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1952 Chrysler ‘Thomas Special’ Prototype

1952 Chrysler ‘Thomas Special’ Prototype

The first of many Chrsyler Specials by Ghia, this showcar debuted at the 1952 Paris Motor show. The three-passenger coupe with Continental-inspired style. Later, a small production run was fabricated by Ghia, but used a longer wheel base to accommodate a full-size trunk and a rear seat. These were known as the GS-1, Chrysler Special or Ghia Special.

Rm Auctions’ Sale

At their Vintage Motor Cars at Amelia Island Auction in 2006 RM Auctions sold the first prototype, chassis C51834214, for $715,000 USD. It was called the ‘1952 Chrysler Thomas Special SWB Prototype’. Below is an excerpt from the lot description:

“Built on a shortened New Yorker chassis, the GS-1 Thomas Special was mechanically a standard Chrysler with the production line 331 cubic inch Hemi V8 churning out 235 horsepower delivered to the rear wire wheels through the brand new “Power-Flite” transmission. As befits a $10,000 car, the GS-1 was equipped with power steering, brakes, windows and a power antenna. Only a few exterior production car parts, derived from the New Yorker model were used, including tail lamp assemblies and bumpers. With each special being different from the next one, the example we have the pleasure of offering here boasts the singular trait of being the only SWB example ever built in the series.

In Chrysler’s period advertisements the new “idea car” was unveiled to an eager public who was under the impression that the car might actually go into production. However, Chrysler’s financial woes prohibited the new sports cars from ever going to into production. Chrysler’s pitch to the public including the following description in their full page
print ads:

“Integral grille and bumper unit…..hydraulic bumpers set vertically into both the front and rear fenders……door latch and lock are set behind door under rear side window so as to not interfere with the driver….to open from inside, you simply press a button on the dashboard – to open from the outside, you press under the rear side window….a new innovation is the spare tire access door in the lower deck which is let down hydraulically from the interior control allowing spare wheel to roll out for easy handling……..”

Accordingly, only a handful of these exist today. They have been become highly treasured and cherished in the collector’s world as well as by dream car enthusiasts and specialists.

In a recent conversation with noted collector and specialist Mr. Joe Bortz regarding the Chrysler offered here, he related that he firmly believed that this particular example was indeed the Paris Show Car as it is the only remaining known example that displays the shortened chassis. In fact, as a former owner of a Ghia bodied Chrysler, his insight on to this particular example’s historical significance was interesting and informative. Notably, this particular Chrysler can be seen in the informative “70 Years of Chrysler” book where it is pictured in the 1952 model year line. Upon careful inspection of both the car and the original photo, there can be no mistaking that the car offered here is indeed the example pictured with it’s close coupled tail section, concealed door handles and let-down rear boot.”
Story by, RM Auctions

1952 Chrysler ‘Thomas Special’ Prototype Gallery

1952 Chrysler ‘Thomas Special’ Prototype

1952 Chrysler ‘Thomas Special’ Prototype


In Detail

type Concept / Prototype Car
built at Turin, Italy
body stylist Virgil Exner
coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia
production 1
predeccesor 1952 Chrysler D’Elegance
succeccesor 1953 Chrysler Special GS-1
engine Hemi V8
position Front Longitudinal
aspiration Natural
block material Cast Iron
displacement 5424 cc / 331 in³
power 175.2 kw / 235 bhp
specific output 43.33 bhp per litre
body / frame Steel Body over Chrysler New Yorker Chassis
driven wheels RWD
wheel type Wire Wheels
wheelbase 3022.6 mm / 119 in
transmission Power-Flite 3-Speed Automatic