The little-known Plymouth XX-500 concept led to big things with Chrysler, Ghia
The Plymouth Ghia XX-500 is a little-known footnote in automotive history, but it established a relationship that resulted in some interesting 1950s and ’60s concept collaborations between the American carmaker and the Italian coachbuilder.
On March 14, 1951—71 years ago today—the Ghia XX-500 was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. Interestingly, the car could have been the Pininfarina XX-500. Chrysler President K.T. Keller had been searching for a more economical way to construct prototype and experimental vehicles, and Italy’s prolific coachbuilders provided the answer. But which one? In 1950, Chrysler commissioned XX-500 prototype designs from Turin-based Carrozzeria Ghia and Pininfarina before ultimately going with Ghia’s version.
Starting with a Plymouth P20 chassis (118.5-inch wheelbase), Ghia fashioned a stylish four-door, six-window sedan that Chrysler described as a “custom-built six-passenger car for styling research purposes … The grille, exposed wheels, and smooth body lines are a reflection of European influence.” The XX-500 was powered by a stock 97-horsepower Mopar six-cylinder engine, mated to a stock driveline.
Virgil Exner wasn’t involved in the initial stages of the Ghia partnership, but having just been appointed chief of Chrysler’s new Advanced Styling Studio, it didn’t take long before he was immersed in it. Exner formed bonds with designer Gigi Segre, in particular, Ghia manager Felice Mario Boano, and Detroit technical consultant and Italian-English translator Paul Farago, which only solidified the companies’ working relationship.
The Chrysler-Ghia alliance resulted in some memorable designs, including Exner’s own pet project, the 1951 Chrysler K-310 two-seat sports coupe and the later C-200 convertible, as well as the 1952 Chrysler d’Elegance, which reportedly served as the inspiration for the Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia. Other notable Chrysler-Ghia concept cars included the 1954 Dodge Firearrow, ’54 DeSoto Adventurer, 1955 Chrysler ST Special, and ’55 Chrysler Ghia Falcon. The culmination of the partnership was a 50-car pre-production run of Chrysler Turbine cars for public evaluation in 1963.
And it all began with a handshake and the XX-500 more than seven decades ago.