SOLD: 1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia Goes For $500,000 At RM Sotheby’s Auction

One Of Just Nineteen Ever Built By The Famed Italian Coachbuilder...

One of the first Chrysler show cars designed by famed automotive designer Virgil Exner and built by Italian coachbuilder Ghia, the appropriately named Chrysler Special was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in October 1952. Built on a New Yorker chassis that was shortened by 6 inches, it featured unusually radiused wheel arches that extended almost to the top of the fenders, smooth sides that flowed from bumper to bumper with only a small “kick” in the rear fender curve, rounded headlights, and a broad chromed trapezoidal grille.

1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia. (RM Sotheby’s).

Its subtle yet muscular lines made the Special the hit of the show, and M. Ladouch, a proprietor of the French importer of Chrysler vehicles at the time France Motors, realized that there was a willing market for a small number of copies, for which he secured the support of Chrysler export manager C.B. Thomas.

1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia. (RM Sotheby’s).

Ghia’s “production” Chrysler Special was based upon the original show car but built upon a standard-wheelbase, 125.5-inch New Yorker platform, and with a modified semi-fastback roofline to accommodate four full-sized adults. The first of this limited-production, hand-built cars was made for C.B. Thomas himself, and was followed by another 18 cars, six for customers of France Motors and another dozen for clients of Ghia. All were originally delivered in Europe. American customers, in many cases—with the exception of the fortunate Mr. Thomas—remained unaware that this truly “special” Chrysler even existed until a few of the cars made their way stateside later in life. Nonetheless, this “dream car for the public” can be seen as the forerunner of similar efforts to follow later in the 1950s, most prominently the Dual Ghia.

1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia. (RM Sotheby’s).

The Chrysler Special offered here was beautifully restored in the early 1990s in this striking candy apple red, highly appropriate to the design, with a saddle leather interior. Formerly one of several significant Ghia-bodied Chryslers exhibited in the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, it was later sold in 1998 to longtime enthusiast Barry Hon of California, from whom James Raisbeck acquired it in January 2003. It has thus remained a favorite within the Raisbeck stable for a full two decades, well-maintained and much enjoyed.

1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia. (RM Sotheby’s).

Over the years, it has been occasionally shown, winning the Most Elegant Award (Closed) at the 2014 Pacific Northwest Concours d’Elegance, and being shown at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance after being driven from Seattle on the Motoring Classic. 

1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia. (RM Sotheby’s).

As the Chrysler Special continues to influence the company’s designs to this day, making it one of the most significant of all Chrysler automobiles, it was no surprise to most that this particular car took in a total of $500,000 when it crossed the RM Sotheby’s auction block in Arizona on January 26th.

1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia Image Gallery:

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Source: RM Sotheby’s

Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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What a stunning example of Chrysler’s unique place in automotive tradition. Chrysler deserves respect and deference as a brand of true elegance, performance and innovation. Sadly, over the years, sometimes consciously, sometimes by circumstance, the powers in charge have squandered the.brand with mediocre examples that have now reduced a legend to one lowly minivan. That is an automotive crime and it needs restitution with great product. The gods of automotive deity demand it and those who remain loyal to Chrysler deserve it.
One look at this magnificent work of automotive art, of Chrysler art, should engage the current leadership at Chrysler to do great things. What special things might have been and what was lost in decades of neglect is sad. Can Chrysler regain its place in the automotive world? Not with minivans and uninspired cookie cutter products like the bland Airflow concept. This Classic beauty should be an example to follow, to create around, to revitalize the brand. Just look and see your duty clearly, bask in true beauty and create a Chrysler, not just a car.

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