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The million dollar car that gave us the Karmann-Ghia

The million dollar car that gave us the Karmann-Ghia
A year ago the Chrysler Museum in Michigan closed its doors. And so we now wonder: perhaps this car might be of interest to the Volkswagen museum in Wolfsburg instead. Yes, it famously was this car, which gave them the idea of the 1955 Karmann-Ghia. Meet the 1952 Chrysler D'elegance by Ghia. The VW may be a scaled down version, but you'll see that the similarities are striking.

To quote the current seller of the car: “It all began over dinner, a meal shared in 1949 between C.B. Thomas, head of Chrysler’s export division, and ‘Pinin’ Farina. The two decided to collaborate on a custom 1950 Plymouth for the show circuit. No doubt to Farina’s consternation, however, Chrysler elected to hedge its bets by shipping to Europe two chassis: one to Pinin Farina, and the second to its competitor Ghia. Even more frustrating, it was Ghia that won the day with unmistakable European flair added by Mario Boano to Chrysler’s own design suggestions. From that point on, as far as Chrysler prototypes were concerned, the decade belonged to Ghia working in conjunction with Chrysler’s revolutionary chief of design Virgil Exner.”

Built on a shortened Chrysler New Yorker chassis this Chrysler ‘Dream Car’ was not just swooping lines and tons of chrome, but also boasted two armchairs and a unique instrument panel inside with six large gauges, power steering and windows, as well as Ausco-Lambert self-energizing disc brakes. Eventually just the ‘egg-crate’ grille made it to Chrysler’s production models, but as we now know it was the scaled-down version made for Volkswagen by Karmann of Osnabruck that became the real production version of this Chrysler. Estimateted at around a million dollar today, this Chrysler had six owners until recently, with a seventh on its way today. 

(Words editor, pictures courtesy RM Sothebys)


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