We’ve browsed car sales and auctions across the country for a Potential Purchase of the Week and found some noteworthy candidates. None of them, however, caught our eye like the 1953 Chrysler “Thomas Special” Coupe by Ghia did.
The ’53 Thomas Special Coupe was the third of Chrysler’s “Idea Cars” designed by Virgil Exner and built by Ghia in the 1950s. The first was the 1951 K-310 coupe, which was followed by the C-200 convertible in 1952 and the Thomas Special Coupe in 1953. All three cars were built on the New Yorker chassis and used New Yorker drivetrain components including the 331-cubic-inch “FirePower” Hemi V-8 and three-speed Powerflight automatic transmission.
Chrysler’s Idea Cars were commissioned by Chrysler president K.T. Keller to compete against styling coming from GM’s Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell and even out of Ford’s postwar designers. The Thomas Special certainly turned heads with its dramatic squared-off fenders and sculpted hood. It received such praise that Chrysler considered putting the car into production. Ultimately, the car never reached production, but Chrysler had six examples produced and Ghia liked the design so much it produced another 12 for itself.
The styling of Exner’s Thomas Special led the way for Chrysler’s designs later in the ’50s. Elements from the car are recognizable in most Chryslers from that era, particularly the 300 that appeared in 1955. The Thomas Special’s styling is so timeless that elements can even be seen in today’s 300.
The car seen here is the original Exner-designed, Ghia-built Idea Car shown around the world in 1953. It was later given to C.B. Thomas, one of Chrysler’s former presidents of exports, which was how it earned its name as the Thomas Special. It will be offered at RM Auctions’ Vintage Cars of MeadowBrook Auction on July 24 and is expected to go for $350,000 to $500,000.
Why would I want it?
Beauty, rarity, and influence. By 1953, coach-built cars had largely disappeared, replaced instead by postwar stampings. Each body panel of the Thomas Special was handcrafted by the experts at Ghia and fitted to a Chrysler New Yorker chassis. With only 18 ever built, the car is extremely rare. As this car was owned by C.B. Thomas himself, it’s a one-off.
Exner is arguably one of the most influential car designers of all time, up there with Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell. Exner’s Thomas Special is one of his most influential designs that still inspires designers to this day. And there’s no reason not to buy a car that will make your jaw drop and heart flutter every time you see it. Unless, of course, you don’t have a few hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket.
Source: RM Auctions