The rolling hills of Iola, Wis., will become an automotive field of dreams when thousands of show cars and vendors pour into the town for the 36th annual Iola Old Car Show, to be held July 10-13. Instead of an appearance of long-gone baseball players and actor Kevin Costner, an impressive display of show cars is being assembled for the event, particularly in the theme area, which will feature convertibles and rumble seat-equipped vehicles. However, taking center stage during this grand automotive vision will be famous concept car collector Joe Bortz’ 1954 Dodge Firearrow coupe dream car.
The Virgil Exner-designed Firearrow coupe concept car was built by Ghia to Chrysler’s European-influenced design on the standard 119-inch Dodge wheelbase. Built as a follow-up to two Firearrow I roadster concept cars built earlier in 1954, the Firearrow coupe was fitted with the 150-hp V-8 Red Ram Hemi engine with a PowerFlite automatic transmission from the production line.
The rarely seen 1954 Dodge Firearrow coupe concept car will be displayed by Joe Bortz at the Iola Old Car Show.
The one-of-a-kind two-seater used bucket seats with an aft luggage compartment and an internally located gas filler cap in the compartment. Chrysler Corp. debuted this racy coupe at the 1954 Detroit Automobile Show. In September 1954, world-famous stunt pilot and driver Betty Skelton set a women’s closed-course world speed record with the Firearrow coupe upon the opening of the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Mich., to prove the car was as racy as it looked.
Bortz learned of the survival of this car in 1988 when GM designer Dave Holls pointed to a photo of the car in a European automobile magazine. Its French owner had written to the magazine with questions about the heritage of the vehicle, but Holls and Bortz knew exactly what it was. Unable to find a number for the owner, Bortz wrote the Frenchman with only a name, city and country, but it was enough information for the letter to land in the owner’s hands. Bortz worked out a deal and brought the car to the United States where it was given a complete restoration.
Visitors will be able to view the Firearrow in a tent adjacent to the Iola Old Car Show’s theme exhibit area and the Old Cars Weekly Ultimate Garage Giveaway display and Krause Place book tent near the show’s famous tower. J.J. Best Banc & Co. and Continental Western Insurance are sponsoring the car’s appearance at IOLA ’08 on July 12.
The Firearrow will join Kaiser Darrins, Cadillac Eldorados, Packards, Corvettes, and many other dream-worthy vehicles for one of the world’s greatest car shows this July. Undoubtedly, many attendees will come asking, “Is this Heaven?” The answer, of course, is, “It’s Iola.”