Most of you probably haven’t heard of this rare concept car that was used as a bet between U.S. president Lyndon Johnson and next president Ronald Reagan in a game of poker. It was so classy that Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford from the “rat pack” personally ordered one. This is the one and only Dual-Ghia.
The Dual-Ghia originally was a 1953 Chrysler concept car with a model name the Firearrow. Virgil Exner, the lead designer for most of Chrysler’s “forward look”, made the design for the Dual-Ghia. The concept did not get into Chrysler production, Gene Casaroll who was a Detroit manufacturer decided that he will make the car himself. Dual Motors, supervised by Casaroll, was a company that created the dual engine “lowboy” tank carriers for WWII. When the war ended, Casaroll owned an automobile transporting company that delivered vehicles from the factories to the dealers. He also tried joining Indy car race, having veteran racers driving the famous Kurtis Kraft Indy car. When Casaroll acquired the rights for the Firearrow, he renamed it the Firebomb but after a deal with Dodge, Casaroll had Ghia redesign the Firebomb and it became the Dual-Ghia D-500.
The Dual-Ghia’s body was handmade using aluminum and wood molds at the Ghia factory in Turin, Italy. The body would then be delivered to Detroit. There, a Chrysler D-500 Hemi engine would then be mounted onto the handmade body and then followed by the Powerflight transmission from the Chrysler 300. The manual work and shipping of parts meant that the production for the Dual-Ghia was the longest in the world.
The Dual-Ghia was known for its quality and attention to detail. The molds were locked by chrome plated brass clips, Connolly leather hides covered the interior, and it also had an Imperial dashboard. The exterior design had a slim front fenders, Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, single-bar grille, and sharp rear fins. The Dual-Ghia was not just gorgeous, it also had power to boost with its Hemi engine that is more powerful than the Corvettes of its time. It could achieve a max speed of 120 mph.
Because the Dual-Ghia took a lot of time to make, there were only 177 cars created from 1956 to 1958. Today, only 32 Dual-Ghias still exist. For unknown reasons, the Dual-Ghia was only sold around $8,000 each which was less than the Cadillac Eldorado or Continental Mark II of its time. This made Casaroll lose around $4,000 for each Dual-Ghia which ultimately killed the model after two years. Casaroll could’ve sold it at a higher price as it was an exclusive car only sold to the high class. Some of the proud owners of the Dual-Ghia were Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Ford, and Hoagy Carmichael.
After the death of the D-500 in ‘58, from 1961 to ’63, Casaroll made a revival of the model that had the L.6.4. Like the D-500, it also had a lot of Chrysler parts and the body was more like a Barracuda. The 1961-63 Ghia was rarer than the original one, only 26 cars were made. The owners were also celebrities including rat pack members Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin.
Like the D-500, the production was cancelled in 1963 due to the loss of profit. Because of its rarity and luxurious design, the Dual-Ghia is part of all classic car collectors wish list all over the world.