16 August 1998
1953 CHRYSLER GHIA
COACHWORK BY GHIA
Chassis No. C53845706
Candy Apple Red with tan leather upholstery
Engine: hemispherical head V8, 180bhp at 4,000rpm; Gearbox: PowerFlite automatic; Suspension: front coil and springs with rear leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel drums. Left hand drive. In 1952, Chrysler was determined to eliminate their reputation for stodgy, boxy cars. Vice President C. B. Thomas requested Ghia to build two styling specials based on a shortened New Yorker chassis. The job was given to the Italian firm of Ghia Coachbuilding. The partnership was beneficial for both parties, as Ghia stylist and engineer Mario Boano greatly appreciated the work of Chrysler designer Virgil Exner and was happy to have the business of the Chrysler Corporation.
Exner and a small group of stylists worked with Ghia to produce what were the stars of the 1952 Paris Salon. Exner began as a designer with GM in the 1930's where he was the manager of styling at Pontiac. In 1938, he joined Raymond Loewy's independent firm to help prepare Studebaker's 1939 Champion. After the war, Exner was put to work independently and designed the 1947 Studebaker which proved his expertise and resulted in the company hiring him as a staff designer. In 1949, Chrysler president K. T. Keller hired Exner to solve their styling problems.
Due to Exner's genius, his small staff turned out designs that were highly original and fitted the style and mood of the fifties. It was during this time that Chrysler became known for their forward look. Most importantly, Exner created a small number of styling specials beginning in the early fifties, but lack of funding kept the automobiles from mass production and it wasn't until the mid fifties that his influence was apparent. The styling specials were used to demonstrate that Chrysler was thinking ahead, searching for new ideas and designs that could be put to future use. They were sent to shows and dealerships to tease buyers, excite fans and spur interest in the other Chrysler models.
The 1952 Chrysler Special model was exhibited at the Paris Salon where it was well received by the European audience. It was built on a shortened New Yorker chassis and incorporated many of the new engineering innovations that had been developed at Chrysler under Exner's supervision. It featured clean styling with little disruption to any of the body lines. The result was a smooth, aerodynamic coupe that was not only functional and fast, but lavish and refined at the same time.
The car on offer here is a beautiful example of such engineering and design forethought. Fully restored in the early 1990s, the engine is in said to be in good running order. The Ghia on offer by the vendor was a limited production automobile sold only in a suburb outside of Paris. As the lack of financial backing steered it away from mass production, it now remains as one of the few examples of the collaboration between Chrysler and Ghia. The Chrysler offered by the vendor here today is undoubtedly a distinctive and important automobile and should be seriously considered for its historic value and design excellence. It would be a welcome entry to any concours and is the most stylish of all of the hemi-engined Chryslers.
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