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The Bobby Darin Dream Car (1960 DiDia 150)

STL 01 16 09 005I spotted Bobby Darin's startling 1960 DiDia 150 at The Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. It was just one of several surprises in the Earl C. Lindberg Automobile Center (no relation to Charles A. Lindbergh of the Spirit of St. Louis fame). We weren't sure what to expect, but we were greeted by a very nice couple that owned and were keeping watch over the place. They had every answer ready, and were rightfully proud of their compact but fascinating automotive collection.

I was startled when I saw the Darin car. It took me back to The Simpsons episode where Homer designed a car called ... The Homer. Stuck somewhere between a 1950s show car and the Batmobile, here sat something that Elvis and Liberace would have probably ran away from. Brash metallic red paint (originally 30 coats with real ground diamonds for sparkle), tail fins befitting a Boeing 747, and a glass cockpit that no air conditioning system could ever cool, the boldness of the design is totally unique.

The original owner of the car,Bobby Darin Bobby Darin (Walden Robert Cassotto), was born in The Bronx on May 14, 1936, and at age eight he heard a doctor tell his mother that he might not live past 16 due to heart damage caused by rheumatic fever. Darin went on to record such hits as "Splish Splash," "Dream Lover," and "Mack The Knife," which won him a Grammy in 1960.

Darin was nominated for an Academy Award in 1963 for his portrayal of a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D. His record company, TM Music/Trio, launched Wayne Newton and others. Darin was with Robert Kennedy in 1968 when he was killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Bobby went into seclusion for about a year after that event. In 1972, he had a TV variety show called The Bobby Darin Amusement Company that he hosted until his sudden death in 1973. Darin's death came after surgery to correct heart problems brought on by blood poisoning. He was 37.

Darin's car was built by Detroit native and clothing designer Andy DiDia; the car took seven years, from 1953 to 1960, to finish. Two engines are listed as powerplants; I assume the present 427 came later. Originally the car cost $153,647.29 to create; today it's worth $1.5 million. 

STL 01 16 09 010The car rides on a 125-inch wheelbase, about twice the length of the Smart Car's wheelbase. The car was so long, I had to tilt it in the crop box to try to get it to properly fit in the frame. Maybe the tilt gives the car somewhat of a "Batman"-esque feel, relative to the time period in which Darin drove the car to the Academy Awards. The car was also used in several movies.

The DiDia 150 is hand-fashioned from soft aluminum, has thermostatically controlled air conditioning, hidden headlights, tail lights that swivel as the car turns a corner, glass windows on hinges, and rust-colored seats, each with an ash tray, cigarette lighter, and radio speaker. No word on cup holders.

STL 01 16 09 001As best I can tell, the oversize levers on the dash control the heater, defrost, and air conditioning systems. It's also nice to see the flat-bottomed steering wheel, many years ahead of the time when VW GTIs and others made them almost commonplace.

In 1970, Darin donated the DiDia 150 to the Museum of Transportation. There is a special glass case beside the car with his photo, autograph, and other memorabilia. The car was restored by Manns Auto Body in Festus, Missouri, just previous to display.

STL 01 16 09 002The only other car in the Museum that literally made me gasp was their working Chrysler Turbine Car, the only running Turbine Car on public display. Jay Leno has offered to buy the Chrysler, but he hasn't been able to close the deal. The owners start it every two weeks, but my hints that I'd love to hear the car run fell flat.

Thanks to Amazon.com for the Bobby Darin album cover.

--That Car Guy

Comments

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Amazing! A Car of the Future for the narrow-ties-and-Brubeck set. I half expect to see George Jetson at the wheel.

I had always wondered what happened to the DiDia. Interesting article. However, I think Elvis and Liberace would have wanted one. The Interior looks Chrysler-based, while the rear fenders have a Cadillac look to the lower section. Do you know what kind of car it was based on?


You really need to get back there and make a video of that Turbine Car running. i have always wanted to know if it sounds like a jet plane or not. If I was Jay Leno, I would trade them at least a Deusenberg and a half for the Turbine Car.

As a Darin aficionado, I could kick myself for never having heard of this thing. Seems like him: brash and over the top but always interesting.

I've seen the car in books but didn't know if it still existed.
Nice to see it's still around and well kept.
Radical 50-60s customs are fun to look at, however unpractical.
I recently bought a book on customizer Gene Winfield and another fun book is "Barris Customs of the 60s" (both Available from Amazon.com).

@ Jed: I'm sorry, I should have asked them. The information beside the car did not tell what it was either. Maybe we can track down 1952-1953 cars with 125-inch wheelbases and narrow it down that way. Also, could the 427 give a clue?

