Four successive Dodge Firearrows with hand-crafted coachwork by Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin, Italy were followed by the Dodge Firearrow Concept, an immediate predecessor to the Dual-Ghia.
Virgil Exner was an automotive designer who worked for numerous American companies including General Motors, Studebaker, and Chrysler. Among his achievements was the Forward Look designs at Chrysler during the mid-1950s which inspired a design revolution within the industry. His approach to styling championed the use of functional form rather than, what he described as, ‘old-fashioned gingerbread’ adornments and chrome. His designs were brought to life with help from across the Atlantic, including Carrozzeria Ghia who retained the knowledge and skill needed to bring them to reality. Despite the usual problems and delays caused by the distance, the Chrysler Corporation accountants appreciated that the U.S. dollar went very far in an Italy recovering from war.
Ghia had worked with various Chrysler brands before the creation of the first Dodge Firearrow, but unlike prior creations, the styling for the Firearrow was created from within Ghia. It was debuted in 1953 wearing a bright red exterior but it was clearly a showpiece, devoid of a powertrain.
The first Firearrow Concept was soon followed by the Firearrow II, and just like the first, it was a sleek two-seat roadster with a frameless windshield and dramatic fins. It was built atop a Dodge chassis with a 119-inch wheelbase and this time it was powered by a 241 cubic-inch, ‘Red Ram’ Hemi V8 engine offering 150 horsepower. Numerous differences existed between both concepts, including the second example having two round, wide-spaced headlamps, round taillights, a new toothed grille treatment, chromed wire wheels, and a light yellow exterior.
Two additional cars, a coupe and another roadster, followed, and both were optional. The final concept, the Firearrow IV, was essentially a pre-production prototype complete with a folding convertible top and exterior door handles. The Firearrow IV would remain a concept, partially due to the costs associated with shipping chassis to Italy for the fitment of labor-intensive bodywork.
As the project was coming to a close, a man named Eugene ‘Gene’ Casaroll, owner of a Detroit-based new car-shipping company, proprietor of specialty vehicle manufacturer Dual-Motors, and an Indianapolis 500 car sponsor, acquired the rights to the Firearrow IV design. Under his care, the project began a new chapter.
The Firearrow Concepts had defined a styling theme and the 115-inch wheelbase platform with Hemi V8 power. They were intended as concepts and show pieces, while production-ready designs required the fitment of conventional bumpers and various other minor refinements to ensure its road-worthy status. Casaroll worked with Ghia to refine the Firearrow designs, and the result of their work made its debut in 1955 at the Geneva Motor Show. The United States debut took place on June 28th at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club north of Detroit, Michigan.
The Ghia/Casaroll concept was called the Firebomb and only one example was created. It had seating for four adult passengers, and had a folding top with a glass back window, and glass side windows.
The Dual-Ghia production vehicles that followed were produced between 1956 and 1958 with approximately 117 (as few as 104) examples built during that time. Due to the transcontinental nature of the car’s assembly process, and the labor-intensive process of building the car, prices were astronomical. Their exclusivity and attractive designs made them popular with the elite in society, and they became a status symbol, particularly with the Hollywood set, with owners that included Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin.
The process involved sending a Dodge frame and drivetrain to Italy, where the bodywork and interior were fabricated by Ghia. Upon completion, the partially completed car was sent back to the U.S. where Dual-Motors completed the build process. Most were built with the 315 cubic-inch Dodge Hemispherical-head short-stroke V8 engine, while some of the 1957s received a Dodge D-500 361 cubic-inch dual quad carburetor.