Dodge Firearrow II by Ghia

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Firearrow II by Ghia





Chrysler Corporation may not have been the first automaker to wow the public with what we now call a “concept car;” that honor is typically afforded to Buick and its 1938 Y-Job. Yet the so-called “idea cars” produced by the Chrysler brands, especially those created under the auspices of styling boss Virgil Exner in the years following World War II, proved to be some of the most compelling, influential, and unforgettable concepts ever created. These included the four successive Dodge Firearrows, which wore hand-crafted bodywork by Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin, Italy.

As a designer, Exner was sharply critical of what he called “jellyroll and tinsel styling” deployed by crosstown competitors; instead of “old-fashioned gingerbread” adornments and chrome, he championed the use of clean, functional forms (of course, Exner was not afraid to deploy brightwork if merited by the situation). This philosophy is evident in Exner’s hugely important “Forward Look” production cars, but naturally, he was free to push the envelope even further with the dazzling concepts developed under his watch.

To bring his visions from drawing board to reality, Exner looked across the Atlantic. Traditional carrozzerias such as Ghia retained the knowledge and skill needed to realize a unique design in hand-formed sheet metal even as the coachbuilding arts faded in America—and, as a bonus surely appreciated by Chrysler Corporation accountants, the US dollar went very far in an Italy recovering from war.

The success of the initial Firearrow led to the creation, the Dodge Firearrow II. Like the first, it was a low, sleek two-seat roadster with a dramatic frameless windshield and sharp, subtle fins, and it was also built on a Dodge. Differences were numerous, however, including a change from quad headlamps to two wide-spaced units, round taillights, chromed wire wheels, a new toothed grille treatment, and trim that stopped at the sides, rather than wrapping around the front and rear fascias. It was finished in light yellow. With unbroken side flanks notably bereft of well-defined rear fender haunches, the first Dodge Firearrow was a clear departure from the previous cars Ghia had created for various Chrysler brands. This was understandable: Unlike the prior creations, the Firearrow’s styling came from within Ghia, rather than Exner’s pencil in Detroit. No matter. When the bright red Firearrow debuted in 1953, it was an instant hit, drawing crowds wherever it was exhibited and prompting rumors of a limited production run.

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