Founded in 1915, in its day Carrozzeria Ghia was one of the most inventive and respected of Turin’s independent coachbuilding companies. The company enjoyed a resurgence of fortune during the 1950s thanks to the entrepreneurial activities of its manager Luigi Segre, who forged strong links with Chrysler in Detroit, for whom Ghia built a world-renowned series of “dream cars”. Ghia also built the Lincoln Futura for Ford, which achieved immortality when customiser George Barris converted it into the TV “Batmobile”.
Ghia was ambitious to become a series producer in the manner of other Torinese coachbuilders like Pininfarina and Bertone, so in 1960 Luigi Segre created the OSI company in conjunction with typewriter manufacturer Olivetti, who provided the finance and a factory building across the street from the Ghia coachworks, where production of the Fiat 2300S coupe and the Innocenti Spider 950 began. However, in 1963 44-year-old Segre died following an operation and was replaced by ex-racing driver and Ford Italiana executive Gino Rovere. OSI returned to Olivetti ownership and its original function as a stamping plant.
It was during this period that Ghia began production of another specially-bodied Fiat-based car, the fastback Coggiola-styled Ghia 1500GT – “a truly sport car of international prestige” – which was built at a peak rate of four units a day in Ghia’s bodyshop in the Via Agostino di Montefeltro. Using the powertrain of the Fiat 1500, the Ghia 1500GT had a sheet steel box-section and tubular frame with the engine set further back than in the standard car; the wheelbase was shorter than standard, too.
But Rovere was a sick man, and in 1964 he too died, and the firm was taken over more or less as a hobby by Leonidas Ramadas Trujillo, son of the recently deposed dictator of the Caribbean republic of Domenica. While production of the Ghia 1500GT continued for a couple of years, this was, noted an internal history of Ghia “the period of the most frantic activity but at the same time of least results”. Then Alejandro de Tomaso took control, paving the way for acquisition by Ford.
This stylish red bolide is a rare survivor from that dramatic period in Ghia history and comes from Italy. Restored most recently the car presents in good overall condition and is complete with its original Italian title and a variety of bills and receipts. This is a fascinating example of that unique Italian breed known as the “etceterini” and would be a welcome entrant at a wide range of events.