If you want hear the Chrysler Turbine Car go here:

http://www.turbinecar.com/turbine.htm

Would have "ran" away from? That's real close to standard English.

Also, Chrysler had steering wheels shaped like that in the 50s and 60s.

@ Nothere: I thought "Not Here" was two words. Or is it "No There"?

Wow, nice comeback. Insightful, pithy, literate. You should write a car blog.

We Car Lust Contributors don't get paid to write these posts. We do it to have fun, make friends, and learn from the other writers. I average about 8 hours per post, not counting any field time like going through a museum or taking a test drive.

Despite the trolls, it's a great place. I appreciate all the kind comments, and I hope to write many more posts. The nice people here so much outweigh the negative ones, and I look forward to any and all comments.

By the way, I looked it up in Webster's, and either "Run" or "Ran" is correct.

"would have probably ran away from"?

Well, at least he didn't write "would of" which, due to the common mispronunciation of "would've" is, sadly, becoming all too common on the web. Just for the record, I think the correct phrasing is "would probably have run away from" but who's counting, eh? Great review of a great car on a great webpage... keep 'em coming!

To whom it may concern:

From Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, page 1025:
"uasge: The past tense RUN still survives in speech in southern England and in the speech esp. of older people in some parts of the U.S. It was formerly used in literature, and was a standard variant in our dictionary from 1828 until 1934. Grammarians have generally opposed it, and many people consider it nonstandard. Just about everybody uses RAN in writing now."

So there.

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

P.S. How about done run?

...er, "usage", since it's Grammar Day LOL!

That Car Guy, even though that poster effects you greatly -- and personally I would of responded to all of there posts up above in like manner (but thats not something I do, irregardless of whether others think I should of done so) -- your just going to have to make sure its the best use of a word before posting you're thoughts.

This is a case where the proper word just doesn't sound right. "Run" is present. "Ran" is past. Would you say "Would have play", or "Would have played"?

I labored over that word for quite a while before I posted it. No, it doesn't have that correct "ring" to it. But I stand by the decision.

Hey Nothere,
Here’s an idea for you. You should start a blog about the proper use of the English language and continue your crusade there. Then everyone can visit it and make comments and nit-pick whatever you write. Wouldn’t that be fun? I am sure it would be easy to find fault with you since you are incorrect in your criticism of “The Car Guy”. Hahaha, nice one. Did you get your foot out of your mouth yet? I did appreciate your comment about older Chrysler’s having similar steering wheels though.

Nice and interesting article on a car I never knew existed. I enjoyed reading it thoroughly. I really appreciate the time and effort that every contributor puts in to writing these great articles.
Thanks Guys.

P.S. Some how I find a way to overlook those annoying grammatical errors, whether they actually exist or not.

(read post script with a smug snobbish tone.)

Ok, I think I have finished making my point regarding the ridiculous Grammar comments.

A few things here:

- It's fair to hold us to a high grammatical standard. We try to hold ourselves up to a high standard, and our readers should too.

- All grammatical issues should be laid at my feet. I'm the blog's editor, and I go through every post before it's posted. If there are issues, I am responsible for them.

- All that being said, we are all human - and hopefully our passion for the cars we talk about overshadows any errors we make, or might could make.*

---
* Inspired by Anthony's fantastic comment and years of living in the South.

Oh man, now we can blame Hafner for everything.

"irregardless"? There's no such word. It's ironic to find it in a thread quibbling over grammar and word usage.

Ronnie, if you're referring to Anthony's comment, you might want to give your irony interface a slight tweak.

To Simonn: You are most welcome. If we can do anything else to help, please let me know. Are you at the museum? ~TCG

these cars are hot but most of them are chevys i hate chevys!!!!

I really enjoyed the post about the Bobby Darin Dream Car, which I saw in the flesh when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles. What a perfect example of all that was amazing/wonderful/grotesque about car design in the 1950s and 1960s!

[grammar rant alert - you have been warned]
The discussion about present vs past tense of the verb "to run" (i.e. run vs ran) missed the point. The grammatical construct in question is the so-called "third conditional" -- a variant of the pluperfect expressing a condition contrary to fact. It calls for neither the present tense nor past tense of the verb, but rather the past participle. You would say "Elvis does X" (present tense = does) or "Elvis did X" (past tense = did) but "Elvis would have done X" (past participle = done). Confusion arises because the past participle is sometimes the same as the present or the past tense, as is the case with "to run", where the present is run, the past is ran, and the past participle is run. So "Elvis would have run away" is correct and "Elvis would have ran away" is incorrect.

I'm kind of sorry I wrote this post. All it did was stir up bad feelings. And I stand by Webster's.

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