Surviving Showcar: 1957 Chrysler Ghia Super Dart 400

Although many show and concept cars end their days in a crusher when they’ve served their useful purpose, some manage to avoid that fate. Those remaining often return to show duty or a museum, but this 1957 Chrysler Ghia Super Dart 400 bucked the trend. It has led an active life, accumulating more than 49,000 on our roads. It has had three owners since new, but it is ready to find its fourth. The seller listed it here at Bonhams Auctions. It is set to cross the blocks in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 27th, with an auction estimate of $750,000 – $950,000. I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Larry D for spotting his second fantastic Chrysler/Ghia collaboration in a few days.

When I look at this Super Dart, I struggle to believe it was the product of the same team that produced the 1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia I recently featured. While the early car is subtle and restrained, this is loud, proud, and in-your-face. The enormous fins, a Virgil Exner hallmark, rise to a new level on this car, posing a serious threat to low-flying birdlife! I don’t think it is one of Exner’s more successful designs because the front and back of the car look like they were destined for different vehicles. Almost everything from the doors back features sharp angles and edges, but the front is more rounded and smooth. Just as the fins dominate the back, the front features an enormous oval grille and sweeping front fender lines. The Super Dart wears an exceptionally bright shade of Yellow, which is contrasted by Black below the large chrome moldings on the rear quarter panels and back bumper. There is also a Black vinyl top that is in good order. Considering its history, the overall presentation is not bad for a survivor-grade vehicle of this age. Scrutinizing the photos reveals a few flaws and defects in the paint and brightwork but no significant panel issues or rust. The glass is excellent, and overall first impressions are positive.

The Super Dart was more than a styling exercise because the “400” in its model designation indicated that the V8 under the hood produced that many ponies. It is a modified Dual-Quad 392ci FirePower Hemi that sends 400hp to the rear wheels via a three-speed TorqueFlite transmission. Naturally, power assistance for the steering and brakes are included in the package. If we delve below the radical panels, the Super Dart rolls on an essentially unmodified 1957 300C chassis. Therefore, this car holds no mechanical mysteries, and parts should be readily available. It hasn’t spent its life on static display since its show days ended, with its odometer showing 49,725 miles. Although we receive no specific information on whether it runs or drives, I suspect the news is probably positive on both fronts.

If the car’s exterior is bold and daring, the interior continues that theme. Acres of deceased cattle grace the upholstered surfaces in a combination of Black and White, from the seats to the door trims, console, gauge fascia, dash pad, and steering wheel center. The seats show some wear and discoloring, and there is slight stretching on the door trims and console. However, there are no rips or other signs of abuse. Its overall condition is consistent with its age and odometer reading. Since it is a preserved survivor, I wouldn’t do anything but inquire whether a leather specialist could improve the identified imperfections. Luxury touches include air conditioning with pop-up vents in the rear parcel tray, power windows, and a remote driver’s mirror. There is one further luxury touch, but it is worthy of its own paragraph.

In-car entertainment was in its infancy in the 1950s, and it was a big deal if an owner had a car featuring an AM/FM radio. Cassettes, 8-tracks, CD players, and streaming services belonged in a Buck Rogers episode, but Chrysler attempted to steal a march on the opposition with the Highway Hi-Fi. The unit was a turntable that played bespoke records, with the sound pumping through the car’s radio amplifier and speakers. Records spun at 16⅔ rpm, with each capable of storing about forty-five minutes of music per side. It only suffered from three shortcomings. Firstly, it was a hideously expensive option that was purely a factory fitment, meaning the take-up rate was low. If you wanted one but forgot to tick the box on the Order Form, there was no way for a dealer to install it. The unit was also pretty unreliable, with Chrysler spending a small fortune on warranty claims during its production run from 1955 and 1959. However, the worst problem was the tiny choice of available music. There was little contemporary content, with most coming from one label’s back catalog. So, it was expensive and unreliable, and the song choices were poor. It is no wonder it only lasted four model years. This Super Dart features a Highway Hi-Fi, with some records. It is unclear whether it works properly, but it is a great conversation starter at a show or a Cars & Coffee.

