Monaco

10 May 2014

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Lot 114

1953 Chrysler Ghia Special Coupé by Ghia

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

Sold for €336.000


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.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more