The 1957 Chrysler Diablo is Going on the Block.
On August 15th, RM Auctions will offer the 1957 Chrysler Diablo at it’s Sports & Classics of Monterey. The Diablo, produced by Chrysler during what is today affectionately known as the “Virgil Exner Era”, is an impressive, one-of-a-kind concept car, designed by influential American stylist, Virgil Exner and bodied by Italian coachbuilders Ghia. It represents one example of a series of American designed, Italian built concept cars from the 1950s, and a special partnership formed between Chrysler and Ghia to produce a line of innovative ‘idea cars’ in order to compete with the industry’s other major players. The Diablo started life as the 1956 Chrysler Dart, a featured concept for the 1957 US auto show circuit, before being slightly modified by Virgil Exner in an effort to achieve a more production look. Styling changes included fitting the car with a new windscreen and conventional soft-top convertible roof, shortening of the fins and painting Diablo red. The look was completed by numerous Diablo insignias on both the interior and exterior.
The Diablo was reportedly Chrysler’s star concept car of the year in 1957 and was showcased to the public at the 1958 Chicago Auto Show, before being returned to Ghia in Italy for their corporate promotion. The car eventually found its way back to the United States and has been under the careful care of its current owner for over 25 years.
The legendary Diablo has been a featured attraction at various museums over the years, including the Cleveland Auto and Aviation Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museum and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, as well as at such events as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and New York’s Louis Vuitton Classic.
Its offering at the upcoming RM Auctions’ Sports & Classics of Monterey on August 15th will mark the car’s auction debut – an exclusive ownership opportunity for dream car enthusiasts.
Can a concept car ever win Best of Show at Pebble Beach? That is a big question, but if there ever was a top of the line concept car, that could, the 1956/1957 Chrysler Ghia Dart/Diablo Hemi has to be the one. Chrysler took off the gloves for the 1956 show circuit, going after GM with one of the largest American concept cars ever made and undoubtedly one of the most impressive. The design of course was done by Virgil Exner, the head designer at Chrysler Corporation in the 1950’s and bodied by Ghia as were most of the Chrysler concept cars. This dream car was done on a 1956 Chrysler Imperial modified chassis with a modified Chrysler Hemi 392 displacement, 375 horsepower engine with 3 two-barrel carburetors, push button transmission, star wars dashboard, four bucket seats. Note: the door handles are built into the leading edge of the fins.
Many of the concept/dream cars/prototypes were used for two years. The first year would be modified for the second year rendition. This car was the Dart by Virgil Exner, Chrysler’s head designer in 1956 and the second edition being called the Diablo again by Ghia. In the Diablo form the car has many Diablo insignias on the trunk, under the hood and in the interior. The Diablo has four bucket seats. There are power windows, power brakes, power steering, high-intensity headlights, wrap around rear bumpers with the continuous stainless steel side molding. This car is even equipped with the original chrome C02 fire extinguisher with the Diablo emblem on it that was originally fitted in the trunk. Note: this car did not come with air conditioning originally and this was added on by a previous owner approximately 25 years ago and has not had the system charged up in the last fifteen years. The Diablo was one of the most expensive concept cars ever produced in the 1950’s.
This car has all the provenance and has been featured in many articles and was shown at Pebble Beach in the circle in front of the lodge in 1990 or 1991 on special invitation. The current condition is a high quality restoration done about 15 years ago. The car shows very well but for today’s Pebble Beach standards, the Best of Class and beyond would require detailing throughout. The odometer reading is believed to be actual mileage at 14,756 miles.
This car has been in the current collection for almost twenty years and during the 1970’s was part of the famous Paul Stern collection in Pennsylvania. Every top collector has their preference for one particular manufacturer which might be Bugatti, Delahaye, Duesenberg, etc. One thing for sure this Chrysler show car will stand tall next to any pre-war, post-war or 50’s or 60’s American prototype. Previously at the big Scottsdale auction in January, concept cars at this level have been selling from $3 to $3.5 Million. To avoid the wasting of time, bidding on this car has been opened at $1.8 million and those that wish to bid should use the phone number attached to ask any and all questions, make arrangements for an inspection if so desired and also to be qualified. If the car does not sell against the reserve (which will not be disclosed) the top three bidders will be contacted for another opportunity.
You could possibly spend another lifetime and never see a concept/prototype car of this provenance offered for public sale again. This is without a doubt, one of the most highly prized Chrysler Ghia concept cars ever produced and most likely the most desirable American concept car by a Detroit manufacturer between 1953 and 1963.
There has been a lot written about the 1956/1957 Dart/Diablo including the following articles:
Ride with the Devil, Mopar Action August 2006
Devilish Dream Car, High Performance, March 1992
Chrysler Diablo, Classic Auto Restorer December 1990
Not for Production, Special Interest Autos September/October 1975
The Diablo has been on display at various auto museums in the USA since 1985. The following is a list of some:
Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland
Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago
Peterson Museum in Los Angeles
Gilmore Museum near Kalamazoo, MI
Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, IN