At the Turin International Auto Show in 1966, Ghia unveiled their Giorgetto Giugiaro styled 450SS. These hand-fabricated low production vehicles meant that production volume was low and so only 52 450SS's were ever created during its production period from 1966 until 1967. Today they stand as being one of the best values in the collector car world today. A creative project, the 450SS Cabriolet was produced by world-renowned automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro during his association with Carrozzeria Ghia in the mid-1960s. These 52 examples were sold for around $13,000.
The 450SS utilized many standard Chrysler components which included a Plymouth Barracuda chassis, Ghia's graceful and stylish bodywork along with a lush Italian interior. Today less than half of the original production run remains in existence today, making these vehicles very collectable.
Following WWII the custom coach-building ingenuity was gong the way of the dinosaur as new construction methods and in-house design studio's left little work for these professionals. Though a few continued this work, often creating a variety of one-off concepts based on production-based chassis and placing them on displays at prestigious auto shows worldwide. This was all done in the hopes of attracting lucrative commissions from manufactures along with the sales from the wealthiest private clients. Ghia was one of these surviving coachbuilders.
Ghia put their GT bodywork on display at the 1960 Turin, Geneva and Paris Motor Show which they had attached to a Fiat 2100 sedan chassis. After receiving such great reviews from the press, it attracted the attention of entrepreneur and Hollywood producer Bert Sugarman who convinced Ghia to put the vehicle into production. He fell in love when he saw this car, and after approaching Ghia and persuading them to create a production series of a similar design, it became one of the few times that Ghia ventured beyond the design of the auto body into complete auto-making territory. Sugarman wanted to give the car a powerful V8 and underpinnings of the Plymouth Barracuda Formula S, a vision very different from Ghia's, and the combined result was the 450 SS.
Giorgetto Giugiaro; Ghia's designer, designed the steel bodywork design which featured compound-curved panels that were integrated seamlessly into the front and rear bumpers. The chassis of the 450SS was formed by a pair of longitudinal tubular frame members in combination with a very strong semi-monocoque body. The interior of the vehicle received leather bucket seats along with a flat dash that contained a comprehensive variety of instruments. The engine was a 273 cubic-inch V8 engine that offered 235 horsepower and featured a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic gearbox and disc brakes in the front and hydraulic drums in the rear. The engine was perfect to power this sleek tubular frame that was offered with either a four-speed manual transmission or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.By Jessica Donaldson
At the time of the Ghia's production, it was considered a remarkable feat that the Italian Automobile Industry had recovered so well following the war. For a country caught in the unfortunate middle, it was amazing that after being trampled across by millions of soldiers, crushed by tanks and bombed by air, Italy rebuilt itself quickly and efficiently.
A country driven by its love for automobiles, it is not so difficult to understand how the creation of the Ghia came about.
Invited by Fiat, the Chrysler Corporation went to Italy in the late 1940s to assist them in training their technicians in the newest American machining and assembly techniques. At the same time, Chrysler technicians were learning all that they could from Italian technicians and the carrozziere, the last few custom coachbuilding firms left in the world.
An art that had disappeared by the late ‘40s in America, coachbuilders were occasionally, though rarely, found in variousnparts of Europe. Carrozzierre are well known for their skilled teams of classic car body builders.
In 1951, Chrysler signed an agreement with Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin after the initial approach to build prototype bodies with Pinan Farina didn't occur.
The series of cars, based upon designs by Virgil Exner, Chrysler chief stylist, were as close to coachbuilt classics of the 1930s as any American automaker could hope to achieve.
The Carrozzeria was originally founded in 1915 by Giacinto Ghia as Carozzeria Ghia & Gariglio. Giacinto had begun as a coachbuilders apprentice in his hometown of Turin. As the city eventually established itself as the center of the Automobile industry, Ghia came into his own right.
Gaining a reputation during the 1920's and 1930 for creating innovative, lightweight aluminum alloy sports car bodies, the Carrozzeria was well known. With a clientele that boasted such respected marques as Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Italia and Lancia, the Carrozzeria was well-known.
Over the years the Carrozzeria Ghia became associated with a number of major manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic, most notably Ford and Volkswagen.
Ghia had set the standard 25 years as a reputable foundation that both designed and constructed automobile bodies for touring and competition.
