Lifestyle

Italian-American Stallion


Luxurious and extravagant, the 1963 Dual-Ghia L6.4 Coupe offered drivers an American drivetrain and Italian coachwork

The brainchild of Eugene Casaroll, the Italian-American hybrid known as the Dual-Ghia was largely based on the Ghia-designed Chrysler Firearrow, a concept car for which he acquired the production rights. Luxurious and extravagant, it had the longest production line in the world—from Detroit to Milan and back—as it utilized an American drivetrain and Italian coachwork.

Sales were modest, however, and in 1960, a redesigned coupe version appeared in Paris, spearheaded by the American Ghia agent Paul Farago, with little input from Casaroll. It had every imaginable amenity, including fitted luggage and luxurious styling, and the public response to the largely hand-built L6.4 was encouraging.

The car continued to use a Chrysler V8 engine—a 383-ci unit—but the construction was almost entirely conducted in Italy, making this version more of an import than before. Fewer off-the-shelf parts were used, and with high-quality materials, the price skyrocketed to an astronomical $13,500. Just 26 examples were produced between 1960 and 1963, many of which were acquired by such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, and Dean Martin.

This gorgeous L6.4 coupe spent most of its life in South Africa. As supported by a complete binder of documentation, history, and literature, it received a comprehensive body-off restoration some years back.

Since acquiring the L6.4, the seller had it repainted and the interior leatherwork repaired, the quality of which is superb. The maroon metallic finish is immaculate and is tastefully complemented by flawless chrome wire wheels shod in Vogue dual gold stripe tires. The engine bay is clean and tidy, showing no obvious signs of dirt, grime, or grease.

A fabulously running and driving example, this ultra-rare Dual-Ghia is a wonderful collector car and a fantastic Italian-American hybrid whose character is as rooted in Turin as it is Las Vegas.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $275,000 at RM's auction of the Wayne Davis Collection in Dallas, Texas, on April 19, 2008. Most Mopar fans have heard of Dual-Ghia, largely because of celebrity ownership. However, even diehard fans who could tell you the wrist pin size in a 1963 Max Wedge 413 would be hard-pressed to say exactly which engines were used in any of the Dual-Ghias.

They have been something of an odd duck in collector car circles, a novelty for the Chrysler collector who has one of everything else. Performance enthusiasts have generally dismissed D-Gs as overstuffed Plymouths without a racing pedigree or parts support, aside from a powertrain one might find in a school bus. Up until this sale, they've been under-appreciated by the market as well.

Unlike the first generation Dual-Ghia, the L6.4 was exclusively a coupe (technically it's a Ghia L6.4, as only the prototype wore a Dual-Ghia badge). More importantly, however, it led the styling parade for Chrysler, rather than following it like the first series.

The L6.4 displays future Mopar styling cues, such as the "fishbowl" back window and general door glass profile of the first-generation Barracuda, scalloped taillights akin to the 1961 Dodge, and upper rear quarter panel overhang from the 1961 Plymouth.

The L6.4 was also a little more congruent as far as overall execution was concerned. While using far fewer parts from Mopar, barring the powertrain and the 1960 Chrysler convertible windshield, several of the components were premium upgrades. These include a Nardi wood steering wheel instead of a '56 Chrysler wheel and Jaeger gauges instead of '56 Dodge bits.

More like a Ferrari Superamerica

The low body profile is well accentuated by the fastback greenhouse that would be lost with a drop top. The original generation carried more of an upright, opulent look—like that of a drophead Bentley—while the second-generation coupes imply sportiness, more like a Ferrari Superamerica.

Note that I used the term "imply" sportiness. While Chrysler had perhaps the best handling suspensions of the Big Three on a full-size body of this era, the greater weight of a Ghia dooms it when going head-to-head against most European contemporaries.


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