The 1956-1958 Dual-Ghia: Hollywood Status Symbol

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.

1956 Dual-Ghia Convertible.

1956 Dual-Ghia Convertible.

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.

Publicity photo of the 1957 Dual-Ghia Convertible.

Publicity photo of the 1957 Dual-Ghia Convertible.

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.

Sources

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.

Conceptcarz – Dual-Ghia

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.

How Stuff Works – 1956-1958 Dual-Ghia

MacDonald, Don, “Not Just a Bomb…A Dual Bomb,” Motor Trend, August 1956

Photograph of 1956 Dual-Ghia Convertible

Publicity photograph of the 1957 Dual-Ghia Convertible

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

The Datsun 240Z

During the 1960s, Japanese automakers were making inroads into the American market. At the time, they were widely (and I would argue unfairly) perceived as being manufacturers of cheap and unimaginative economy cars. One Japanese automaker who actively sought to change that perception was Nissan Motor Company, which at the time built and marketed cars under the Datsun nameplate. In 1965, Nissan designers started work on a sports car that was specifically aimed at the American market. The end result of the of the Japanese firm’s labors was a legendary sports car that is credited with establishing Nissan as a world-class automaker: the Datsun 240Z.

Photograph of a Datsun 240Z.

Introduced in late 1969 as a 1970 model, the Datsun 240Z (called the Datsun Fairlady Z in Japan) was a medium-priced sports car. Designed by a team led by Fumio Yushida, it was intended to compete with European mid-price sports cars in the American market, which included offerings from Jaguar and Porsche. In terms of engineering, the 240Z was a thoroughly conventional, yet state-of-the-art sports car for its time. It employed a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout and rode on a 90.5 inch wheelbase. Power came from a potent inline-6 engine, which displaced 2.4 litres (146 cubic-inches) and was initially good for 150 horsepower. Customers were offered a choice of either a 4-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed automatic. The 240Z was equipped with 4-wheel independent suspension, which employed McPherson struts and coil springs. Outwardly, the car was clothed in a sleek and stunning-looking body shell, which featured a long hood and a fastback roof.

The Datsun 240Z was also a very capable performer. According to Nissan, it could accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than 9 seconds and had a claimed top speed of 125 miles per hour. It was also blessed with outstanding road-holding abilities. Owners and automotive soon discovered the 240Z’s high quality of construction and it earned an enviable reputation for being tougher and more reliable than comparable European sports cars of the time. The 240Z’s reputation for high-performance, durability, and dependability was further enhanced by its successes in motorsports competition. In the United States, the 240Z became a dominant force in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) sports car racing. Elsewhere in the world, the 240Z proved to be a capable rally car, twice winning the prestigious (and notoriously rough) East African Safari Rally (1971, 1973).

Photograph of a Datsun 240Z.

To top it all off, not only was the 240Z a modern design capable of a high level of performance, it was noted for being a bargain package that gave exceptional value for the money. Initially offered at a base price of $3,526, it undersold other mid-price sports cars of the day. Due to its durability and reliability, it proved cheaper to operate and maintain than its European competitors. American sports car enthusiasts quickly grasped the exceptional value offered by the 240Z and the demand for it soon exceeded supply.

The Datsun 240Z enjoyed a successful, albeit relatively short, production life (1969-1973). For the 1974 model year, largely due to tightening American safety and emissions regulations, it was replaced by the Datsun 260Z, which was essentially a 240Z with a larger 2.6 litre engine. Over 140,000 Datsun 240Z’s were sold in the United States. Surviving examples are highly sought after today.

Sources

240Z: Datsun: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 240Z, 1970, 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. 212-215.

Datsun 240-Z: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 240Z, 1970, n.d., Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Georgano, Nick, ed., The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 389.

How Stuff Works – Datsun Sports Cars

How Stuff Works – Nissan Z History

The Z Car Home Page

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

The Renault Dauphine: A Competitor to the Volkswagen Beetle in the United States

Trade catalog for the Renault Dauphine, 1956

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Volkswagen Beetle was the top selling foreign car in the United States. But the much-loved German import did not lack for competition. During this time period, a large number of foreign automakers sought to penetrate the American market and did so with varying degrees of success. Among those jockeying for position in the American marketplace was Renault, an internationally renowned French automaker based in Billancourt, France. During the late 1950s-early 1960s, the French firm marketed a car that was for a short time the Volkswagen Beetle’s most serious competitor in the United States: the Renault Dauphine.