Following World War II, Italian's luxury car market and motor-sport business was abruptly ended.
During the war, the Turin factory was kept productive by manufacturing carts for the Italian army as well as a line of very popular bicycles. Since there were no automotive chassis on which to work, Giacinto Ghia could do little else but wait for the war to end.
In 1943 the entire factory was destroyed during an Allied bombing raid.
Unfortunately, the shock of losing everything was too much for Ghia to handle, and he passed away from heart failure in 1944 at the age of 56 while supervising the reconstruction of the Turin factory.
Ghia's wife, Santina was impassioned that the family name would continue, so she offered what remained of the business to her husband's two closest associates Giorgi Alberti and Felice Mario Boano.
Their only adherence was that they remain true to Ghia's philosophy of producing vehicles in limited numbers but of high quality.
Boano and Alberti, though never unfriendly to each other, had a long history of disagreeing on how the company should be run. Together they rebuilt the company amidst the ruins of the Turino workshops.
Reaching the end of the 1940's, they had established contracts with Talbot Lago, Delage and Delahaye, as well as work from two of Ghia's oldest clients, Lancia and Alfa Romeo.
Boano had been apprenticed at the Stabilimenti Farini before Pinin Farini, eventually establishing his own scoccheria (an industrial carpenter's yard that supplied coachbuilders, including Ghia). Boano had been handpicked by Ghia, possibly due to the fact that their automobile background was very similar.
Eventually, Boano bought out Alberti in 1947 and this ended the conflict between the two partners and gaining absolute control of the carrozzeria. Boano soon realized that his skills lay in the design studio area rather than the front office.
He eventually hired Luigi 'Gigi' Segre in 1948 to take over the management of Ghia. Gigi's previous employment had included being the commercial director of SIATA, one of Italy's most respected tuners.
It was Gigi who was sent to America in 1949 to meet with Virgil Exner and Chrysler CEO K.T. Keller. Segre, who had more of a compatibility with people, forged a friendship that bonded the American automaker and Carrozzeria Ghia S.p.A. for the next 10 years. Unfortunately, this left Boano feeling like an outsider.
In the ability of forging two companies that would create one of the most significant of the postwar era, Segre and Exner developed a solid friendship, though Boano unfortunately did not approve of the merger.
Boano had a game-plan of concentrating more on the Torinese automotive industry rather than merging with Chrysler. Eventually giving up, Boano sold Ghia to Segre in 1953.
Exner was personally recruited by K.T. Keller to be the chief of Chrysler's advance styling studio. With the overwhelming responsibility of revamping the Chrysler image as an ‘old man's car image', Exner's first step was to commission a series of concept cars in Italy (taking advantage of the current low of construction in postwar Italy).
Exner, with the aid of Ghia's exemplary craftsman-ship, conceptualized some of the most beautiful and influential concept cars ever designed. He is responsible for the design of the Chrysler-Ghia series, the D'Elegance, the Dodge Fire-arrow, the DeSoto Adventurer II and the Chrysler Falcon.
The best and flashiest vehicles of the 1950's were a direct result of the 1957 Chryslers that were Ghia-inspired and conceptualized by Exner. Neither American nor Italian in design or execution, these new models were considered to be something exotic and unique.
During this 15-year fusion of American and Italian, the rarest models produced were the Exner-designed Ghia Specials. Produced from 1951 through 1954, most of these vehicles were built on the standard Chrysler 125.5' wheelbase chassis in 1953. Depending on when they were built, Ghia models came equipped with either the older Fluid Torque transmission, or the new PowerFlite two-speed automatic.
It is estimated that Ghia produced another twelve models for themselves after the alliance with Chrysler was completed.
During the fifteen year partnership, an entire series of limited production models were constructed and designed by Ghia and Chrysler.
In 1954, the Chrysler-Ghia GS-1 coupe was sold exclusively in Europe by Societe France Motors. Also in 1954, the Dodge Firebomb Cabriolet and the Chrysler powered Dual Ghias were marketed by Dual Motors Corporation of Detroit from 1956 to 1958. From 1957 to 1965, the Chrysler Crown Imperial Ghia limousines were introduced.
As a result of WW II, the 1953 Chrysler Ghia special was produced for only one year in Italy by the Ghia design studios. Only 52 have ever been produced.By Jessica Donaldson