Filling In the Historical Record
1953 Chrysler Special

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You never know what you’re going to find out. In preparing this post on this 1953 Chrysler Special, on display at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, I wanted to pin down exactly which car this is. That’s because there was more than one Special show car and according to the Fetherston and Thacker book on Chrysler concept cars, not only did Chrysler export manager C.B. Thomas commission Ghia to build him a personalized duplicate known at the Thomas Special, the car was so popular that Chrysler’s French distributor also had Ghia build a short production run of cars called the GS-1, with slightly different styling – most noticeably a conventional bumper where the show cars had one integrated with the grille. According to Fetherston and Thacker, there were up to 400 GS-1s produced with an unknown number surviving. Other sources on the internet put that figure much lower, in the 6 to 12 range. Fetherston and Thacker say that the car on display at the Chrysler Museum is the one Thomas Special that was built. It’s clearly got the show car grille, but to clarify matters I called the museum and they say that it’s definitely not the Thomas Special nor the original ’52 Chrysler SS (Styling Special) show car.

To view the entire photo gallery in your choice of 2D or stereo 3D formats, click here for a Flash player or here for an HTML applet

Now it’s possible that when Fetherston and Thacker visited the museum a different car was on display – the museum changes some of the cars on display regularly and they have access to Chrysler’s entire corporate collection, warehoused in a different location. On the other hand, as authoritative as Fetherston and Thacker’s book is, maybe it’s not the complete historical record.  Since the car, as mentioned, does not have the same bumper as the GS-1 cars, it can’t be one of those. So if it’s not the original ’52 show car, Thomas’ Special or a GS-1, what is it. Apparently there was another short production run. According to the museum’s curator, after Thomas has his Special built, Ghia licensed the design and built 36 “Chrysler Specials” based on the show car and the car on display is one of those 36. Regardless of which Chrysler Special this actually is, you can look at the grille and headlights of the recent Chrysler 300s to see that it continues to influence Chrysler design.

 

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