Lot 51
1956 Chrysler Ghia Plainsman Concept Car


Selling on Wednesday

CHASSIS NO: 9999760

• One-off Chrysler show car
• Built by Ghia of Italy
• Fully restored to original western motif including genuine cow-hide interior
• Extensive documented history

440 cid V-8 engine, two-speed PowerFlite automatic transmission, Coaxial power steering, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic power drum brakes; wheelbase: 115”

The concept car has always been an interesting chapter in the motoring landscape. Often used as “test mules” for real ideas that may or may not find their way into a production car, these are the dream cars. Their wild body lines, crazy trim accents, bubble top windows, and strange interiors are specifically built to excite the imagination. Some actually do make it into production; the Chevrolet Corvette was one of the lucky dream cars, but most were destroyed once their show life was over. There were some survivors, but they were far and few in between. No stranger to the 1950s concept cars was Chrysler, who built the, Chrysler d'Elegance for 1953, the DeSoto Adventurer for 1954, the Chrysler Falcon for 1955, the wild Plymouth XNR for 1960, and the Fire Arrows I and II. In 1956, Chrysler’s premier designer Virgil Exner was working closely with Ghia of Italy to create some of the best concept cars in the world. It was through Exner’s magic and Ghia’s talent that two cars were built in 1956. The Norseman was built as a four-seat fastback coupe while the Plainsman was a radically designed station wagon that carried a western motif. Both were far-reaching designs with bold leaps in technology that would find their way into several of Chrysler’s cars. The Norseman’s life was cut short when it went down with the Andrea Doria after it collided with the Swedish liner Stockholm on July 25th, 1956. The Plainsman, on the other hand, went on to lead an exciting life that has taken it around the world and into the hands of several lucky owners.

Offered here is the actual Chrysler Plainsman that was the darling of the show circuit for 1956. To say the Plainsman led an exciting life is certainly an understatement. The Plainsman wooed the crowds with its western styled design complete with cow hide interior, but when the show season was over, U.S. Customs classified it as an import car because it was built by Ghia of Italy. Instead of paying the import taxes, the car was given to Chrysler’s export manager Elwood Parish, who was living in Cuba at the time. When Elwood was reassigned to Australia, he took the Plainsman along where, in order to comply with local laws, it was converted to right-hand-drive. After 20 years spent on the Australian roads, it made its way back to the U.S. where it was returned to left-hand-drive and a 440 cubic-inch V-8 was installed. As it sits now, the Plainsman has undergone a full restoration that has returned it to the way it looked on the show circuit in 1956. The list of innovations that the Plainsman carries is long. Rearward facing seats at the very back allow passengers to ride in “observation car” fashion and the entire car holds eight adults. A radically designed all-steel cantilevered top is covered in a padded white fabric that sets off the gold paint perfectly. An automatic gas filler pipe located in the left taillight would fool any service station attendant. The dashboard features aircraft styled instrument panel controls and the spare tire is fully concealed in the rear quarter panel that lifts up for access. Parking lights are also integrated into the massive front bumper guards that give the Plainsman a commanding and bold look. Of course, if none of that is impressive enough, the cow hide interior makes for a dashing statement.

The Plainsman was built at a time when the motoring public just couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of the new styles. These were the days when the new models were kept under cover on the showroom floor and not unveiled until the grand launch. While those days are long gone, the Plainsman takes us back to a time when there was excitement and immense anticipation for the new cars coming out. The chance to own a genuine custom bodied world reknown show car is perhaps as rare as the car itself. Most collectors might consider a concept vehicle as a one-off conversation piece and the Plainsman is the perfect car for such consideration. More importantly it is a singular example of rich automotive history that that should be preserved and appreciated on a daily basis.