A rare, record-breaking 1954 Dodge Firearrow III Sport Concept by Ghia and a one-of-a-kind 1950 Saturn ‘Bob Hope Special’ will take center stage at RM’s prestigious Automobiles of Arizona event, January 16th in Phoenix, Arizona.
Each is a unique example of automotive styling from the 1950s, and the Arizona event marks the first time these particular one-off cars have come to auction.
The 1954 Dodge Firearrow III Sport Concept was the Chrysler Corporation’s answer to the sports cars that were known to be on the drawing board for Ford Thunderbird and the already released design of the 1953 Corvette. The third in a series of four unique Firearrow concept cars made, it has been said that this concept car had the skillful blending of the best ideas from Europe and the American design studios of Virgil Exner, and brought an entirely new kind of beauty with a look of poised power.
Introduced at the 1954 Detroit Automobile Show, the Firearrow III was the company’s main attraction at all the major auto shows that year. Unlike other concepts, this example was built to ‘show and go’ thanks to its superb engineering, detailed design and of course the legendary Hemi engine. Built as a fully operational show car, details of the car are picture perfect –windows roll up and down, the car sets on 15" chrome-plated wire wheels, and the quadruple exhaust pipes on the rear fenders and in working condition as opposed to being merely decoration.
Adding to its provenance, the Firearrow III is the only 1950s concept car to break a major speed record. With its Italian curves and original factory installed and modified 245hp Dodge Red Ram Hemi engine under the hood, the car was as fast as it looked and entered history books in 1954 when famous racer and aviatrix, Betty Skelton hit a Closed-Course USAC record of 143.44 mph at the dedication of Chrysler’s new Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan.
The car was purchased by its current owner after being discovered in a suburb of Paris, France in 1988. It was restored to show condition by famed classic car restorer, Fran Roxas in the early 1990s and has since been shown at almost every major automotive museum in the United States, including the Cleveland Auto and Aviation Museum, the Gilmore Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Its sale in Arizona marks the first time the car has been offered in over 20 years.
Also set to appeal to those with an affinity for the rare and unusual – although differing to Chrysler’s idea cars in that it was built without the backing of a corporation or sponsor – is the 1950 Saturn, also affectionately known as the ‘Bob Hope Special’. A one-off early sports custom built at a reported cost of $12,000 by father and son team, Lloyd, Don and Bob Templeton, this extraordinary example became the most famous and most published custom-bodied car in the United States between 1950 and 1953.
Built on a modified Mercury chassis, this unique custom features completely handmade steel coachwork, three-speed transmission, two-speed Columbia rear end and a full race Mercury flathead engine. With a 7 1/2 foot long front hood and a dashboard resembling an airplane cockpit with 32 different instruments and controls, the car’s unique styling contributions came from a variety of different marques.
The 1950 Saturn ‘Bob Hope Special’, like the Firearrow III, went on to be a feature attraction at various shows around the country, drawing intrigue and admiring glances from passers-by. In 1954, the car was awarded the coveted ‘People’s Choice’ award at the Motor World Fair in Miami, having received more votes than all other entries combined. Lore indicates that it was on the auto show circuit that this unique example caught the attention of one of America’s most popular entertainers, Bob Hope. Reportedly there was discussion about using the car in one of Hope’s Hollywood movies, which subsequently saw it sent to California under the famous comedian’s care.
Unfortunately the movie didn’t pan out, however Hope fell in love with the car and was often seen driving the Saturn around Hollywood over the next year. Hope’s close association with the car led to the moniker. The car’s sale in Arizona will be accompanied by the original Templeton sketch as well as various copies of original articles and period magazines featuring the car, including pictures of Bob Hope with the car.
These two unique motor cars will join over 120 exceptional vintage automobiles at RM’s prestigious Automobiles of Arizona auction event, January 16th at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. An auction preview will be held January 15th from 9am to 5pm, followed by the auction on January 16th from 11am. Admission to the auction is by catalog only, which admits both the catalog holder and a guest. The full-color collectable catalog is available for $100 U.S. (plus shipping), by calling (800)-211-4371 or visiting www.rmauctions.com.