My Car Quest

December 13, 2018

The Missing Chrysler Ghia

by Wallace Wyss –

Hey, it was seen in Sacramento in 2009…

Now this is a story to show you how one, like Alice, can end up skipping down the bunny trail and end up in a whole heap of trouble, dazed and confused.

Originally I was intrigued by the Chrysler 300 (some say 375) in the museum over in Teheran that is left over from what they could save of the Shah’s 3000 cars. Evidently some were trashed during the revolution when the palace was looted.

Chrysler ST (Artcurial auctions)

Chrysler ST (Artcurial Auctions)

I found, on the net, images of a Chrysler built by Ghia that looked sort of like the Shah’s car but, in the drawings, it looks like a normal wheelbase where the Shah’s car appears stretched as if he told the coachbuilder “I want that design but longer.” The car was a gift for his queen, who he later dumped because she couldn’t produce a male heir.

Then I read on a classic car website that, at the Walter P. Chrysler gathering in Sacramento in 2009 a guy showed up with a green Ghia-built Chrysler that sort of looks like the 300 Ghia-built Chrysler in the Ghia drawings, in other words this could have been the car that the Shah saw that he wanted a copy of (his is in a beautiful copper).

Now, I’ll give you a little behind-the-curtains look at how a historian works. You start off on a clear path, but then the trail often gets murky, and you get a clue here and a clue there, and pretty soon you make a conclusion. Sometime that gets into print before it’s a final conclusion but you have to go with what you have.

1955 Dua-Ghia Coupe Prototype from Classic Car Pictures Almanac

1955 Dua-Ghia Coupe Prototype from Classic Car Pictures Almanac

In my latest Incredible Barn Finds book I was going to include the Shah’s car, but out of the blue I find out there was yet another Ghia-built Chrysler I was unaware of, that was called the “ST Special.” Artcurial, the innovative auction house in France, sold one of these recently for $288,000. Coincidentally it was green.

They said of this car: “After Chrysler showed the original Special at the 1952 Paris Auto Show, Chrysler exporter C.B. Thomas not only had a second one built for himself, but also authorized Charles Ladouch, Chrysler’s importer in France, to have Ghia build about 16 more (other sources claim only a dozen more were built). Ladouch, reportedly the same man responsible for transferring the Special’s styling cues to the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, then followed that with the GS-1 Special in 1953 and the ST Special in 1954.

1955 Chrysler ST Special by Ghia (Barrett Jackson)

1955 Chrysler ST Special by Ghia (Barrett Jackson)

As with the GS Special and the Special before it, Ladouch had Ghia body the ST Special on the Chrysler New Yorker chassis and 331-cu.in. Hemi V-8 drivetrain and slightly modify Exner’s original design, altering headlamp placement and fender shape. According to the auction description for this ST Special, Ladouch had four Chrysler New Yorker chassis bodied by Ghia, two of them to be sold in France and two in Italy.”

1957 Dual Ghia Chrysler 375 Coupe

1957 Dual Ghia Chrysler 375 Coupe

Now some time ago I ran across amateur-shot pictures of a raggedy Ghia-built Chrysler taken in Sacramento, California at a WP Chrysler meet in 2009. I can’t find those pictures now but they were so muddy it’s hard to tell what car it is. It was missing a lot of the hand made chrome bumpers and trim.

 
But here’s my theory. The car that was seen in Sacramento is either:

Chrysler 300 by Ghia Sketches

Chrysler 300 by Ghia Sketches

a.) An early Dual Motors prototype, before the Dual Ghia design was “hardened”.

b.) A separate car from the Shah’s car, which is a one off called the 300.

c.) A Chrysler ST with styling by Ghia.

Now the car is not really “missing.” It re-appeared. But it’s missing to us historians. We like to know where cars are, where they can be seen.

Anybody got an opinion as to the true identity of the Sacramento mystery Ghia-Chrysler?

 
 
 

Chrysler ST  (Artcurial auctions)

Chrysler ST (Artcurial Auctions)

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of Incredible Barn Finds
series of books, available as a set of four or individually from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI.