This is not the first time we’ve seen this one-off styling exercise at Barn Finds because it was previously featured in this excellent article produced by our Russ Dixon. It seems little has changed since, with only the odometer reading increasing to confirm this Chrysler continues to see active service. Modern vehicle design and manufacturing means mainstream car companies rely less on outside companies like Ghia to develop concept vehicles. Most prefer to keep their designs in-house to maintain secrecy, although there are exceptions to that rule. This 1957 Chrysler Ghia Super Dart 400 is the second such vehicle I’ve had the privilege to write about recently, and comparing it to the 1953 Chrysler Special by Ghia demonstrates the evolution of car styling in a short period. I don’t believe this car has aged as gracefully as the earlier example, and fewer of its styling features have found their way onto modern Chrysler models. However, as a snapshot into the wild world of the 1950s, it takes most of the prevailing styling trends and adds new ones. I don’t know whether it will achieve its auction estimate, but as they say, cars like this don’t come along every day.

Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    This would be the perfect companion to Jay Leno’s Turbine Car.

    Like 21
  2. Sam61

    I see some Alfa Romeo BaT car influence. A little restrained, compared to the Alpha, but true to “over the top” mid-late 1950’s Detroit iron…in a good way. John Wayne in a finely tailed Italian or Saville Row suit.

    Like 8
  3. Ben

    It’s a car with some non-standard bodywork…is it really worth almost a $1mil ?

    Like 8
    • Will Fox

      Yes it is. There was also a convertible version of this car called the Dart, which has been restored and owned by Joe Bortz. I wouldn’t be surprised if this car exceeds $1M. You won’t find another, and it’s very well cared for.

      Like 14
      • scott m

        God Bless Joe Bortz, he has made some incredible saves!

        Like 13
      • Bullethead

        Ghia also bodied a Ferrari 410 Superamerica with very similar metal… fins were IN. This is easily a million dollar car.

        And yes, Kudos to Mr. Bortz for saving the convertible!

        Like 10
      • rubin collazo

        It was called the Diablo I have been working the Diablo for years till it was sold it was a red conv with black top the inside looks nothing like the dart.

        Like 5
  4. bill tebbutt

    I have seen pics of automobile turntables in Europe that played 45s (I “think”) – I seem to recall that the weight required on the needle (to prevent skipping) was incredibly high and wore our vinyl discs pretty quickly…

    cheers,
    BT

    Like 9
    • Stan

      Incredible. 400hp hemi and torqflite

      Like 9
    • Pat

      My Dads 1960 DeSoto had one of those. It played 45s, and yes it did wear out the records. But the fidelity in the car and at home wasn’t the greatest.

      Like 6
    • Sam61

      My uncle had a Triumph with a factory or automotive compatible record player.

      Like 5
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Pat & Sam61,

        Chrysler was the only car company to offer the record player as factory equipment, but they were always the 16 and 2/3 rpm records with the small spindle. The 45 rpm versions were aftermarket units, designed to retrofit to any 12v car.

        Like 2
    • Ken Osborne

      I put one in my 62 Chevy ,when I live in Germany in high school my dad was in the army there. Worked great!!

  5. Jeff

    Incredible that such an unusual car was used as a regular driver for years, but yet retained in such near pristine original condition. Kudos to the original owner Mr. Freeman, and the second owner, for preserving this car so well.

    Like 12
  6. B Wallace

    This could be Christine’s Outer Space Cousin.

    Like 12
  7. BA

    With that 392 and the back view with those fins I easily can see a blower sticking out of the hood with it tubbed & a dana 60 taking up residence out back with of course air shocks to lift that sweet rear end just right & don’t forget the Big Daddy graphics to finish this baby off! Where are you Big Daddy Don Garlits ? This has to be your dream car!

    Like 3
    • Jimmy Novak

      Ah, NOW I remember why I quit going to cruise-nights/”kruze nites”.

      Like 1
  8. BA

    911 somebody call Big Daddy Don Garlits!

    Like 3
  9. Joe S.

    I can’t comment when I can’t see the images. They open fine in the email notifications, but only a very few render on the webpage, very slowly at that. Mostly just the blue squares with the ‘?’ in the middle. No issues on any other websites.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Hi Joe, a few other readers have been experiencing similar issues so we are looking into it. Thanks for reaching out.

      Like 1
      • Joe S.

        Everything is now rendering fine at my end. Thanks.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        We found the problem and got it fixed. Thanks!

