In this edition of Chrysler Italianate Diversions we discover that Dual Motors created the worlds longest production line – from Detroit to Milan and back to Detroit – at least 3 decades before the infamous Cadillac Allante, and without Jumbo Jets! This is a story I wrote about in Automotive Traveler, but now its time to catch up on the Ghia L6.4.
Like the earlier Dual-Ghia, the follow-up, the Ghia L6.4, was the brainchild of Eugene Casaroll and was largely based on the series of Chrysler fifties concept cars produced in conjunction with Ghia for which he acquired the production rights. Luxurious and extravagant, it had the longest production line in the world–from Detroit to Milan and back–as it utilized an American drivetrain and Italian coachwork. As the health of Casaroll, the Dual-Ghia’s originator, began to fail, he concentrated more and more on his shipping business, so Dual Motors Chief Engineer Paul Farago teamed up with Ghia to produce the second-generation Dual-Ghia.
The car continued to use a Chrysler V8 engine but the construction was almost entirely conducted in Italy, making this version more of an import than its predecessor. Farago designed a new Chrysler-based chassis with front torsion bars. Power came from a Chrysler 383-cubic-inch, 335-horsepower V8, now driving through Chrysler’s robust TorqueFlite three-speed automatic. Fewer off-the-shelf parts were used, and with the high-quality materials employed, the price skyrocketed to an astronomical $13,500. Unlike the first generation Dual-Ghia, the L6.4 was exclusively a coupe (technically it’s a Ghia L6.4, as only the prototype wore a Dual-Ghia badge). The new car was launched at the Paris auto show as the Dual-Ghia, but soon became the Ghia L6.4 (for its displacement). Unlike the Dual-Ghia, it led the styling parade for Chrysler rather than following it. Casaroll sold the rights to Ghia, but Dual-Motors continued to source Chrysler parts for Ghia and distribute the cars in the U.S.
The L6.4 displays future Mopar styling cues such as the “fishbowl” back window and general door glass profile of the first-generation Barracuda, scalloped taillights akin to the 1961 Dodge, and upper rear quarter panel overhang from the 1961 Plymouth, though the frontal appearance was quite similar to that of the earlier Dual-Ghia. The L6.4 was also a little more congruent as far as overall execution was concerned. Other than the powertrain and the 1960 Chrysler convertible windshield, it used far fewer parts from Mopar. Several of the components were premium upgrades; these included a Nardi wood steering wheel instead of a ’56 Chrysler wheel and Jaeger gauges instead of ’56 Dodge bits. It had gained weight, but the extra horsepower kept performance at about the same level.
The Ghia L6.4 was expensive. By 1963, the cost climbed to over $15,000–twice as costly as its predecessor–so its appeal was limited to the wealthy. It was faster but softer riding, with handling not as taut as that of the earlier cars; however, its svelte good looks made up for a lot, and everybody who was anybody wanted one. It had every imaginable amenity, including fitted luggage and luxurious styling, and the public response to the largely hand-built L6.4 was encouraging. Again, however, incredibly high overhead costs plagued the project, and Casaroll called it quits. Only 25 of the Ghia L6.4s were built before production ceased in 1963.
Once again, we have an exquisite Italian/American combination with stunning Italian design married to a tried-and-true American engine and transmission. Even though it was breathtaking, the costs associated with producing this stunning piece of rolling art doomed the car to obscurity. The lessons taught by this exercise were never truly learned, as they would be repeated a number of times during the 60’s, ’70’s, and the 80’s by Chrysler as well as others. One can only hope that future lessons won’t end in the type of failure this one did.