By the mid-1960s, the era of the custom coachbuilder was slowly grinding to an end. Bespoke designed and hand built cars were becoming a thing of the past, yet a few key players, particularly in Italy, clung to their traditions. Firms like Pininfarina, Zagato and Ghia remained active in the arena, often building Fiat based show cars to highlight their talents and establishing partnerships with large manufacturers. Ghia had found an unlikely partner in Chrysler, who oft-conservative model line was spiced up in the 1950s thanks to the work of their chief stylist Virgil Exner who formed a strong relationship with Ghia. Ghia designed several concept cars for Chrysler, which also led to the development of the semi-factory Dual Ghia luxury cars, as well as the Ghia-built Imperial limousines.
For the European auto show circuit in the early 1960s, Ghia had been displaying a series of handsome sports cars based on a Fiat 2300 chassis, wearing bodies designed by the great Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Ghia 230S first appeared in 1964 wearing the distinct nose and compound curves we now see on the 450SS. Hollywood-based entrepreneur Bert Sugarman had seen the 230S prototype in Turin and he envisioned building a roadster version of the beautiful car, albeit with the addition of a healthy dose of American V8 horsepower. Mr. Sugarman had the means to make that happen, and he did just that, contracting with Ghia to put his dream into reality. In keeping with Ghia’s long running history with Chrysler Corporation, the Detroit firm was contracted to supply the Plymouth Barracuda Formula S as a foundation for this Italian-American hybrid. Very much more than simply a rebodied Plymouth, the 450SS was constructed from the ground up using traditional Italian coachwork techniques and robust American mechanicals. These hand-built cars were exquisitely crafted from steel, and each car was sold exclusively through a Hollywood dealer at an astounding price tag of over $13,000 in 1967. This was certainly an automobile for a privileged clientele, and thanks in part to that high price, just 52 found buyers. It is believed that just over half of the original production run remains in existence today, making the 450SS an exceedingly rare and desirable automobile from the end of the coachbuilding era.
This 1967 Ghia 450SS is a fine example of Ghia’s gorgeous coachbuilt classic. It is a very pretty, honest original car that presents in good condition throughout, displaying only 44,300 miles. Two prior long-term owners have enjoyed the car thoroughly and kept it in excellent running order. It has never been fully disassembled and restored, and retains a great deal of originality, down to the exceedingly rare optional factory hard top and seldom seen steel tonneau cover. The body is straight and solid, with an older respray in black showing some patina but still remaining attractive. A black canvas top seals out the weather, and the car rides on a set of knock-off wire wheels, all in good order. Bright exterior trim is elegantly sparse; limited to the bumpers, window surrounds and minimalist grille and it is found to be in good condition all around.
The stylish cabin is likewise in good condition, with unique tan leather seats that call to mind another piece of iconic mid-century design – the Eames lounge chair. Leather covers the seats and door panels and it is in very good condition, with minimal wear and a lightly broken-in appearance. Typically for the period, a large flat panel houses instruments and toggle switches in a no-nonsense, aircraft inspired dash. The original wood wheel remains and wood veneer center console is in fair condition, showing some pleasing signs of regular use. Optional factory air conditioning is fitted beneath the dash, featuring flush, hideaway stainless steel vents.
The Plymouth Barracuda not only lent its suspension to the Ghia 450SS, but also its punchy 273 cubic inch Mopar V8, mated to a Torque Flite automatic transmission. The engine bay is tidy and presentable, showing regular maintenance and use. The air conditioning compressor has been upgraded to a Sanden-type unit for improved reliability, and plenty of new service parts point to proper care. The two prior owners ensured this car was kept in very good working order and it is clear this beautiful automobile was properly enjoyed. This ultra-exclusive Ghia is a rare and fantastically stylish piece that can be readily used as is. Included in the sale are the original Borrani wheels in need of restoration, jack and spare wheel, removable hardtop, as well as period documents and brochures.
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