1956-1958 Dual Ghia
The Thin Man On TV
Many of you who were adolescents in the late 50's and early 60's might remember some of the few non-western television shows of the day (believe it or not, there were no fewer than 29 westerns telecast each week during the '59-60 season). Ed Sullivan was on, of course, but two other shows got rapt attention each week. The first was "Dobie Gillis". Most kids who had just broken into teenage related to Dwayne Hickman's love-struck Dobie, the irrepressible Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs (later to play the same character under a different name on "Gilligan's Island"), and the toothsome Tuesday Weld, the object of many pubescent fantasies.
Adults enjoyed "The Thin Man", starring Peter Lawford and Phillis Kirk, in the TV version of the popular movie series of the 1930's. Even though the show only ran for about 18 months, many viewers counted the days each week until it came on. The show opened each week with an incredibly exotic car gliding past the camera, its chrome grille sparkling as it went past. At the back end of the car was the neatest pair of chrome exhausts that exited from the rear quarter panel. The car then stopped and the camera moved to close-up on the license plate. It was a New York plate that said "Nick 1." The car was a Dual Ghia.
Another World War II Legacy
Dual Motors was one of those Detroit-based companies that produced trucks for the Army during WW II. Its owner, Gene Casaroll, loved cars and high performance. He also loved European styling. After the war, Casaroll tried to develop a limited-production automobile based on Chrysler components, from the chassis to the drive train.
His first effort was the unsuccessful Fire Arrow, which was a sort of production version of a Chrysler show car from the early 50's. Although the car was a disappointment, its development precipitated Casaroll's introduction to Carrozeria Ghia, the Italian car design house. Casaroll fell in love with the capabilities of Ghia and in 1956 worked with them to do a total re-design of the Fire Arrow. The resulting car was the Dual Ghia of 1956-58.
A Big Car That Looked Small
Ghia had no choice of platforms when it came to the design of the Dual-Ghia. They had to use the Chrysler 300 chassis and that meant a 115-inch wheelbase, automatic transmission, recirculating ball steering system, drum brakes and the big 315 cubic-inch "Hemi" V8. It also meant good stuff like air conditioning, 12-volt electrics and power brakes/steering.
It looked great, too. The design was very curvy, with no sharp folds in the metal. The front fender line ran all the way to the back of the car, where just a hint of tailfin rolled down to what would be the bumper. Two small brake lights were "frenched" into the back of the fender and were set off by the two exhausts on each side and twin bumperettes at the back. At the front, quad headlights were neatly fared into the body and a 'squarish' eggcrate grille was sunken back. Twin bumperettes also graced the front.
The Dual-Ghia sported Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and wide whitewalls. Overall height was less than 60 inches, low for the time. The overall effect of the Ghia design was that of a large sportscar and to enhance that effect the car only had two seats.
Inside the Dual-Ghia was instrumentation borrowed from the Imperial, including the steering wheel. Everything was mounted in a pod directly in front of the driver. A center console held the heater, a/c controls and radio. A phonograph could be ordered as an option, too.
Some Things Just Weren't To Be
In spite of the fact that some of the famous Hollywood Rat Pack - Lawford, Sinatra, Bishop - bought Dual Ghias, the car just wasn't destined to catch on. It was expensive, at about $14,000, and perhaps a little too exotic looking for the time. Also, a major recession hit the U.S. economy in 1958 and people just didn't flock to the Chrysler dealers, who were selling the Ghias. Eventually, only about 100 Dual-Ghias were manufactured before the plant closed.
There is a Dual-Ghia registry here in the U.S. and many of the original cars are still in existence. Good examples can be seen at the occasional vintage car show in most cities. The 50's are long gone, the Rat Pack has been diminished by the loss of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra, and there are no westerns on TV anymore.
If you can find one, buy it. These cars are so rare that prices vary all over the board, but it's sure they will appreciate over time.One has recently been seen for sale. It's advertised as "good condition" and the asking price is $75,000. Grab it while you can.