 

 

Ghia 450SS logo

Summary
The Missing Chrysler Ghia
Article Name
The Missing Chrysler Ghia
Description
What happened to the Shah’s Chrysler Ghia?
Author

Comments

  1. Wayne Graefen says:

    Charles Marshall took the shaggy Sacramento-shown car and restored it to the red car you have shown above. It has been done for several years and he continues to own it as far as I know. It is the Ghia 375. It is not the Shah’s car and is different in several design elements. Neither of these two cars has anything to do with Casaroll’s Dual Ghia attempts. And Chrysler STs are vastly different cars, all done by Ghia.

  2. Ciaran Payne says:

    Would like to have known of the ST at ARCTURIAL Auctions, could have ben tempted, depending on price, any more info around? CJ.

    • Chrysler Ghia says:

      Hi Guys, AllPar has a great article via WPC news on the ST Specials:

      http://www.allpar.com/history/mopar/ghia-specials.html

      The Green Car sits on a ’54 New Yorker chassis (Only 1 of 4 bodied in this style with Large 300 type “egg crate” grill) spent almost all its life with a wealthy Milanese family on Lake Maggiore, and was originally Black with a red roof. A sister car to the Oct 1954 Paris Show Car, identified as a ’55 model at this show. A Copper with white roof forward look style ’55 was also later built (1 of 3?) and displayed at the ’55 Torino show.

      Green Car is a great original car enduring a reasonable Italian Green re color some 20 years ago. It now resides in Melbourne Australia. Some great photos of it at 2015 Motorclassica Melbourne scrolling down the following link:

      http://chrisbevan.com/2015/10/motorclassica-2015/

      Also Just google images: Chrysler Ghia ST Special

      Hope this helps

      CG

  3. Wallace Wyss says:

    Thanks for the answers–this is an incredible resource–the net, yes, but enthusiasts who see a car and file away the information in their heads for future use. Would still like to know what the Japanese bank was in California that thought that going into the classic car business was a good idea, (Kobe bank?) and what Blackhawk sold it for, but it’s still a good story as is–of an enthusiast who knows he is seeing something special even if it is a little publicized model. I am also still curious on whether the Shah’s Chrysler 300 was built before this or after this, for some reason by the more bold stance of the Shah’s car,I think it is a more modern car, built after but with much the same styling.

  4. Chrysler Ghia says:

    Hi Wallace,

    All my research & reading concludes that the longer car you refer to, the Chrysler Ghia K300, predates the 375 and was probably a 1 off built from Adriano Rabbone’s concept sketches & delivered in ‘56.
    Due to the typical build lead time, I would suggest it sits on a ‘55 chassis, which was shipped to Torino possibly Mid ’54, with production Gearing up for the ’55 Forward look release in late ’54, it has Factory issue Motor wheel wires, something that ceased with the later ’57 chassis. Engine bay shots of the Shah K300 show a C300 Dual Carb set up with Bat wing style Oil Bath Air cleaner & Generator driven power steering pump. It also has single head lamp buckets. With this car however we see the Larger Exner Fins of the ’57 production cars emerging as a concept, and it would seem to me that Exner also collaborated with Ghia to see some of his concepts realized a little earlier-on with private sponsored Chrysler specials also, along with those of cars destined for direct corporation use. If some rich guy wants to help pay for your concept cars, why not?
    It has to be remembered also that the Shah was associated with Chrysler Hillman Rootes group in Iran, at one time the Factory in Iran was producing 100,000 Chrysler cars (the Hillman Arrow) per year. So he had some Pull in Chrysler circles back then. Apparently this K300 was later fitted with a prototype 392 by the Shah’s mechanics- I guess you could call that a factory fit?! But the engine numbers don’t necessarily seem to reflect this change today.
    The other car you refer to is the Chrysler Ghia 375, which was a later car built on the ’57 chassis, with shots of the interior, steering column etc. confirming this. It also has the later factory 392, hence the 375 Horsepower tag. It would seem that more than one of these were built, but it could be no more than just a few, with the Shah ( according to reliable sources) apparently also ordering the first along after delivery of the original K300, (who know what happened to that 375?) along with a rare few other also sold. I think the turquoise colored car and a red one owned by Charles Marshall may be one of the same car? But not the rumored Shah 375 car. (but I stand to be corrected)
    Either way, any of these Ghia cars are Coachbuilt works of hand formed art, made during the peak of Ghia’s bespoke manufacture, and are very special with their links to Exner & the Golden age of Chrysler. These cars were power icons of the time, when brands like Ferrari & Maserati were just beginning to hit their steam with the young Jetset, but Post War Captains of industry could do no better than purchase the biggest & most powerful, most technologically advanced Chassis available to them in the world at that time, a Chrysler Hemi, and then have it bodied with beautiful bespoke custom coachwork that would be 2-3 years ahead of the coming styling trend. That is what the Chrysler Ghia Specials are….Very Special indeed, the ‘ol Dudes with Cigars really calling the shots back then were letting their kids race & play with the Ferraris!

