The Ghia-built 1953 and 1954 Dodge Firearrow concept cars first appeared as a two-seat mockup that rode atop a 1954 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 windshield 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 essentially a 1954 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 1956-1958 Dual-Ghia -- proof that concept cars given cavalier treatment by the companies that commission them can sometimes be taken very seriously indeed by others.
Go to the next page to read about the 1954 DeSoto Adventurer.