The Story of Ghia & Chrysler

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Show-cars for Chrysler

Ghia Norseman Clay Mock-up
Chrysler Norseman from 1956. The full-size wooden model of the Norseman in the Carrozzeria Ghia courtyard. This extraordinary in design - by Virgil Exner, and in construction technique - by Ghia, was lost in an equally extraordinary way, when the Andrea Doria went down.
The first show-car Ghia built for Chrysler has gone down in history for a reason which has absolutely nothing to do with the one for which it was built: the Norseman was to have been exhibited as the world's most automated car, as far as this was possible with the technology of the time. It was designed by Billie Brownlie, the Exner group's stylist in charge of the project, and the practical problems involved in building it gave severe headaches to Sergio Coggiola, the capable head of Ghia's prototype shop. For example, the car had an overhung roof, i.e. it did not sit on the windscreen a-pillars but directly on the glass; discharging onto it any oscillations, with the obvious risk of breakage. Curiously, it was exactly the same problem which Sergio Reggiani, sculptor-designer, and Giannino Marzotto, racing driver in a pin-stripe, had to tackle in their "egg" Ferrari in the 1951 Mille Miglia.

Ghia Norseman In Turin ready for shipment
The Chrysler Norseman complete and ready for shipment. Note the cantilever roof panel resting on a frameless windshield.
There were also problems connected to housing the sophisticated opening and closing mechanisms for the electrically controlled sunshine roof in the car's thin roof panel.

After fifteen months' work and at a cost of around fifty million lire, the car was finally delivered to the forwarding agent. A month later it was the agent himself who broke the news that the car was lost forever. Since the evening of July 26th. 1956, it had been lying under seventy metres of water in the bay of New York, in the hold of the Andrea Doria. Ghia's other dream cars were less unfortunate: the Flite-Wing and the Turboflite, the latter adopting many of the solutions used on the Norseman.

Dodge Flite-Wing from 1961.

Dodge Turbo-Flite from 1961.

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