Si vous vous intéressez à l’automobile américaine, vous connaissez sans doute Virgil Exner, designer en chef chez Chrysler entre 1957 et 1962. C’est Exner qui fait « pousser des ailes » aux modèles Chrysler à la fin des années 50, un style qui sera rapidement copié par les autres constructeurs. Mais Exner rêve d’une voiture sport pure et dure et jette sur papier le concept d’un biplace futuriste qui n’est construit qu’à un seul exemplaire et qui disparut il y a plusieurs décennies pour réapparaître à la surprise de tous au printemps dernier. L’auteur de cette résurrection : Karim Eddé, homme d’affaires libanais établi en France. Nous l’avons rencontré en mars dernier au Concours d’élégance d’Amelia Island où la Plymouth fraîchement sortie de la restauration a causé toute une surprise.
I carefully hid it in Beirut for 23 years, throughout the civil war. When I decided to undertake restoration, I have long sought the best workshop to perform such a delicate task. I finally entrusted the project to RM Auto Restoration *, in Canada, whose competence and seriousness are undisputed and who are committed to keeping the secret. The restoration that lasted two years has just been completed and it is the first time that the car is presented in public. She returns home after 50 years, “explains Mr. Edde, moved by the enthusiasm that arouses this exceptional find.
Asymmetric Mounted on the chassis of the compact Plymouth Valiant, this asymmetrically shaped two-seater is distinguished by its vertical spoiler that originates behind the head of the “pilot”, an extension of the bulging bulge on the hood that houses an air intake to its front end. In front of the cockpit, a small “Plexiglas” windshield acts as a windshield. To the right of the pilot is a place for the prospective passenger – or co-pilot. On both sides of the long hood are born two “fins” side very unique style which are doubled behind two elegant curved wings. The effect is quite surprising and you can spend very long minutes admiring this remarkable car sculpture.
Switzerland, Iran, Lebanon But how did this car end up in Lebanon, during the civil war? After the disavowal of Exner, who was fired by Chrysler in 1962, the ill-favored orphaned Plymouth, coached in Italy by Ghia, was sold to the “owner of a Swiss butcher shop” in Geneva. She later moved to the Shah collection in Iran and is pictured in a photo taken in Kuwait in the May 1969 issue of National Geographic. At the wheel of the exclusive American is a certain Kuwaiti car dealer Anwar al-Moullah. In 1974, the XNR finally arrives in Lebanon and it is in 1988 that Karim Edde takes possession of it and hides it carefully in an underground garage. You know the rest. Another detail to finish: the initials XNR. Say it quickly and it gives Exner. It is also the only car “signed” by the famous designer. A unique copy that we thought was lost forever and which is coming back to us via Geneva, Tehran and Beirut. Admit that we do not do better! * RM, located in Blenheim, Ontario, has RM Auctions, RM Classic Cars and RM Auto Restoration.