Hollywood celebrities have long had a reputation for swanky and opulent lifestyles. Their taste for luxury often extends to the cars they buy for their personal transportation. For some entertainment luminaries, only the most exclusive and luxurious cars will do. During the late 1950s, there was one car in particular that was much-coveted by the Hollywood celebrity set: the 1956-1958 Dual-Ghia.
The 1956-1958 Dual-Ghia was a limited edition luxury car built by Dual Motors Corporation of Detroit, Michigan. It was based on the Dodge Firearrow, a concept car exhibited at the 1953 Turin Auto Show in Italy. Offered at a then-hefty sticker price of $8,000, it was specifically intended for a wealthy and stylish clientele. The Dual-Ghia was a decidedly large and heavy car, riding on a 115-inch wheelbase and weighing in at a hefty 3600 pounds. It was fitted with a striking low-slung convertible body hand built by Carrozzeria Ghia, an exclusive custom coach builder based in Turin, Italy. The car was also given a sumptuously appointed interior, which included Connolly leather upholstery, full-deck carpeting, and a chrome-framed dashboard.
Underneath its skin, to make this exclusive car easy to service, the Dual-Ghia used readily available components sourced from Chrysler Corporation. Customers had a choice of two engines: a Dodge Firebomb V-8 engine, which had a displacement of 315 cubic inches and was rated at 230 horsepower, or the more popular Dodge D-500 Hemi V-8, which had the same displacement, but was good for 260 horsepower. Both engine choices were mated to a Chrysler Powerflite automatic transmission. In addition to being easy to service, the Dual-Ghia proved to be an excellent performer for a large car. According to Motor Trend magazine, the Dual-Ghia could accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 8.2 seconds and had a top speed of around 124 miles per hour.
The Dual-Ghia made its public debut at the 1957 New York Sports Car Show, where it caused a public sensation and garnered rave reviews. It also attracted the attention of entertainment luminaries and soon became a very fashionable automotive status symbol among the Hollywood celebrity set. Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, high-living members of the famed “Rat Pack,” were probably the most iconic Dual-Ghia owners. Singer Eddie Fisher and actor Glenn Ford also owned Dual-Ghias. Actor Desi Arnaz and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael were noted Dual-Ghia owners as well.
Although the Dual-Ghia was a prestigious car and highly sought after by the Hollywood set, it was not a profitable venture for Dual-Motors Corporation. One reason for this was because of Dual Motors’ owner Eugene Casaroll’s insistence that the Dual-Ghia be built to the highest degree of craftsmanship possible, it was an extraordinarily expensive and labor-intensive car to build (it took 1300 hours to fabricate the body and 200 hours for final assembly). In addition to that, because the Dual-Ghia was aimed at a very wealthy clientele, the market for it proved to be quite small. As a result, it was not the financial success Dual Motors hoped for.
A total of 117 1956-1958 Dual-Ghias were built. It is believed that around 30 of these cars are still existence and surviving examples are cherished collector items today.
Adventure…with Elegance!, Dual-Ghia: Dual-Ghia: General Publication, Serial, and Trade Catalog: Specific Model, ca. 1956, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.
Covello, Mike, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, 1946-2002; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2002, p. 259-260.
Georgano, Nick, ed., The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 459.
MacDonald, Don, “Not Just a Bomb…A Dual Bomb,” Motor Trend, August 1956
Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.