My Car Quest

November 23, 2017

The Concept Car That Went Through War

by Wallace Wyss –

I think I was born as a barn finder.

Even before I knew that there was an occupation of “barn finder” I was spotting cars in magazines and filing them away mentally as future cars to look for.

Take the Plymouth XNR show car.

1960_Ghia_Plymouth_XNR_03

I saw a picture of it in National Geographic. Some man wearing a Arab headdress was driving it, either in Kuwait or Saudi.

I thought “Some day I’ll have to look for that.”

The beauty of the car was that, though it was bodied in Italy at Ghia as per the design of Virgil Exner Sr. (who was head of Chrysler styling underneath it was but a Valiant, powered by a Chrysler six that probably would set you back all of $200 at a junkyard.

1960-Plymouth-XNR-Concept-Car-newsreel-photographers

Hey, I know this was in Michigan but I guess if you were working on an exotic car you wore your beret. “Ex” is the white haired man and the driver looks like a pro.

Exner wasn’t the first Chrysler design chief to send a car to Italy to be bodied–in this case by Ghia–but while he reigned, at least 30 chassis were sent there to be bodied to Chrysler designs.

wood body buck Plymouth XNR

wood body buck Plymouth XNR

So what did I do with that information once I grew up and had the money to buy it? Ah, I forgot about it.

Then one year recently I went to Pebble Beach and there, in the classic car tour in Carmel run prior to the concours, what car do I see but the damned XNR sitting there, pretty as you please, already restored, found not in Kuwait but in Lebanon.

And to rub in my disappointment even more, later on that week I saw it at Pebble Beach. The owner is listed in one source as Karim Edde. I did in fact run into him at Monterey and he told me, yes, “I had to keep the car on the move, as one neighborhood was being shelled, I’d flatbed it to another.” The way he found the car is interesting. There were these kids hanging around and he proposed to them: “Look, I like old cars. If you find some and come back with the info, I’ll give you a reward.” It wasn’t long after he made the offer that they came back describing an odd red two seater.

1960_Ghia_Plymouth_XNR

I have subsequently moved Beirut up on my list of Places To Look (I have also heard a rumor that there are some stolen Ferraris there hidden in a garage that’s been bricked up).

The most disappointing thing about the XNR is the engine, a 170 cid slant 6-cylinder with a mere 101 horsepower, far less than the car would need if you were thinking of sporting use. The transmission was a 3-speed, on the floor.

Some statistics:
Length:195.5″
Width: 71.0″
Height: 46″
Wheelbase: 106.5″ (based on Valiant chassis)
Tires: 8.00 X 14

Now there could be a legitimate reason for the offset hood scoop. First the Valiant engine was laid a bit to the side, and maybe the car was equipped with a hop-up mod called “Hyper-Pak” long ram 4-bbl. intake and ductile cast iron split exhaust (it is known to have had dual exhaust). The street Hyper-Pak used a re-jetted Carter 2948S AFB and generated 194 horsepower.

This was a factory option. According to Don Madle, a professor who happens to be a world class expert on Ghia, back in 1960, “in a 30-mile compact car race at Daytona Beach (televised nation-wide on CBS, sponsored by Chevrolet), Hyper-Pak Valiants took 1st through 7th place, defeating all Falcon and Corvair challengers. First place Valiant driver Marvin Panch’s average speed was 122.282 mph.” The same Marvin Panch, by the way, who flipped a Maserati 151 coupe at some event.

There were, according to Madle, other Valiant-based concept cars: Chrysler “250” (Ghia body, Chrysler built), “Asimmetrica” (Ghia body, but not built by Chrysler, “St. Regis” (Ghia body, but not built by Chrysler).

O.K. barn hunters of the world, you can officially count me out on the XNR. Now that it’s been found, I will have to search harder for cars that are still in the barn.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine arts portraitist of classic cars. For a list of prints available from his paintings, write Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com

 
 
 

 

 

The Plymouth XNR sold for $935,000 at the RM Monterey auction in August 2012.
– Editor

The photos below are compliments of RM Sotheby’s.

Plymouth XNR

Plymouth XNR

Plymouth XNR

Plymouth XNR

Plymouth XNR

Summary
The Concept Car That Went Through War
Article Name
The Concept Car That Went Through War
Description
Even before I knew that there was an occupation of “barn finder” I was spotting cars in magazines and filing them away mentally as future cars to look for. Here is one of those cars.
Author

Comments

  1. I am reminded of what I have read about the silver Auto Union grand prix cars and how they were moved around and hidden for safekeeping during the remainder of World War Two. Their counterparts were sent to Switzerland to ride the war out. It is gratifying that our nation is secure, and sad to know that we have counterparts all over the world that struggle to enjoy our hobby. Wallace, you have a great start to doing a book on such a topic. What interesting reading that would be…

  2. Wallace Wyss says:

    Ah thanks for the vote of confidence. The books already exist, called the Incredible Barn Find series, available from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI. There’s stories on many marques in those books, like the Shah of Iran’s Bugatti Typ 57 that was sold for a song, the Mustang concept car that was bricked up inside a parking garage in an attempt to hide it, and on and on. In many of the stories, those who saw it years earlier targeted it and found it….which I failed to do in the case of the XNR. By the way maybe it’s obvious but it’s remarkable how brazen Exner was naming the car XNR,

  3. Raymond Zinn says:

    ” remarkable how brazen Exner was naming the car XNR,”
    What’s more remarkble is I just found that out, I believe that car may have made it to the Chicago Auto show.
    Ido remember see it, but the mind is old and it has a lot of styling clues of the Chryslers of the day, including the Valient.
    The slant six was a very good engine.

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