Prized One-Off Ghia Abarth Concept Is Out There…

Italy in the 1950s produced some pretty outlandish automotive designs – and a fair few of them came from Ghia. Few were as striking, however, as this one-of-a-kind Abarth coupe that’s now up for sale.

In something of a forecast of mergers to come decades later, Ghia rebodied this 1953 Abarth 1100 Sport (itself based on the Fiat 1100) alongside the much larger Chryslers it was building at the same time.

With a nose like a jet airplane and streamlined bodywork to match, it debuted at the 1953 Turin Salon and surely stunned the gathered crowds.

Ghia subsequently sold the concept car to one Bill Vaughn in the US, who rebadged it as the Vaughn SS Wildcat and displayed it at the New York Auto Show in 1954. Vaughn claimed it was powered by a V8 with overhead camshaft instead of the four-cylinder engines with which all other 1100s were fitted – the nameplate representing the engine’s displacement in cubic centimeters.

The concept car was then “lost in time,” according to RM Sotheby’s, until it was discovered in a barn in 1982. Its current owned bought it in 2010 and spent the next five years comprehensively restoring it to original condition.

Upon its return to the scene in 2015, it won best-in-class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, losing out for best-in-show to a 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Cabriolet – the vast majority of winners coming form the pre-war period.

It’ll be offered for sale in Monterey, California, this coming August, where it’s sure to fetch a suitably high price. But you can check it out now in the gallery of artful photography by Angus McKenzie, presented courtesy of the auctioneer.

Photo Gallery

  • REALLY SHARP.

  • Craig

    A beautiful car! The problem is… so many people [for some reason] are anti-retro when it comes to design. And I think that’s stupid. [yes… stupid!] A great design is a great design. If we think something designed in the past was and is beautiful – WHY not use that design again.

    • Six Thousand Times

      Because this design was modern then. The Jaguar XK120 was modern in 1948. The Corvette Sting Ray was modern in 1963. Those were not retro designs. Now, if you’re saying that there are some principles of design that survive through the years (long hood-short rear deck, for instance) then , definitely but if you’re advocating PT Cruisers and New Beetles and other forms of insipid retro then, no. Groundbreaking and memorable design has never been retro. This Ghia was hypermodern when it appeared and a lot of people likely were horrified it didn’t have separate fenders and a tall radiator grille.

  • Wandering_Spirit

    Not devoid of a certain beauty. Surely innovative for its time, especially for Italy, where at the time the American Dream was big.

    • Alex

      Italy is always at the forefront of design. You’ve never heard of avant-garde?

      • Enter Ranting

        Avant garde is French, not Italian.

        • Alex

          It was an artistic movement also are Italian. “Avanguardia”

  • Obsequious Lickspittle

    That’s automotive jewellery!

  • niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice, God I like this

  • Six_Tymes

    very cool! the transition era from prop planes to jet engines, influenced a lot of design.

    • Six Thousand Times

      That’s quite accurate. This has a fuselage.

  • SteersUright

    Why do I find this strange looking machine so beautiful?

  • Zed68

    Looks weird… I love it !

  • Six Thousand Times

    So 1950s. Love it!

  • PhilLC

    Fiat-Abarth should produce something like this rather than just dinky 500s…revive ‘real’ design please!

  • emjayay

    Most beautiful dramatic car photography ever. I’ve never seen this one before and it’s a top rank early fifties modernistic Italian design. Today we fetishize wheels with enormous space robbing wheels on most vehicles, particularly SUV’s. The 40’s to early 50’s idea was to minimize them and sort of imagine they didn’t exist.

    Should get an atmospheric price.

    Why left hand drive? Originally for England, not Italy?

  • psiqtas

    Just wonderful beautiful! Why today they can’t design such a timeless, retro car?