In the world of cars, when the Italians and the Americans get together, good things tend to happen. This took place a lot in the 1950s and 1960s. Chrysler, in particular, had a very fruitful relationship with Ghia.
The auto giant and the reputable coachbuilder collaborated on several concept and show cars during the ’50s that offered an enticing blend of classic Italian elegance with typical 1950s American size and extravagance. Some of them even made it into limited production, but did come at an exorbitant purchase price.
The last of the early Ghia-bodied Chryslers that came out of the immediate postwar period was the D’Elegance. It perfectly embodies the idea of a fast, sophisticated coupe that Virgil Exner and others at Chrysler were going for.
It also appealed to both European and American tastes. Although it was very well received when it was unveiled in Paris in 1952, only one example was ever built.
Under the metallic red Ghia bodywork, the two-seater D’Elegance is based on a Chrysler New Yorker chassis shortened from 125 inches to 115. It’s not like the New Yorker was unattractive or anything, but it looks like a bloated mess compared to the dream car that Ghia came up with.
Under the hood is a 354 cubic inch Chrysler Firepower V8 (an early Hemi) that makes an ample 280 horsepower and is coupled to a Torqueflite automatic operated via column shift.
It was also displayed with custom fitted luggage and featured options like power windows, power steering, disc brakes and a Chrysler factory push button radio. This was all very lavish stuff for 1952.
The cars to come out of Chrysler’s partnership with Ghia were either produced in very small quantities or were, like the D’Elegance, only one-offs.
That rarity combined with their dream car image means that the cars themselves have had the attention of collectors and been star concours entries (and it’s no wonder with a car name the “D’Elegance”) for decades.
On the rare occasion that they do come up for sale, they cause a stir. This one last changed hands at auction in 2011 for just shy of $950,000.