The Don Davis Collection
27 April 2013
1954 Chrysler GS-1 Special by Ghia
Sold for $616,000
- Chassis no. 7252368
- One of two commissioned by Chrysler’s Export Division from Ghia
- Known history since new
- Freshly restored to authentic original condition
- It’s got a Hemi…and Italian coachwork
During the 1950s, Italian coachbuilder Ghia built numerous one-off “dream cars” for Chrysler Corporation. One, the slab-sided and extremely modern “Thomas Special,” named for Chrysler export executive C.B. Thomas, was so well-received at European shows that a limited run of duplicates were produced for European customers. It is believed that about 40 so-called Ghia Specials were produced on Chrysler chassis through the mid-1950s, to several variations of the original design.
Chrysler’s Export Division had two 1954 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe chassis, each with a 125.5-inch wheelbase frame, a 235-horsepower Hemi V-8, and a PowerFlite automatic transmission, and they were delivered to Ghia to be bodied with variants of the Special design. These two cars were distinguished from other Ghia Specials by their four-passenger interiors and flat exhaust tips, and they borrowed numerous Chrysler parts throughout, including the bumpers, taillights, steering wheel, dashboard gauges, and even the sexy wire wheels, which were a dealer accessory on Grandma’s Chrysler. These two GS-1 Specials are believed to have been used by Chrysler for its own promotional purposes on the European continent, including the Turin show of 1954.
The car offered here is one of the two Chrysler-ordered four-passenger GS-1 Specials, and it is believed to not have been shown when new, making its original purpose something of a mystery. As the tale is told, when Chrysler was through with the car, it was offered up to their board of directors, one of whom, Citgo Gas executive W. Alton Jones, took it home for his beloved wife. The lovely Mrs. Jones seated herself behind the wheel, said, “It’s like sitting on the floor,” and went out and bought a new Bentley. The couple’s daughter, Elizabeth, was considerably more impressed, telling her parents that it was the most beautiful car she had ever seen, and that she would very much like it for herself.
A passionate sportsman, Jones was killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 in New York City on March 1, 1962, while on his way to a fishing trip, one which he was to have been joined by his good friend, President Dwight Eisenhower. Five years later, Elizabeth Jones took the Chrysler she loved to Aspen, Colorado, where she restored a Victorian home and put the car away in its carriage house. There the Chrysler remained until passing to its previous owner in 1999. It was sold to Mr. Davis fresh from a complete restoration, which saw the car refinished to its original appearance in every tiny detail. Research was performed with Ghia Special authority Raphael Brunet, uncovering several period photographs of the Chrysler-commissioned GS-1 Specials, which accompany the car, along with photographs of this car as it was retrieved from its long-time garage home, verifying its excellent original condition prior to restoration.
The Chrysler is currently in excellent overall condition, still very fresh and crisp in all details since its recent restoration. Finished in a striking lightly metallic aqua, with its roof a few shades darker, its interior is upholstered in black leather, with roomy armchair-like bucket seats for the driver and passenger, and a backseat suitable for an additional pair. Beautiful details included the pleated door panels, which echo the seat patterns; a dashboard and steering wheel finished in the body color; and a horn button that announces POWER STEERING at a time when the technology was relatively new to passenger cars. What little chrome decorates the body is clean and clear, which keeps with the overall excellent presentation. The car appears little different than when Mr. Jones took delivery.
In the 1950s, the Ghia-bodied Chryslers thrilled show crowds worldwide with their Italian flair and American brawn. The GS-1 Special no less packs the power to impress. It is a beautiful machine—special then and special now.
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