Story and Photos Mike Spicer
This one-off bodied 1954 1900 CSS Alfa Romeo designed by Ghia is simply known as the Ghia Speciale 01742. It attracted a lot of attention on its debut at the 1954 Los Angeles Motor Show and became very influential. It particularly caught the eye of designers at the Ford Motor Company.
Commissioned by a wealthy restaurant owner in San Francisco California, the Ghia Speciale incorporated a hatchback and fold down rear seat for the owners pet Great Dane. These features would become commonplace in the future, but in the 1950’s they were advanced.
The first time I laid eyes on the Ghia Speciale was at an auction preview. Not aware of its influences I marveled at the design and for some reason it stood out to me. Coming across it years later at the Blackhawk car museum, it was clearly spelled out why this car pushed so many of my buttons.
A great deal of inspiration came from this car when designing the iconic Ford Mustang. When first introduced Ford’s marketing literature would reference the Mustang’s “European styling influences” as a selling feature. This Alfa is the car they were talking about.
The overall shape/roofline, cove on sides, rear fender layout and gills above the rear quarter panel are some of the features that the Mustang shares. The interior on closer inspection has the same approach and the seats almost mirror each other. It is obvious now why there was so much attraction during my first encounter, it gave my 1965 Mustang fastback its styling cues!
It’s great this Ghia Speciale was built and the owner realized his dream. While it cost four times as much as a normal 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 Coupe Super Sprint it truly changed car design in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. An important vehicle in the landscape of automotive design history.