        Like 1
  10. Yblocker

    And all these years I thought the 55 Lincoln Futura, aka, Batmobile, was the only concept car, or dream car, as they called, to escape the crusher. It’s all Chrysler from the windshield back, not sure where the front came from, definitely unique though. High dollar piece of history for sure, hard to imagine even that many miles on it.

    Like 5
  11. AndyinMA

    I love it. Why can’t we have style anymore?

    Like 19
  12. Robert Levins

    The car companies are starting to realize that more people than they thought really would buy a prototype design. Fear that they won’t sell enough of them. You’re starting to see more and more previous “Saved “ prototype designs for sale or auctioned off. This car will likely hit the $1ml marker. Good luck, and c’mon car companies don’t be afraid to produce something “Daring”!

    Like 5
  13. Joe S.

    A truly fantastic time capsule. A shame it doesn’t have the period correct factory HVAC.

    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Joe S,

      From what I heard, this car’s beltline was much lower than production cars, and the area between the trunk floor and the rear package shelf couldn’t accept the taller rear A/C unit as used in the 1950s Chryslers. It wasn’t until the later [and shorter] Airtemp rear A/C came out about 1963, that the Chrysler Airtemp unit was installed. If you note the vents on the package shelf, they are the later 1963 and newer rectangular vents.

      As no Airtemp unit would fit when the car was new, and what was eventually installed was made up of all Chrysler parts, I would be inclined to accept what is there as being “period correct”.

      It’s a shame this car was not built with A/C, but it was intended as a futuristic show car for the auto show circuit, and I don’t think any 1957 cars built for the show circuit had A/C, as very few cars were sold to the public with A/C.

      Like 1
  14. Dave S

    The grille evokes the 2006 Buick LaCrosse.

    Like 3
  15. JoeNYWF64

    Ist car with a vinyl roof?
    https://64.media.tumblr.com/c5ea1539d96f8314a5b2101a2bd7a0f0/94f29cbedbb5abf9-e4/s1280x1920/1341b0ee10b5c95e3805ae18f1ba44b2f13f66da.jpg

    Now i’m wondering if these other 3 concepts still exist – with their wicked looking front ends …
    https://www.carstyling.ru/ru/car/1969_chrysler_concept_70x/
    &
    https://www.carstyling.ru/ru/car/1958_chrysler_imperial_d_elegance/
    & especially! –>
    https://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1970_chrysler_cordoba_de_oro/
    Chrysler should have used that de oro front end in production or made that very car(adding A-pillars), before bumper standards & later pedestrian safety standards came into play.
    I would assume the Cordoba de Oro was a pushmobile since it did not have any A- pillars!
    Not sure if the other 2 concepts were driveable.

  16. JohnL Member

    Adam, do not forget what era this was styled in. The front is very reminiscent (or is that derivative) of airplanes of the era. Say, a deHavilland Comet with its jet intakes embedded in the leading edge of the wings. So you do have the aero, rounded mouth in front along with and transitioning to the angular wings and tail sections for the supersonic speeds of a fighter jet of that time.

    Like 1
  17. Mitch

    well to start off I like the 1962 Dart/Fury’s but this thing is just plan ugly the nicest part of the car is the dash it would have been nice if Dodge would have used that dash in the 62’s, and yeah it’s cool that it survived but I would have no use for it, I personally don’t think it’s worth a million but I’m sure that some collector with nothing but money and space will pay that kind of money for it just to say I have it!!

  18. Malcolm Boyes

    My pal had a record player, playing 45’s, in his MGB in the UK. It was fine…til you went over a bump and the needle bounced.As said (this was the early 70’s) ..great conversation starter and good when parked! I love this car and it delights me to know its driven.I have three old cars and someone just yesterday said how they loved to see me driving each one around the Sonoma area.They should be driven!!!

    Like 2
  19. Steve

    Reminds me of a sucker mouth catfish, but that’s just me.

    Like 1
  20. Mark R Member

    How is this car shifted? Are there push buttons somewhere? Can’t make out anything on the column or console. Were all TorqueFlites push button?

    • Howie

      It does say pushbutton, if you look at the upper-left where the radio is, you can enlarge the photo to see the trans. buttons.

      Like 3
  21. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Mark, the shift buttons are high up on the console. Looks like it might have a sliding park lever.

