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In the Garage: 1957 Dual-Ghia convertible

The 1957 Dual-Ghia convertible owned by Stephen Siben.

The 1957 Dual-Ghia convertible owned by Stephen Siben. (Credit: Handout)

THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1957 Dual-Ghia convertible owned by Stephen Siben

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
If you hung with Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and other members of the “Rat Pack” in the late ‘50s, driving a Dual-Ghia was a sure way to let others know you were one of the “cool cats.” Just 117 of these cars -- 115 convertibles and two coupes -- were sold in 1957 and 1958, with many going to the Hollywood elite. “The Dual-Ghia was built on Dodge running gear,” says Siben. “The body was made by Ghia coachbuilders from Italy.”

A Dodge chassis was shipped overseas to the legendary Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, where it was modified and fitted with a hand-built body and interior. Then, it was back across the Atlantic for installation of a Dodge V-8 engine and automatic transmission before delivery to customers. Dual-Ghia historians say the cars had a sticker price of about $8,000 (about three times the cost of an average Chevrolet) and took 1,500 hours to build. Some enthusiasts claim that Dual Motors Corp. principal Eugene Cassarol would decide personally whether some prospective owners were worthy of his cars. Among the rejects was said to be actor/singer Dean Martin, who was eventually able to buy one and use it in the 1966 film, “The Silencers.”

HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
For over a decade

WHERE HE FOUND IT
It was advertised in a classic car enthusiast magazine by an owner in South Dakota. Just over 30 are said to exist today.

CONDITION
Siben says the Dual-Ghia was restored and is in No. 1 condition, which, according to collector car insurer Hagerty, means the vehicle is “restored to current maximum professional standards of quality in every area” or is a “perfect original with components operating or appearing as new.” Siben’s convertible was formerly owned by composer and orchestra leader David Rose, who also gained fame as the one-time husband of actress and singer Judy Garland and actress Martha Raye. While the Dual-Ghia’s styling was viewed as conservative in an era of growing tailfins, it certainly didn’t lack either speed or luxury. The standard powerplant was a 260- or 230-horsepower Dodge “D-500 Hemi” engine that was said to propel the car to 60 miles per hour in just over eight seconds.

TIPS FOR OWNERS
“Antique cars must be driven,” Siben advises.

VALUE
Siben says he has insured the convertible for $250,000. A similar Dual-Ghia sold for a record $495,000 last August at a Gooding & Co. auction in Monterey, California. That car had been treated to a $230,000 top-to-bottom restoration before the sale.

THE BOTTOM LINE
“The Dual-Ghia,” he says, “is a hybrid: Italian coachwork and dependable American power.” 

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