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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Source: RM Sotheby’s