Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:00

Petersen Automotive Museum Invited to Display Rare Cars at Arizona Concours

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, CA accepted an invitation from the Arizona Concours d’Elegance to display two classics from its collection. Held on the lawn at the Arizona Biltmore Resort on January 11, the second-ever Arizona Concours is poised to attract several rare cars and influential collectors.

This year’s event—during the Phoenix/Scottsdale Classic Car Week — celebrates the 100th anniversary of Carrozzeria Ghia, the famed Italian coachbuilding company. Arizona Concours organizers invited two of The Petersen’s rare Ghia-bodied cars: a 1953 Cadillac and a 1954 Plymouth.

The Cadillac is a Series 62 Coupe concept. It was originally purchased by Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan, the world’s wealthiest man at the time, as a gift for his wife, actress Rita Hayworth. This striking coupe was one of only two built, both of which were unveiled at the 1953 Paris Auto Salon. Although Khan and Hayworth divorced a few months after the Cadillac was delivered, the car itself represents a perfect marriage of sweeping, dramatic Italian style and Detroit engineering. Originally finished in white, the car has since been repainted in a deep burgundy, a shade that perfectly accents Ghia’s beautiful bodywork.

The Petersen’s 1954 Plymouth Explorer concept with hand-formed Ghia coachwork was part of Virgil Exner’s grand scheme to reinvigorate Chrysler’s post-war image. Featured in the May 1954 issue of Motor Trend, the Explorer caused quite a stir with its bold body styling and delicate roofline. It was built on a 114-inch-wheelbase Plymouth chassis and stood a mere 54 inches tall, cutting quite a rakish figure—particularly when compared to the other vehicles of the era. The metallic green paint and white side spears were two overt attempts to redefine Plymouth’s stodgy image at the time. The Explorer concept was powered by a stock 230-cubic inch, 103-horsepower six-cylinder engine.

Both of these vehicles provide snapshots of one of the world’s great coachbuilders, Carrozzeria Ghia, and are among the crown jewels in the Petersen Automotive Museum’s collection. Although The Petersen is currently undergoing a multi-month renovation, many of its cars remain publicly accessible. Participation in the Arizona Concours is the latest example; Petersen Automotive Museum cars are also currently on display at the Ronald Regan Presidential Library in the “Amazing Automobiles” exhibit.

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