The Dual Ghia: An American-Italian Collaboration

This past weekend Gary Hamilton, a friend and occasional rally driver, attended the Concours D’Elegance weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut.  Gary said that it was a very good show and he shared the photos that he took of the many nice cars that were on display or were part of the Bonham’s auction that took part that weekend.  A couple of the pictures that Gary took particularly interested me, as they were cars that I had not seen before.  One of these photos is of a 1957 Dual Ghia as shown below.

Dual Ghia 1957 (1)

1957 Dual Ghia

The story of the Dual Ghia goes back to the around 1951 when the Italian design/builder, Ghia, prepared a custom Plymouth-based car to show to Chrysler in order to demonstrate their design capability so as to generate some business with Chrysler.  Another Italian design/builder Pinin Farina had also built a Plymouth-based concept car for Chrysler about the same time.  Both cars appealed to the Chrysler management, but Ghia was selected for further work as Ghia could hand-build the cars for much less than Pinin Farina and for much less than Chrysler could design and build these cars in house.  This led to Ghia undertaking and building some very interesting concept cars for Chrysler over the next few years.  Chrysler’s person in charge of the work by Ghia was the legendary Chrysler designer, Virgil Exner.

Below is another photo that Gary took showing a 1952 Ghia Special.  To the left of the Ghia Special, you can see a limited view of the side of the above 1957 Dual Ghia.  The 1952 Ghia Special is quite an attractive car.

Ghia (1)

1952 Ghia Special

In order to find out more about these cars, I referred to a good book that I have, written by Richard Langworth, about the post-war Chryslers.  The well-worn cover of this book is shown below.

Chrysler Langworth Book Cover

A Good Reference Book About Post-War Chryslers and Imperials

The black & white photos in this post came from Langworth’s book.  I have another book by Langworth that covers other associated Chrysler products such as the Sunbeam Tiger.

The picture below shows a side view of the Ghia Special.  Most of the Ghia cars were built on shortened Chrysler frames.  All were fitted with one of Chrysler’s hemi V8 engines.

Ghia Special 1952

Early Photo Of The 1952 Ghia Special

Ghia did built one long wheelbase version of the Ghia Special for C. R. Thomas, who was the president of Chrysler’s Export Division.  This car is shown below.

Ghia Special Long Wheelbase

One-Off Long Wheelbase Chrysler Ghia Special

As I was putting this post together I noticed an image in my recent post about the 1951 Ferrari 340 America.  I have included that image below.  I can see a lot of design similarities between the Ferrari coupe and the Ghia Special.  This is not surprising as the Ghia folks would be heavily influenced by Italian car design at that time.

Ferrari 340 America

The Roof Lines, Slab Sides, Windshield Shape, Grille Outline, And HeadLight Design Of The Ferrari 340 America Can Be Seen In The Ghia Special

In the early 1950s Ghia designed a number of concept cars for Chrysler.  Some of these concept cars are shown below.  The Dual Ghia seems to be based on the 1954 Dodge Firearrow convertible.

Chrysler Concept Cars

A Trio Of Chrysler Concept Cars: 1954 DeSoto Adventurer II, Dodge Firearrow Sports Coupe, Dodge Firearrow Convertible (top to bottom)

The 1954 Plymouth Explorer is shown below.  There are a many design similarities among all of these Chrysler concept cars.

Plymouth Explorer

1954 Plymouth Explorer

The man behind the Dual-Ghia cars was Eugene Casaroll, who formed Dual Motors in Detroit, Michigan  He obtained permission from Chrysler to use the Ghia designs for his cars.  To build the cars a shortened Dodge frame and drive-train was transported to Italy, where the bodywork and interior was fabricated by Ghia.  Following this the car was returned to the USA.   Performance was good for the era, due to the cars being powered by a 315 cubic inch Dodge hemispherical-head V-8 engine with a four-barrel carburetor which produced 230 horsepower.

The retail price of the Dual Ghia was about $7500, the Dual-Ghia the most expensive American car at that time.  As a result, most of the buyers of the Dual Ghia were the rich and famous.  Sales of the Dual Ghia cars were not large with only 117 cars being sold between 1956 and 1958.  As a result, these cars are quite rare.  In looking at the Dual Ghia car, it is my opinion that Dual Ghia chose the wrong Chrysler Ghia concept car to put into production.  Rather than basing the Dual Ghia on the 1954 Dodge Firearrow, I would have selected the 1952 Ghia Special.  Perhaps Chrysler wanted to keep the Ghia Special design for their own possible future use and they were willing to part with the Dodge Firearrow design.

Dual Ghia Badge

Dual Ghia Badge Reflects The Italian-American Partnership

The Dual Ghia was an interesting collaboration between an American car manufacturer and an Italian design operation, alas it was not a commercial success.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, then leave a comment below or send me a private email at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Dual Ghia: An American-Italian Collaboration

  1. Gary Hamilton says:

    Steve:

    It’s always enjoyable to share my photos with you.

    I’m guessing my time at the show and processing the photos may actually at times be less than the time you spend researching and writing about the cars.

    Thanks for putting words with the pictures!

    Gary Hamilton

    BTW, some credit should go to my cousin Joe Salvatto who was kind enough to capture a bunch of photos with my 2nd camera.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s