    CG

  5. wallace wyss says:

    Thanks for the latest opinion. I know the copper colored one in Teheran is not the same as the formerly green, now red, car in N. California because the copper colored one is still in the Museum in Teheran where the car shown in Calif. was back in 2009. I like the idea that Exner Sr. was testing out ideas on limited production cars for other clients that Chrysler wouldn’t let him try in America. Other automakers have done the same thing in recent years, like Bentley building the Java concept car for the Sultan of Brunei when they couldn’t get it green lighted for production themselves. In fact I saw a book on Aston Martin that showed dozens of models the public has never seen, all built for the Brunei royal family who were at one time the most deep-pocketed funders of one offs that there’s ever been. God knows what is rotting away in their parking garages…

    • Chrysler Ghia says:

      Hi Wallace,

      You are correct, the Earlier Car ‘K300″ remains in Tehran. My previous post should also help in your initial question of which car was built first, from my own Historical research the evidence would suggest the Chrysler Ghia K300 clearly pre dates the Chrysler Ghia 375 by at least a year. I am guessing another 375 might be hiding somewhere else as well.

      One thing however I have seen is where a series of chassis are dispatched at one time, but they end up serving quite different bodies, not necessarily in the same order as the chassis themselves, and an earlier chassis can sit reserved for a build, sitting on the sidelines and end up serving a much later car.

      Ghia Build numbers were stamped on many components to match it to the car, so if you can examine a Ghia car and find these numbers, sometimes on customized lock mechanisms, or stamped under side of scuff plates, this will tell a great deal about the series order of build. They did this because parts that looked the same could be quite different due to custom nature of build, and they did not want to mix them up between cars.

      The real question is….how do you get some of these cars out of Iran now??? Those with that answer are the serious car guys!

      Interesting that the last 1955 Chrysler Ghia “ST” Special – Forward look you mentioned, that just happens to be a Copper color as well, but with a white roof. A recent restoration back to original livery. Did this car ever sell after BJ, it is such a significant car, but I think it got lost in the hype of some of the other headline cars at that Auction. For those that really know, this is a very Special Chrysler also and an awesome looking machine, it carries the DNA of many design Masters associated with Ghia at that time.

      CG

  6. The red car is owned by Charlie Marshall and is a Dual Ghia 375 (standing for the alleged horsepower It bears Dual Motors serial number 201, the first of three prototypes built from 1957-1960. The n ext one is the Dual Ghia 400 with a 57 392″ motor from a 300C Chrysler still in original paint scheme of yellow/black and owned by myself and brother Dan since 1977. The third is the Dual Ghia 6.4L prototype, built in 1960 with serial # 301.

    The remaining 25 cars with this body style were NOT Dual Ghias but Ghia 67.4L, Dual; Motors having stepped out of their contract with Ghia. These were numbered #302 to #326.

    There’s lots of information published on these cars and much of it is incorrect. The total production is often misquoted at 117, but here’s the lowdown.

    First series convertibles and 2 factory coupes 100 units
    Two prototypes 1957-58 375&400 2 units
    Prototype L 6.4 1 unit
    Total 103 Real Dual; Ghias

    I’ve personally seen and inspected all 3 prototypes and can vouch for the serial #’s. I cry when I think of passing up the 375 for $750 back in the late 60’s/early 70’s

    The “long tail” vehicle noted in the text was built for the Shah and is similar to the 375 with an extended nose and tail. It shows up in the big Ghia book and is quite spectacular.

    Corrections/additional info welcome

    fred@ikanter.com

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