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08/07/2010 1023

Dodge [1] - Firebomb - Firearrow IV

The  Ghia-built Dodge  Firearrow roadster  first appeared  as a two-seat  mockup  that  rode atop  a '54  Dodge chassis.  Bright red and  circumscribed  by  a  dramatic gray  molding  that  culminated up front in a  handsome, blade-like  bumper split  by a  single (and rather phallic)  pod, Firearrow  I carried  dual headlamps  and full wheel  covers.  Exposed  exhaust pipes,  two per  side, rode  low on the car's flanks. Inside, the seats were well-padded  yellow leather adorned   with   narrow  maroon piping.  A   wood-rimmed  steering wheel brought an additional touch of Italian style.

Firearrow II, a modified version of the original  car, retained the  mockup's  two-place  seating  and  striking   frameless wind-shield  when it  appeared in  1954. 

Riding  on a  119-inch wheelbase and  painted  a  subdued yellow,  Firearrow II  sported chrome-plated wire wheels instead of  the previous  full-wheel discs.  The body molding  was  no  longer  a  wraparound  affair,  but  ended  at the headlamps  and  taillights.  In  front,  the  dual   headlights  had become  single  units,  and  the original's  gracious-looking split-bumper  design  was  replaced  by  a  more aggressive  "mouth" horizontally  bisected  by  an   uninterrupted  bumper.   Five  vertical design elements on the bumper gave the grille a toothy look.

Later  in 1954,  the two-seat  Firearrow Sport  Coupe appeared. As with the earlier roadster,  the metallic  blue coupe  was essextially  a  '54  Dodge. Dual headlights returned,  and now  flanked a concave  grille  cut  with narrow  verticals. Crash  protection front and   rear  was   provided  by   modest  bumperettes.   A  wraparound backlight  gave  the Sport  Coupe a  particularly rakish  aspect. And the car went as good as it looked (with a modified engine,  that is): Driving  at Chrysler's  Chelsea,   Michigan,  proving   grounds  in 1954, racer/flier Betty  Skelton set  a women's  closed-course record at an impressive 143.4 mph.                          

The last of Virgil Exner's Firearrow  series, the  Firearrow convertible, arrived late in 1954. Despite being the series' first four-seater, it shared many styling cues  with the Sport Coupe.  The concave  grille  returned,  though  it  now  carried  a  grid  treatment instead  of  the  coupe's  slim verticals.  As for  the convertible's leather interior -- well, as it was  a diamond  pattern done  in hard-to-ignore  black  and  white,  it was  definitely an  acquired taste. Additional sizzle was provided by the car's bright red body.    

Happily,   Exner's   Firearrow  series   tickled  the   fancy  of wealthy  car  enthusiast  Eugene  Casaroll,  who   purchased  production rights to the  design and teamed with  engineer Paul  Farago to create a practical road car. The result was  the 1956-58  Dual-Ghia -- proof that  concept cars  given cavalier  treatment by  the companies that  commission  them   can  sometimes   be  taken   very  seriously indeed by others.





Virgil Exner

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