In fact, the cars he collects are arguably the rarest of the rare. The garage at his New York City home contains a handful of the most unique creations to ever carry a Pentastar.
Steven's passion is for Chrysler concept cars from the late '60s and early '70s, and his goal is to reunite the significant concept cars of the time. He says, "The concept cars from this era were designed and created to be displayed with each other. Together, they served a purpose, and I believe they should again be displayed together."
We first met Steven over a year ago when he unveiled the cars from Chrysler's Rapid Transit Caravan (Mopar Muscle, July 1999). This year, Juliano is going to display at the Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals what he calls the cornerstone of his collection-the Dodge Diamante concept car.
"I think what makes the Diamante such a special concept car," Steven says, "is the fact that it was born royalty." The Diamante began as a highly optioned '70 Hemi Challenger convertible. In fact, it's the first Hemi convertible E-Body produced. Today, that car could be valued at $250,000 without concept status. Black paint, black top, and black leather interior dressed the Challenger, and options included a 4-speed transmission, power windows, power convertible top, power steering, power brakes, 4:10 rear gear, and more.
Before becoming the Diamante, the car participated in the '69 show circuit as the Dodge Yellow Jacket. The original Challenger was converted to a two-seater in an effort to fish for consumer interest as a Chrysler-built competitor for Chevrolet's Corvette. A custom power rear spoiler and power rear window glass were installed (both controlled from inside the cockpit) and a targa-style roof section was fabricated. The restyling demanded new paint and, appropriately, a pearl yellow was applied. Inside, a custom fairing that complemented the front seats, a host of extra auxiliary switches and a pistol grip shifter let onlookers know this was no ordinary Challenger.
The then-$250,000-plus Yellow Jacket was gorgeous. Unfortunately, so was the bikini-clad showgirl that appeared with it. To attract attention to the display, attendees were allowed to paint the showgirl's body, a fad at the time. The gimmick was a success in attracting attention to the display, however, more attention was given to the girl than the car. Chrysler brass, disappointed with the Yellow Jacket's showing, called for restyling and the Diamante was born.
Changes to the car were mostly cosmetic. An aerodynamic nose complemented new air intakes on the hood and fenders, while pop-up headlights and an integrated bumper and grill assembly rounded out the sleek, new look. The car was then rewrapped in pearl white paint.
The word diamante means "diamond" in Spanish, so the distracting "spokeswoman" was replaced with more than a million dollars worth of diamonds. It grabbed audience attention, but the diamond was soon in the rough.
After the first show, the Diamante was badly scratched while being reloaded on the transporter. The car was rushed out for a repaint, and to Chrysler's surprise (so the story goes), it returned wearing candy tangerine. The flashy shade of orange was extremely popular at the time, but it made for a funny-colored diamond. Still, the Diamante was a huge hit.
The Diamante made a few more tours and was then mothballed in a Chrysler warehouse from 1972 through 1978, when it was sold at auction. The car changed hands a few times before Steven purchased it in 1998.
He says, "As it sits today, everything on the car is totally untouched original, except for one repaint of the candy tangerine. The odometer shows only 600 miles."