The American masterpiece that gave birth to the VW Karmann Ghia

This amazing creation of the genius Virgil Exner conquered Paris, but never made it to car dealerships.

While America's automotive history is the longest and brightest compared to other countries, not every avid automotive fan can immediately name two or three famous designers on the other side of the Atlantic. AND there are really great talents among them. Like Virgil Exner. He is known for the fact that in the middle of the last century, from outdated and boring models Chrysler created some of the most stylish cars of the time.

The American masterpiece that gave birth to the VW Karmann Ghia

Among the most famous Exner concepts are - an amazing 1952 d'Elegance coupe, created in a single copy. However, it is not the history of the appearance of this car that is curious, and not even that Chrysler has been inspired by it for decades when developing its new models. Thanks to d'Elegance, the most attractive Volkswagen, the Karmann Ghia, appeared in those years.

In fact, the American prototype design for the Volkswagen model, defining the new look of future Chrysler cars, was offered to the Germans by the body shop Ghia. That is, from the same specialists from the Turin company, led by the then boss Luigi Segre, who had previously worked on the concept based on Exner's sketches. However, this happened three years after the premiere of D'Elegance, so there is fair anger at anyone.

In general, the idea of ​​building a long and luxurious coupe was implemented in the United States even earlier. Simca 8 Sport demonstrated something similar with a sporty silhouette and body panels, as if playing inflated muscles in 1948, and in 1951 - the model Bentley Mark VI Crest II Facel-Metallon. The sensation, however, was the D'Elegance Concept, which debuted at the 1952 Paris Motor Show. Chrysler amazes the audience with its tall, almost perfectly straight line with bulging rear wheel arches. And also with a massive chrome grille, almost pressed into the front panel by the headlights and a spare wheel hidden under the trunk lid.

The American masterpiece that gave birth to the VW Karmann Ghia

Chrysler is unmistakably recognizable in an elegant, almost 5,2-meter-long coupé with a long bonnet, curved roof and rounded windows. However, D'Elegance also has features that prevent confusion with other prototypes. For example, rims with chrome spokes and tires with white sidewalls, fastened in a racing style with a central nut, original red metallic and headlights reminiscent of microphones from the 40s.

In a fairly spacious and conservative cabin with chrome accents, elements of black and beige leather, huge suitcases are located behind the seats in two rows. There's nowhere else to go because almost the entire space of the sloping rear section is occupied by the spare wheel.

In the technical part, under the D'Elegance body is located the 25 cm shortened chassis of the Chrysler New Yorker with a 5,8-liter Hemi V8 engine. developing 284 horsepower and an automatic PowerFlite transmission. The latter was installed during one of the car repairs.

Previously, Exner created four more similar prototypes, which to one degree or another influenced the appearance of D'Elegance: the K-310, C-200, Special and Special Modified. Of these, only Special manages to appear on public roads. The Italian Ghia produces only a few dozen of these coupes, which it sells in Europe under the GS-1 brand.

D'Elegance played an important role in the history of Chrysler, which radically redesigned its models in the early 50s. A number of stylistic decisions of the prototype can be found in the production cars that the company produces after it. Like the "evil" radiator grille - in the "letter series" of the Chrysler 300 (differs by the letter in the three-digit model index - from 300B to 300L) or the headlights protruding above the rear fenders - in the 1955 Chrysler Imperial. Even the creators of the Chrysler concept The 1998 Chronos, the predecessor to the modern 300C sedan, inspired D'Elegance.

After being shown at numerous exhibitions, the stylish coupe went to the private garage of a close relative of one of the then Chrysler bosses, where it remained in 1987. Meanwhile, the car received a new 8 Hemi V1956 engine, which is 102 horsepower more powerful than the original. Later, the concept changed several owners, wandering through the collections of connoisseurs of retro models. Over the past 10 years, d'Elegance has twice appeared at the RM Sotheby auction: in 2011 it was sold for 946 thousand dollars, and in 000 - for 2017 thousand dollars.

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