Looking every bit like a vehicle some mad 1950s scientist may have built to travel in time, the Chrysler Ghia Streamline X “Gilda” is is a one-off, turbine-powered concept car first exhibited at the Turin Auto Show in 1955. Now, after many years of storage at the Henry Ford Museum and having undergone restoration to original specifications, this fully operational, outrageous looking machine is set for auction on January 16 at the Scottsdale collector car event.
The epitome of 1950s aerodynamic styling that sought to emulate the jet fighters of the day, the Streamline X Gilda is from the pen of fabled Italian designer Giovanni Savonuzzi, and was commissioned by Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner. Ostensibly designed to provide a rolling test-bed for ascertaining the influence of design elements on real-world crosswind resistance and improving rear-end grip, the standout innovation was the vehicle’s proposed turbine powerhouse.
With bodywork superbly crafted in aluminum by Carrozzeria Ghia, the Gilda is an elegantly constructed machine, with a square tube chassis, a separate aluminum passenger compartment floor, and a flat underbody pan for supposedly better airflow under the vehicle. The interior is spartan, with rows of gauges stretching across the dash, two close-set seats, and a bare minimum of controls.
Though not originally fitted with its landmark turbine engine when it was first completed, the Gilda traveled the show circuit for many years under the motivation of a lowly 4-cylinder Chrysler engine, and must have been quite a disappointment to those who viewed that beautiful body. However, the current owner (a Pebble Beach judge in the Preservation Class), has installed a compact, 70 horsepower (52 kW) single-stage AiResearch turbine into the space the lowly four-pot once sat, and realized the completion of an automotive dream started more than 60 years ago.
According to the present owner, modeling conducted on a computer and in wind-tunnel tests show that the turbine should be able to take the car up to a top speed of around 160 mph (257 km/h). Not perhaps as fast as say, the Madmax Race Team turbine-powered motorcycle, but as the Gilda still wears its original CEAT cross-ply tires and is fitted with other brake and suspension parts faithful to the period, one can imagine that 160 mph would be more than rapid enough.
As for the vehicle’s unusual name, “Gilda”, it seems that the designers at Ghia SPA were quite taken with the American actress Rita Hayworth and, in particular, her role in the 1946 film noir classic “Gilda.” Portraying a dangerous and desirable character whose sleek lines earned her the epithet, “La Vedette Atomique” (“the Atomic Starlet”), it seemed fitting that a suitably stylish jet-turbine-powered car concept be named in homage to her iconic movie role.
The Chrysler Ghia Streamline X Gilda will be sold at auction on the January 16 during the 46th Annual Barret-Jackson Scottsdale Automobile Event running from January 14 – 22 in Scottsdale, Arizona.