For all of its dream car aesthetics, the 1960 Plymouth XNR very nearly became a production reality. That it didn’t likely proved a huge disappointment to the folks at Ghia, who, rather than lament the possible production contract, decided to take matters into their own hands with the Asimmetrica, an aptly named one-off that will cross the block later this summer.
Based on the Valiant, the XNR was, according to Peter Grist’s “Virgil Exner: Visioneer,” the ultimate development of the two-seater Chrysler Falcon concept cars of the 1950s. However, rather than a big honkin’ Hemi-powered cruiser, the slant six-powered XNR had more of a lithe European sports car feel with a little bit of offset Indy roadster thrown in for good measure.
Of course, all that leaning to one side or another influenced Exner’s polarizing design for the XNR: scoop and hood bulge leading up to the driver, hard tonneau to cover the almost-an-afterthought passenger seat, and giant fin tailing the driver. Some of it worked while some of it seemed straight from outer space, but Ghia’s execution of the design led Chrysler Product Planning to draft production plans for the XNR for 1962.
Grist blamed the scuttling of those plans on “corporate shenanigans going on at the time.” In the midst of those shenanigans, Ghia’s craftsmen looked to the wooden buck they created for the XNR and decided to press it into service once again for its Asimmetrica.
Not without some alterations, however. The hood bulge stayed, but the big fin shrank down to a mere suggestion of itself, affording some room for a little bit of space behind the bucket seats and a convertible top. Other lines here and there got tweaked: The XNR’s flying front fenders got a softer transition into the doors, and the rears sloped down toward a lower rear bumper. Most noticeably, the inner headlamps of the XNR moved out of the grille and into pods under the wing of each front fender while a more production-ready upright windshield replaced the XNR’s minimal windscreen.
As with the XNR, Ghia chose to underpin the Asimmetrica with a Valiant chassis. While most references to the Asimmetrica list it as a 1961 due to its debut at the Turin Motor Show in October 1961, the chassis number (1102224086) refers to a Hamtramck-built 1960 Valiant V100 four-door sedan powered by the base 101hp one-barrel 170-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine.
A hardtop version with actual back seats called the St. Regis accompanied the Asimmetrica on the stand at Turin and on the show circuit. According to Grist, Ghia officials wanted to go into limited production with the Asimmetrica/St. Regis combination but found no backing for the venture, and while some reports claim that Ghia went ahead and built as many as 25 Asimmetricas, others list it as a one-off.
As some point after Ghia finished showing the Asimmetrica, it wound up in the hands of Belgian author Georges Simenon, who penned the crime novels featuring detective Jules Maigret. Maigret, along with literally hundreds of pot-boilers, made Simenon a lot of money and, according to a New Yorker profile of the writer, “very early on, Simenon learned to spend what he earned. He had fabulous houses—he once rented a sixteenth-century château—and fancy cars to park in front of them.” Originally finished in red, historic photos also show it in black and in white with red accents.
More recently, it has undergone a full restoration ahead of its no-reserve consignment with RM Sotheby’s for the auction house’s upcoming Monterey sale. No pre-auction estimate has yet been released. Joining it at that sale will be another Ghia-bodied Chrysler, a 1955 Chrysler ST Special, one of four built.
RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction will take place August 24 to 25 at the Monterey Conference Center. For more information, visit RMSothebys.com.