Exner-Ghia Chrysler “Thomas Special”

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Though GM’s Motorama cars get more attention, the so-called Exner-Ghia Chrysler concepts might have been more historically significant in that they probably had more influence on production vehicles than the GM show cars. They were styled by Virgil Exner’s team in Detroit and then fabricated in Italy by Ghia. Though they were meant to be one-off projects, one of the Exner-Ghias ended up going into limited production. It started out as the Chrysler Special, a sporty fastback coupe that premiered at the 1953 Paris auto show (some sources say 1952). C.B. Thomas, president of Chrysler’s export division, liked the car so much that he commissioned the Ghia coachbuilders to produce 400 cars for the European market. The GS-1, as Thomas called it, or the “Thomas Special” as it is better known, had a slightly longer wheelbase and a more formal roof line than the concept car. It was based on a New Yorker chassis, powered by a 331CI Hemi puttin gout 235 HP, and was marketed as a luxury sporting car with power accessories that were still rare then including power steering, brakes, power windows and a retractable radio antenna. You can still see Virgil Exner’s influence in the recent Chrysler 300, which evokes the Chrysler Special’s grille and the way the metal around the Special’s head lights is contoured.

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