As the U.S. automobile industry went through a phase of significant change in the 1960s, a stylish, high-performance car stole the limelight. The same car attracted attention again when it popped up in civil-war-struck Lebanon more than a decade later.
Around the late ’40s, while other automakers were rolling out innovative designs and appealing models, Chrysler, a Detroit, Michigan-based car manufacturer, was placing more importance on performance and engineering.
A Sharp Turn
However, surrounded by flashy, rocket-like designs and colorful, muscular bodies, Chrysler’s Plymouth cars were inevitably falling behind.
It became clear to Virgil Exner, Chrysler’s design chief at the time, that the Plymouth line needed to catch up, and so the streamline car designs started to replace the more boxy ones that had dominated Plymouth cars.
The radical change that overtook the Plymouth line eventually culminated in one of the most recognizable and unique concept cars every built by Chrysler: The 1960 Plymouth XNR.
However, despite its unique, asymmetrical look and impressive power, the 2-seater roadster never made it to production, as it was deemed too radical and too expensive to produce.
Instead, after completing the auto show circuit in the U.S., the model was shipped back to where it was built in Italy, before being sold to a Swiss businessman who, in turn, sold it to none other than Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the last Shah of Iran.
After being sold again to a car dealer in Kuwait, the Plymouth XNR finally landed and settled in Beirut in the early 1970s, where a Lebanese man kept it stored in an underground garage.
In 1975, the Lebanese Civil War erupted, and a couple of years later, a teenager named Karim Edde began to collect cars in the midst of the destruction.
In the ’80s, Edde was paying teenagers to search Beirut‘s underground garages for remarkable cars, particularly Ferraris.
One day, the young search team returned to Edde to tell him excitedly about a “weird” car they had found in a garage near his house, Edde once told Motor Trend.
He said he immediately recognized the XNR and bought it, before proceeding to move it from one shelter to another throughout the war, in order to preserve it from the chaos.
After the war ended in 1990, Edde began a long search for highly-skilled restorers to work on the car. He eventually found RM Restorations in Canada and sent them the XNR in 2008.
Work on the car finished in 2011, and it was sold for almost $1 million ($935,000 to be exact) at the RM’s Monetary auction in August 2012.
More recently, Mark Towle and his Gotham Garage team created an exact replica of the XNR that was showcased in an episode of the Netflix show, Car Masters: Rust To Riches. Today, the replica sits in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.