Monaco

10 May 2014

Lot 114

1953 Chrysler Ghia Special Coupé by Ghia

To be auctioned on Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sold for €336.000

  • Chassis no. 7231533
  • Engine no. C53-8-31901


180 bhp, 331 cu. in. Hemi V-8 engine, Powerflite two-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,188 mm

  • The ex-Leon Coulibeuf Ghia Special
  • Displayed at the 1953 Concours d’Elegance d’Enghien-les-Bains


Chrysler President K.T. Keller deserves much of the credit for Chrysler’s stylistic renaissance of the early 1950s. In particular, he hired Virgil Exner to design several “Idea Cars” and contracted Ghia to build them. Exner’s resulting Italian-built dream cars were all usable and running examples that were based mostly on the New Yorker chassis and had “FirePower” Hemi V-8 engines.



One of the first of these dream cars was the Chrysler Special, which was a three-passenger coupé on a shortened chassis. It debuted at Paris in 1952 with Continental-inspired styling elements, which included a long bonnet/short deck profile, knife-edge wings, and a trapezoidal grille. The Thomas Special, built for C.B. Thomas, the president of Chrysler’s export division, retained this overall styling, as it had a notchback profile and seating for five, which was based upon the standard-length New Yorker chassis.



The Thomas Special was highly acclaimed, and series production of the car was heavily contemplated, with sales ultimately being handled by Chrysler’s French distribution arm, Société France Motors. Over the years, these cars were known alternatively as the GS-1, the Chrysler Special, and the Ghia Special. Ultimately, just six vehicles were produced for Chrysler, whilst Ghia built another twelve for themselves. With beautiful proportions, fully exposed wheels, minimal brightwork, and powerful engines, these cars provided a stylistic benchmark that continues to inspire designers to this day.



The Ghia Special offered here was delivered by Société France Motors to Leon Coulibeuf, and it was later shown by his wife at the 1953 Concours d’Elegance d’Enghien-les-Bains, as featured in the September 1953 issue of L’Action Automobile. Coulibeuf made his fortune by manufacturing the iconic concrete electric poles that were used by the millions when rebuilding post-war Europe. Coulibeuf was a passionate enthusiast and invested his fortune in owning and racing such vehicles as a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, a Porsche 356, and an Alfa Romeo 1900. In 1957, he competed at Le Mans alongside José Behra in a Maserati 200S, with famous Bugatti and Gordini Works mechanic Albert Aumaire providing support. Coulibeuf and Aumaire also ran the Tour de France Automobile together in 1953.



Coulibeuf’s Ghia Special has always remained in France, and in 1990, it was restored by the previous owner of 30 years, a Chrysler dealer in Brittany. When stripping the body to bare metal, it was reported that the body was found to be extremely solid. New, correct leather upholstery was installed. Whilst the drivetrain was removed from the car and checked completely, and the engine seems to run smoothly, it is recommended that the steering and gearbox be checked before further use. The car retains its original engine, as is documented by the copy of the build sheet that accompanies the Chrysler today.



This Ghia Special has only been shown once, at the Louis Vuitton Concours at Bagatelle in 2001, and it is being publicly offered today for the first time since new.






Moteur V-8 Hemi, 331 ci (5,4 litres), 180 ch, transmission automatique Powerflite deux rapports, suspension avant indépendante avec ressort hélicoïdaux, essieu arrière rigide avec ressorts semi-elliptiques, freins hydrauliques à tambour sur les quatre roues. Empattement: 3 188 mm.



  • Ghia Special ex-Léon Coulibeuf
  • Exposée en 1953 au Concours d'Élégance d’Enghien-les-Bains




La renaissance stylistique de Chrysler, au début des années 1950, doit beaucoup au président de la marque, K.T. Keller. C'est en particulier lui qui a demandé à Virgil Exner d'imaginer plusieurs « voitures-idées », et qui a contacté Ghia pour les produire. Basés principalement sur le châssis New Yorker et équipés de moteurs V-8 Hemi FirePower, les dream cars qui en ont résulté, signés Exner et fabriqués en Italie, étaient parfaitement utilisables.



Un des premiers de ces dream cars était la Chrysler Special, un coupé trois places de front sur un châssis raccourci. Il a fait ses débuts au Salon de Paris 1952 avec des traits de style d'inspiration continentale, comme un profil doté d'un long capot et d'un coffre court, des ailes incisives et une calandre trapézoïdale. La Thomas Special, fabriquée pour C.B. Thomas, président du département export de Chrysler, a repris cette forme générale, mais elle présentait un profil trois volumes et de la place pour cinq personnes, en étant basée sur le châssis standard de la New Yorker.



La Thomas Special reçut un accueil enthousiaste, si bien qu'une production en série de la voiture était envisagée, les ventes étant confiées à la branche française de Chrysler, la Société France Motors. Au fil des ans, ces voitures ont pris alternativement l'appellation de GS-1, Chrysler Special et Ghia Special. Finalement, la production se limitait à six exemplaires fabriqués par Chrysler, plus douze réalisés par Ghia. Dotées de proportions superbes, de roues complètement exposées, de chromes réduits au minimum et de moteurs puissants, ces voitures ont constitué une référence de style qui continue encore aujourd'hui à inspirer les designers.



La Ghia Special proposée ici a été livrée neuve par la Société France Motors à Léon Coulibeuf. Elle a été ensuite présentée par l'épouse de ce dernier au Concours d'Élégance d’Enghien-les-Bains 1953, comme en témoigne le numéro de septembre 1953 de L’Action Automobile. Coulibeuf avait fait fortune en fabriquant les fameux poteaux électriques en béton utilisés par millions lors de la reconstruction de l'Europe d'après-guerre. Passionné d'automobiles, il utilisait sa fortune pour acheter et faire courir des voitures comme une Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Papillon, une Porsche 356 et une Alfa Romeo 1900. En 1957, il participait aux 24 Heures du Mans en partageant une Maserati 200 S avec José Behra et en bénéficiant de l'assistance du fameux mécanicien Bugatti et Gordini, Albert Aumaire. Coulibeuf et Aumaire avaient déjà participé ensemble au Tour de France Automobile, en 1953.



La Ghia Special de Coulibeuf est toujours restée en France et, en 1990, elle était restaurée par son précédent propriétaire, un distributeur Chrysler en Bretagne qui la possédait depuis 30 ans. Lorsque la carrosserie a été mise à nu, il a été constaté qu'elle était extrêmement saine. Une sellerie neuve et correcte, en cuir, est venue agrémenter l'intérieur. Le groupe motopropulseur a été déposé et complètement vérifié, et le moteur semble tourner correctement, mais il est recommandé de vérifier la direction et la transmission avant d'utiliser la voiture. Elle est équipée de son moteur d'origine, comme en témoigne la copie de la fiche de fabrication qui l'accompagne.



Cette Ghia Special n'a été présentée que lors d'une seule occasion, au concours Louis Vuitton de Bagatelle, en 2001, et c'est la première fois de son existence qu'elle est proposée publiquement.

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