Plymouth Asimmetrica Roadster by Ghia

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Asimmetrica Roadster by Ghia





Legendary designer Virgil Exner Sr.’s tenure at Chrysler was nearing an end in the early 1960s, as his flamboyant Space Age tendencies came into conflict with a management and public seeking increasingly less dramatic automobiles, shorn of the excess chrome décor and tailfins upon whom he had relied for much of the previous decade. Nonetheless, Exner went out with a bang, producing one final show car, the Plymouth XNR, with longtime partners, the Italian coachbuilding firm of Ghia. Creatively and slyly named for its outgoing creator, the XNR featured a dart-like asymmetrical shape, inspired by the Valiant’s slant six engine design, with a Jaguar D-Type-style headrest fairing that expanded into a massive tailfin. The tailfin crossed and extended through the rear deck, forming, naturally, an “X.”

Typical of Exner’s later show cars, the XNR was too wild to see production, but it attracted enough attention that Ghia and Exner soon began work on something very similar that could be produced in a small batch for special clients.

The Plymouth XNR was a concept car developed by Chrysler and Plymouth and designed by Virgil Exner as a sports roadster to add to the Plymouth line and possibly compete with the Ford Falcon and the Chevrolet Corvette.

In the late 1940s America's motor industry saw a time of innovation and revolutionary car designs. Car designs emerged with styling cues such as fins and streamline bodies derived from various jets, rockets and other aircraft. Plymouth, in contrast to its competitors, valued engineering supremacy more than visual appeal.

Eventually sales for Chrysler slowed, causing Chrysler to realize that their absence of style in their automobiles was taking its toll on marketing. In 1947 Virgil Exner, an automobile designer, changed Chrysler's designs into streamline cars, sharply contrasting from their previously squarish car bodies.

What Chrysler was lacking was a two-seater roadster to compete with the Ford Falcon and General Motors's Chevrolet Corvette. For the shorter length needed for a roadster, the chassis of the Plymouth Valiant was adopted. A 170cid I-6 engine with outputs of more than 200 horsepower was a suitable choice.

Shortly after, the Plymouth Asymmetrica was born. It was renamed Plymouth XNR after its designer, Virgil Exner. The XNR sported a modified Plymouth Valiant chassis about 106.5 inches long.

Depending upon whom one asks, the Asimmetrica was either begun by Exner very late in his tenure at Chrysler, then completed by Ghia, or was solely a Ghia design project, in the manner of the earlier Chrysler Specials they had independently produced for European clients. Its styling was toned down from the extreme XNR, including a four-passenger interior, a full windshield, and a more conventional tail and rear deck, without the large fin, but was still recognizably a sibling, due to the use of the XNR’s original bucks for many of the body panels. Like the XNR, it was based upon a largely stock Plymouth Valiant chassis, engine, and drivetrain, but with the Hyper-Pack features of cast-iron split headers and a Carter AFB carburetor, similar to the infamous NASCAR Valiants.

Controversy similarly surrounds how many of the Asimmetricas were produced. General consensus is that a run of 25 was planned, but that at most only two roadsters were completed. The first appeared on Ghia’s stand, identified as simply the Asimmetrica (with no assigned manufacturer), at the Turin Motor Show in 1961.

The XNR produced about 250 horsepower and could reach speeds of 150 miles per hour. However, The Plymouth XNR never made it to production and was shipped back to where it was built - Carrozzeria Ghia in Italy.

Virgil Exner showed interest in buying it but was unable to do so. “My dad wanted to buy it, but if it had stayed in the U.S., it would have to have been destroyed,”- Virgil Exner jr. After it was shipped back to Ghia, an unknown Swiss man purchased the Plymouth XNR and then sold it to Mohammad Reza Phalevi, the Shah of Iran. Afterwards it was sold again to Anwar al Mulla, a Kuwaiti car dealer. It was sold again in the early 1970s to a man in Lebanon where it resided in underground storage until Karim Edde found the car hidden during the Lebanese Civil war(1975-1991). He recognized it and kept it in various locations to preserve it from the carnage of the Civil war. After the war the car was sent to RM Restorations in Canada in 2008 and was finished by 2011.

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