1955 Chrysler ST Special

coupé par Ghia

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1955
  • Car type 
    Coupé
  • Chassis number 
    N55*8769
  • Engine number 
    NE559171
  • Lot number 
    32
  • Drive 
    LHD
  • Condition 
    Original condition
  • Interior colour 
    Beige
  • Interior type 
    Leather
  • Number of doors 
    2
  • Number of seats 
    4
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Beige
  • Gearbox 
    Automatic
  • Drivetrain 
    2wd
  • Fuel type 
    Petrol

Description

Austrian title

- Just two coupé examples !
- Exceptionally well-conserved condition
- Genuine concours d'élégance car

In 1949 the Chrysler Corporation set designer Virgil Exner the task of setting up an advanced styling studio that would influence the design of the group's cars for years to come. At the start of the 1950s, the Chrysler Corporation looked to Italy for a sub-contractor capable of building the " Idea cars " designed by Exner and his team. Carrozzeria Ghia was chosen for its high quality, speed of execution and also for the low costs. This collaboration on the construction of advanced style prototypes led to a small series of around 40 Chrysler Ghias, built between 1953 and 1955.
One of these prototypes, the Chrysler Special, was previewed at the Paris Motor Show in 1952. This elegant car, constructed on a Chrysler New Yorker chassis with a shortened wheelbase, had a bold design with doors that opened with a push button, a fastback rear end with a drawer for the spare wheel rather than a boot-lid, and a massive grille with integrated bumpers. Painted in a light and dark green two-tone livery, the Italian-influenced design clearly stood out from the American productions of this period.
The Chrysler and Plymouth marques were imported into France by a company called France Motors run by Charles Ladouch. Having seen the enthusiastic response to this car displayed on the stand at the Grand Palais, Ladouch obtained authorisation from Chrysler to produce a small series of a similar car, that would only be sold in France. Ghia reworked the design so the new car could be constructed on a standard Chrysler New Yorker chassis. Completely hand-built in steel, the body retained the essence of the Virgil Exner prototype design. The car had the mechanical elements of the Chrysler New Yorker De Luxe, including the new 331 ci V8 engine with hemispherical cylinder heads. The car was given a two-tone livery and the interior was luxuriously appointed in leather. Launched at the Turin Motor Show in the Spring of 1953, despite a very high price, some 18 examples were sold, mainly by France Motors.
The all-new Chrysler GS Special appeared at the 1953 Paris Motor Show, still on the Chrysler New Yorker chassis with the Hemi V8 engine. New features included a Powerflite 2-speed automatic gearbox, assisted braking and steering, and electric front windows. The design of this car was typically Italian with a long bonnet and perfectly balanced proportions, a discreet detailing line running from the tip of the front wings and fading into the shape above the rear wheel, and a massive chrome grille resembling that on the Virgil Exner prototype. The bumpers, rear lights and dash instruments came from the 1954 production Chrysler, the bodywork had two-tone paintwork and the interior was entirely upholstered in leather. With its curved form - even the side windows were curved which was exceptional at that time - this extremely elegant car enjoyed a certain success and just over 15 examples were built.
At the following year's Paris Motor Show a re-styled version was presented, the Chrysler ST Special. The lights moved to the very end of the wings, the Marchal fog lamps were round rather than rectangular and a new and more discreet grille replaced the " Exnerienne " inspired grille of the previous model. The rest of the car remained unchanged, but these modifications to the front added a certain Italian elegance to the newcomer despite its American size. Just four chassis would have been built with this style of body.

1955 marked a big change at Chrysler with the arrival of " Forward Look " styling. All the marques in the Chrysler Corporation offered totally new models with new chassis. Ghia created a final version of its Chrysler ST Special built on this new 126-inch wheelbase chassis. The design was based mainly on the GS Special, and the front received an imposing chrome grille with Chrysler chromed-rimmed lights either side. The New Yorker rear lights were fitted to outstretched rear wings and the bumpers came from the New Yorker too. The windscreen was now panoramic, matching production models. The interior became even more luxurious, featuring a leather-covered dash that housed all the Chrysler instruments. This new Americanized model first appeared at the Turin Motor Show in April 1955, and just 4 chassis would have been bodied by Ghia in 1955, two of which would have been cabriolets.

Chassis N55*8769 was delivered to Ghia in December 1955 to be bodied as a coupé, painted midnight blue with light blue roof and beige leather upholstery. It is possible that this was the last Chrysler built by Ghia. We find the car next in Austria, where it was registered in Vienna in 1967. It passed into the hands of a second owner from Vienna, who kept the car until the end of the 1970s. He then sold it through the dealer F.M.Tarbuk und Co, following a problem with the transmission. The car was acquired by a collector from Linz before returning to Vienna in the 1980s. It joined the collection there of a discerning enthusiast of rare American cars who conserved this ST Special until his death in 2019, without ever driving it as he didn't have a driving licence !
The car, which has always been stored in good condition, is presented today in remarkably well-conserved and completely original condition. Its original engine was started recently. The bodywork, painted ivory during the 1970s, is very sound, the same as the underbody which received an anti-corrosion treatment when new. The fittings and chrome-work are in very good original condition with the exception of the bumpers which are spotted. The leather upholstery, originally in beige, was re-dyed white in the past and has been well conserved.
Conforming completely to its original presentation, this rare and exceptional Chrysler Ghia, despite remaining immobile for decades, could easily be restored to be proudly taken by its new owner to the most selective international concours events.

Raphaël Brunet

Photos © Andreas Riedmann

Full set of pictures available on our online catalogue: https://www.artcurial.com/fr/lot-1955-chrysler-st-special-coupe-par-ghia-4058-32