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One-of-a-Kind Chrysler “Dream Machine” Has Dramatic History

Chrysler XNRWhen the 1960 Plymouth XNR sold for just short of $1 million in Monterey, Calif., on August 18, it was just one more chapter in this one-of-a-kind concept car’s amazing history. From Italy to Michigan to Iran to Beirut to Canada and finally back to the USA, the XNR has literally been to hell and back. But throughout its travels, it never lost any of the Jet Age panache that makes it one of the most memorable concept cars to ever roll out of Detroit.

Here are some highlights from the XNR’s 50-year saga:

  • The Plymouth XNR was designed by legendary auto visionary Virgil Exner, whose use of fins helped distinguish many car models from the late Eisenhower era.
  • The design was based on Jaguar Indy cars from the 1950s. It featured a radical asymmetric design with a large vertical fin directly behind the driver that gave it the distinctive look of a sci-fi fighter plane.
  • The car’s front and rear bumpers were integrated into the main chassis. The back-end’s styling only accentuated the car’s asymmetrical profile.
  • The interior was finished in black leather and aluminum.
  • The permanent windshield was only large enough to protect the driver. In fact, the car was designed as a single-person vehicle. Although it could accommodate two, the passenger seat was usually covered with a removable metal tonneau (cover). The passenger’s seat was lower than the driver’s. The passenger’s windshield was removable.
  • The car’s power plant was a Valiant 225 slant-six engine, chosen for both its power and an asymmetrical design that mirrored the car’s own. Updated to NASCAR specs, the engine could reach 9,000 rpm and achieve speeds of up to 150 mph.
  • Although Chrysler’s marketing saw little demand for a one-seater racing car, the company nonetheless ordered a working prototype built for promotional purposes.
  • The one and only XNR was built by Italy’s Carrozzeria Ghia coachbuilders on a Valiant frame.
  • The XNR debuted at American auto shows in 1960s where it was dubbed a “Dream Machine.”
  • After extensive testing by Chrysler engineers, who found the car delivered impressive performance, the fiery red XNR was sold to car-crazy Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who also happened to be the Shah of Iran.
  • Before he was deposed in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the shah sold the XNR to a Kuwati businessman.
  • From Kuwait, the car made its way to Lebanon, where it found itself in the midst of the mid-1980s Lebanese Civil War. There it was discovered by classic-car enthusiast Karim Edde, who purchased the XNR moved it to an underground garage.
  • As the fighting outside intensified, Edde was forced to move the car several times to keep it safe.
  • In 2008, Edde took the XNR to Canada where it was painstakingly restored to its original glory by RM Restorations of Blenheim, Ontario. Many of the parts, such as the hubcaps, had to be fabricated by hand.
  • Now fully restored, the XNR went on the auction block in Monterey, Calif., on Aug. 18. It sold for $935,000 to an unnamed buyer.

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