Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Spain may not be famous for coachbuilders the way their colleagues to the North and on the opposite side of the Mediterranean are, but that is not to say there were none.

Dodge Serra (c) Autopista es

Pedro Serra Vidal (1926-2017) was born into the automobile business. His father owned a large automotive workshop and coachbuilding business in Barcelona, where the young Serra Vidal learned the trade and gathered the necessary experience.

His talent quickly became obvious and he would go on to create custom bodywork for affluent customers on cars such as Pegaso, Citroën, Dodge and of course SEAT. According to Serra Vidal himself he worked on instinct, with hammers and hand tools using his eyes and other senses as a guide- i.e. the old school method.

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Photo caption: Some of Serra’s work: Pegaso Z102 Spider (1955), Seat 600 Roadster (1964), Dodge Specter (1968) and Citroën Dyane Coupé (1970)

Over the years the Spanish coachbuilder developed a latent desire to produce a car of wholly his own design, but it would take the right catalyst to stimulate Serra Vidal into action. While visiting the Barcelona Motor Show in 1970 he encountered that catalyst: the LMX Sirex, an elegant Franco Scaglione-styled compact Italian sportscar which employed Ford Taunus mechanicals.

The creator of the LMX, one Michele Liprandi, was present on the LMX stand and Serra Vidal started a conversation with him. They came to an agreement that Liprandi would help to design and build both a chassis and a body, with the running gear to be used sourced from Spanish-built Dodges. Serra Vidal’s planned car was to have a fiberglass body -a first for him- built around a tubular frame.

Chrysler Hispania agreed to supply mechanical components to the new venture – front subframes, suspension, brakes, transmissions, instruments, various smaller parts and of course engines. These powerplants were from the then current Dodge 3700, an inline six-cylinder engine developing 165Hp, well known to most Americans as the Slant Six. On top of this Chrysler’s Spanish arm permitted Serra Vidal to use the Dodge name, and even have his car covered by the same warranty that applied to Chrysler Spain’s own products.

In may of 1972 the Barcelona Motor Show opened its doors and Serra presented the Dodge Serra 3700GT 2+2 Boulevard to the public. Barring a few minor details, this first prototype was identical to the actual production cars. The sequential tail lights made up of five squares that light up one after another like they did on some Ford Thunderbirds did not pass muster with the Spanish regulators and were eliminated before production began.

They were replaced in the production cars by more prosaic SAAB 99 tail lights. The somewhat angular shape is handsome rather than elegantly beautiful- an interesting blend of European (the Lancia Stratos comes to mind) and Transatlantic styling cues.

Between 1972 and 1974, the 3700GT 2+2 Boulevard was made in three series. The intended amount to be produced was 50 cars, but not even this relatively modest goal was achieved: including the prototype, just 19 examples were completed.

The main reason is that the Spanish lawmakers demanded that Serra be licensed as a car manufacturer and not just a coachbuilder; the resulting red tape combined with several teething problems in producing its first real car made Serra – and Chrysler – throw in the towel in 1974. Doubtless, the fuel crisis will also have seriously impeded the car’s market chances.

Should you ever be in Spain, the Museo de la Automociòn in Salamanca has some Serra creations on permanent display. Unfortunately however there is no 3700GT Boulevard among them.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

20 thoughts on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

  1. The LMX looks quite Corvette-ish and large which in reality it isn’t. It’s less than four metres long and roughly the same size as a TVR 3000M.

    1. Good morning Bruno and thanks for sharing this obscure tale. The Boulevard is interesting, but the pretty little Dyane coupé is the car that catches my eye:

    2. This was actually the time of the Citroën-Maserati alliance. Coincidence?
      By the way, it looks like the Dyane coupé has SM wheelcovers.

    3. That was my first thought, too.
      The Mistral is from 1963 and the Dyane Coupé from 1969. Maybe somebody liked the Maserati a lot and since there were (nearly) no imported cars in Spain at that time, built his own.

  2. Thanks Bruno for showing again something I didn’t know anything about before. Spain was a very different automotive world up into the 1980s – something we central Europeans usually were not aware of. Upon my first visit to the Barcelona area in 1990 I caught a last glimpse of the variety of unknown vehicles – four door Seat 850, Renault Siete, strange Mercedes vans, etc. Even the Vespas were different from the Italian ones.

    That Dyane Coupé doesn’t look like a Citroën at all, but it’s a rather elegant shape for such a small car. Maybe a bit narrow when viewed from behind. On the other hand, the marvellous Seat 600 roadster seemed like a miniature DS on first glance. The front without grille and headlights is awesome! And the cheerful colour also helps.

  3. By far the most attractive of the Spanish specials was the SEAT 1200/1430 Sport ‘bocanegra’

    1. Ah, so that’s where the name ‘Bocanegra’ came from. It has been used much more recently on some sporting Seat variants, but I suppose it has been superseded by the ‘Cupra’ sub-brand.

  4. I have the original Project chassis from LMX for Pietro Serra, the tubular frame from Michele Liprandi, unfortunately its without the engine, transmission and propeller shaft. But the steering gear, rear axle, differential , rear drum brakes and front axle with disc brakes are inside original from dodge. It excite a picture with complete drivetrain, but i am not the owner of the picture, so i can´t make public. Pictures from the Project are no problem.
    Later Liprandi put an LMX body on the chassis to see if the tubular frame with the US technology could also be used for LMX. The project was then abandoned, which probably would not have paid off.
    The frame with a chassis, the unfinished car, then went into bankruptcy from LMX.

    1. Hello Osi Fastback,
      Thank you for your message with the extra information. Please do post some pictures of the project, I (and I am sure the fellow readers of DTW) would like to see them!
      Thank you in advance,
      Bruno

  5. sorry for delay answer, i saw your post first today.
    I have now started several attempts with a UPload service to publish pictures here,
    unfortunately it does not work, you have a tip for me?
    Thanks
    OSI

  6. It is not easy to answer.
    I don’t think the prototype was ever driven, even if I find a motor with a gearbox and cardan shaft, which is not that difficult, since it was a slantsix 225cui, everything else is still missing. The best for the mechanics, we buy an old barreiros 3700 dodge. The body is just laid on, there are some additional attachment options for the LMX body, but it was also cut so that it fit on the frame at all, which will be difficult to restore. The LMX mechanics also modified the rear axle. The original Dodge rear axle was separated on the differential and connected with flanges on the thru axles and differentially via drive shafts, so that each side is also individually sprung via springs and shock absorbers, which is what the Dodge does via the leaf springs. We doesn’t know that this construction works?
    Otherwise there is nothing in the body series, no pedals, no cockpit, nothing.
    There are also no parts for the LMX, the doors, bonnet and glass panes.
    We don’t know, but what we do know is that it’s a part of automotive history and therefore worth preserving.
    Thanks

    1. Do you plan to finish it as an exterior-only car or do you want to put in a recreated interior?
      Where, in the end, will it be shown and available to see?

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