Trade catalog cut-away image of the Renault Dauphine’s interior, 1960s

First introduced at the 1956 Paris Auto Show, the Renault Dauphine was a small economy sedan designed to compete directly with the Volkswagen Beetle. The Dauphine and Beetle had some design characteristics in common. Both cars employed a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive setup and both were equipped with swing-axle independent rear suspension. In most other respects, the Dauphine was designed to be a more modern alternative to the Beetle. Instead of an air-cooled engine like that found in the Beetle, the Dauphine was fitted with a water-cooled inline-4 engine, which displaced 845 cc (51.5 cubic inches) and was good for 30 horsepower. A three-speed manual transmission came standard, but the Dauphine could also be ordered with a Ferlec automatic clutch, which permitted gear changes without a clutch pedal. In contrast to the Beetle’s two-door body, the Dauphine featured an arguably more convenient four-door body shell. Renault also offered a performance variant of the Dauphine tuned by Amédée Gordini, which came equipped with a more powerful engine (good for 37.5-40 horsepower) and a four-speed manual transmission.

The Dauphine made its American debut at the 1956 New York Auto Show. When a sharp recession hit the United States in 1957, sales of the Dauphine unexpectedly took off and it became the Volkswagen Beetle’s most serious competitor. American customers were attracted by Dauphine’s cute looks, low sticker price ($1,645 in 1957) and excellent gas mileage (claimed to be capable of exceeding 40 miles per gallon). Led by the Dauphine, Renault became the #2 selling import make in the United States in 1957, a position it would hold for several years.

Trade catalog for the Renault Dauphine, 1960s

Although the Dauphine was initially well received by the American motoring public, owners soon became disenchanted with this car. The Dauphine was widely criticized for being too slow and underpowered for American driving conditions. Unlike its competitor, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Dauphine earned a reputation for being a low-quality car. American owners found the Dauphine to be mechanically troublesome and its body prone to rusting. Also in contrast to Volkswagen, Renault lacked a well-organized American dealer network for servicing its cars. This combination of factors caused Renault’s American sales to drop dramatically from a peak of 91,073 in 1959 to 12,106 in 1966. The Dauphine was withdrawn from the American market in 1967 and Renault ceased production of it in 1968.

More than 200,000 Renault Dauphines were imported to the United States between 1956 and 1967. Even though a significant number of them were brought to American shores, surviving examples are rarely seen today.

Sources

Covello, Mike, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, 1946-2002; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2002, p. 675, 677-680.

Dauphine, Renault: Renault: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Alliance, Alpine, Caravelle, Dauphine, Eight, and Encore, ca. 1950s-1986, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Dauphine, Renault, Régie National: Renault: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Alliance, Alpine, Caravelle, Dauphine, Eight, and Encore, ca. 1950s-1986, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Georgano, Nick, ed., The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 2: M-Z; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 1318-1319.

How Stuff Works – 1956-1968 Renault Dauphine

Renault

Ward’s 1960 Automotive Yearbook, Twenty-Second Edition; Detroit, Michigan: Ward’s Automotive Yearbook, 1960, p. 177.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Movie Cars – Ford Anglia 105E in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

1959 trade catalog for the Ford Anglia 105E.

The Harry Potter movie series is one of the more remarkable pop culture phenomena of recent years. A series of 8 movies based on the enormously popular fantasy novels written by J.K. Rowling, they are much loved by millions of fans worldwide. For this week’s blog, I decided to focus on the second film of the series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which was released in November 2002. Directed by Chris Columbus and starring Daniel Radcliffe (as Harry Potter) and Rupert Grint (as Ron Weasley), the film is about Harry Potter’s adventures during his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a smash hit with movie-going audiences, grossing more than $800,000,000 worldwide.

Although I never became a Harry Potter fan myself, I was surprised and delighted to learn that a car played a notable role in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I was even more delighted to learn that it was a car endowed with magical properties. In the course of the film Harry Potter spent a significant amount of time travelling in an enchanted vintage car: a Ford Anglia 105E.