  22. carbuzzard Member

    I had the opportunity to drive that car almost 40 yeaqrs ago (egad) and write it up for AutoWeek. Rather than rewrite what I wrote then, I’ve republished it (I kept the copyright) on my current website. If I’m not violating any Barn Finds rules, here’s a link to that story: https://rememberroad.com/where/usa/1958-dual-ghia-400-prototype-this-show-car-reached-the-road-but-not-production/

    Like 4
    • Howie

      So carbuzzard what do you think it will sell for?

      • Carbuzzard Member

        A bunch. It’s a survivor, unmolested, but with a nice patina from actually being driven. But it’s well out of my price range, and I’ve never really tracked prices. I do indeed wonder, however, how it’s one will sell.

    • JGD

      Yes, Alex Freeman bought this car off the exhibit floor at the New York Auto Show. He claimed that a sister car destined for Dual Motors was lost on the S.S. Andrea Doria when it sank in the Atlantic after colliding with the S.S. Stockholm some 300 miles east of New York. BTW, Alex’s daily driver was a VW Type 3 Squareback wagon.

      Alex was an interesting guy. He was a talented engineer who began his career working at Thomas Edison’s Laboratory. During the 1920’s he was briefly an oval track race car driver. As a Defense Department sub-contractor during World War 2, his company produced precision machined parts for the military. He even set-up several small lathes in his home’s basement which his wife operated to produce thousands of firing pins for Browning machine guns.

      Alex sold the Ghia Super Dart in 1977 to Fred Kanter of Kanter Auto Products in New Jersey. This old gent remembers Alex as an avid trapshooter, a friend and a gentleman. RIP, Alex.

      Like 2
      • DON

        The show car was lost on the Andrea Doria on its way from Italy. It was called the Norseman . Oddly , very few pictures of it survive, and none in color, although some have been colorized . It was supposedly found by a diver on the wreck years later , but not surprisingly, it was just a pile of rust and 4 tires

  23. Dan H

    Not sure why this song comes to mind:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTq6Tofmo7E

  24. Brad

    I’ll probably get roasted for this but I think this looks more like a stingray than Corvettes do. Especially the earlier ones to me they looked more like sharks.

  25. Emel

    Wow that front reminds me of Julia Robert’s bass mouth.

    It looks much better on this car though.

  26. BA

    “The steering has more play in it than a elementary school recess period ” ok that’s my Barn Finds line of the year lol! Grabbed off the gentleman (carbuzzard) who wrote about this car in 1995 well done sir & a very good year indeed

    Like 2
  27. Robert Starinsky

    Simply put, an aggressive, outrageous look and yes it looks true to its name – Dart! Has a bulging over track like the Packard Predictor and a front that reminds of the Packard-Baker Hawk. A great, but very expensive conversation piece. I’ll have to stick with my lowly 1964 Studebaker Daytona convertible.

  28. Don

    The front of that car looks like a 60’s electric electric shaver.

  29. JoeNYWF64

    I wonder if this car’s vinyl roof is original.
    Looking at carstyling dot ru (which usually has the most # of concept car pics) & clicking on Chrysler & scrolling down, i see 2 “other” cars that look an awful lot like this concept(oops, dream) car for sale! – the 1956 Chrysler Dart (Ghia) & the 1957 Chrysler Diablo (Ghia).
    Could all 3 be the same car with modifications?!
    Don, if that earlier grill is still around, maybe it could be swapped in for the “electric shaver” grill? I guess the new owner of this car for sale could ask Chrysler about the grill’s whereabouts.
    Don, the Norseman was probably a pushmobile, since it had no a-pillars!
    Same i guess with the 1970 chrysler cordoba de oro – no a-pillars either.
    The latter had a VERY kewl front end as did the
    1969 Chrysler Concept 70X.
    I wonder if either of the latter 2 cars still exist!
    Too bad neither front end was used on later production cars before 5 mph bumpers & later pedestrian safety car design standards – which means all lookalike “cars” today – and plastic mirrors, no sharp edges, no fins, no popup headlites, etc. (tho when you open the front doors of some Tesla’s there’s a very sharp point on the top of the doorskin! The feds must have missed that.

  30. Maggy

    Hello , pick a part what do ya need…I’m looking for a front bumper for a 57 Chrysler dart 400 Ghia. Click. Cool car.Bet it got a LOTTA looks when it hit the road.

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