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.
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.
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.