1960 trade catalog for the Ford Anglia 105E.

First introduced at the 1959 London Motor Show, the Anglia 105E was small economy car built by Ford of England. It was Ford of England’s direct response to the energy crisis brought on the by the closure of the Suez Canal in 1956. A thoroughly conventional economy sedan, the Anglia 105E rode on a 90.5-inch wheelbase and was powered by a 997 cc (61 cubic-inch) inline-four engine, which was good for 41 horsepower. Outwardly, it was clothed with a striking-looking body displaying American styling influences, including a downward-sloped nose, a reverse-angled rear window, and tail fins. Performance-wise, the Anglia 105E was claimed to be capable of a top speed of 75-77 miles per hour and gas mileage of up to 43 miles per gallon. The Anglia 105E was well-received by the British motoring public and went on to have a long and successful production run, with more than 1.1 million examples being built between 1959 and 1968.

Photograph of a light-blue and white Ford Anglia 105E similar to the one portrayed in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The car portrayed in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a light-blue and white Ford Anglia 105E. Enchanted by Ron Weasley’s father Arthur, the car was blessed with magical properties one can only dream of, including the ability to fly, to become invisible, and to run without ever running out of fuel. The Weasleys’ Anglia figured prominently in three key scenes of the movie. Early in the film, the car was used to rescue Harry Potter from the home of his Uncle Vernon Dursley. A short time later, Harry and Ron Weasley used it to travel to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where they crashed it into the Whomping Willow. In the latter stages of the movie, the Anglia rescued Harry and Ron from Aragog and his family in the Forbidden Forest.

At least 15 Ford Anglia 105E’s were used in the production of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 14 cars were destroyed in the shooting of the scene in which Harry and Ron crashed into the Whomping Willow. One car, a 1966 model, is known to have survived production of the movie and is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England.

Sources

The Completely New Anglia, The World’s Most Exciting Light Car: Ford (GB): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Anglia, 1947-1959, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Covello, Mike, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, 1946-2002; Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 2002, p. 321-324.

Ford Anglia 105E Owner’s Club

The National Motor Museum

The World’s Most Exciting Light Car: Ford (GB): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Anglia, 1960-1966, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

The World’s most exciting light car, The Completely New Anglia: Ford (GB): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Anglia, 1947-1959, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference Spring Meeting Recap

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference Spring Meeting, which was held in Erie, Pennsylvania from April 25-27. At this professional conference, I had the privilege of participating in the panel session “Advancing the Front Line: Innovative Outreach,” which focused on innovative outreach methods used by archival institutions to promote their collections to the general public. The session was chaired by Andrew Cassidy-Amstutz of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and featured a panel consisting of three archivists from three different institutions in the Middle Atlantic region: myself, Rachel Jirka of The Society of Cincinnati in Washington, D.C., and Sierra Green of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

As a member of the panel, I gave the presentation “The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection: 3 Years and 3 Types of Research.” In my presentation, I discussed Hagley’s innovative long-term outreach program for promoting Vinson Collection which employs three types of outreach methods: on-site, off-site, and online. I identified and described the actual outreach methods we use on the project and discussed the advantages and disadvantages each of them posed. I also analyzed the overall success of the outreach program. In addition to discussing the outreach program, I also showed images of items preserved in the Vinson Collections and invited my colleagues to visit the Vinson Collection Blog and the Vinson Collection Digital Online Archive.

My colleagues on the session panel gave fascinating presentations on the innovative outreach being undertaken by their respective institutions to promote their collection holdings. Rachel Jirka discussed The Society of Cincinnati’s Master Teachers Seminar, which instructs teachers on the use of primary materials preserved in the society’s archives holdings. Sierra Green gave a presentation on the John Heinz History Center’s digital repository for teachers, which it uses to promote its archival holdings regarding the history of Western Pennsylvania. Both of these institutions have wonderful archival holdings and I strongly encourage blog readers to visit their web sites.

I would like to thank my colleagues at MARAC for kindly attending “Advancing the Front Line: Innovative Outreach.”

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.