Once upon a time there was Carrozzeria Ghia. But that was then and today while the Ghia name survives, the bodyshop has disappeared, transformed into a virtual design studio. So no more clamour of hammer or steel on Via Agostino da Montefeltro in Turin which will give house-room to just three “survivors” until September 2002. Among them, just one designer who is David Wilkie.

He’s the last of a very long line of designers who have passed through Ghia, writing the history of design as they came and went: Mario Felice Boano, Tom Tjaarda, Giorgetto Giugiaro, to name but a few. On those premises cars like the Aurelia, B20 and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint (manufactured respectively by Pininfarina and Bertone) took shape, not to mention the Maserati Ghibli and the De Tomaso Pantera.

The war caused great damage. In 1943 the plant was almost destroyed and Giacinto died in 1944. At that point Luigi Segre took over and it was he who made contact with Detroit, eventually forging a relationship with Chrysler and then Virgil Exner. Before he died (in 1962 at only 44), Segre had made Giovanni Savonuzzi his director of design and in 1956 he gave a job to the young Sergio Sartorelli. After Segre, Ghia passed from hand to hand, none of its new owners from Raphael Trujillo to Alejandro De Tomaso making much of a go of it, so its acquisition by Ford in January 1973 was a relief. From then on the studio was run by Filippo Sapino who retired in April.

Ghia has never stopped producing designs and skilfully constructing prototypes to other people’s designs. Ironically enough, just before the restructuring was announced we also heard that the last of the Ghia creations, the Street Ka roadster presented at the Turin Show in 2000, would go into production in 2003.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 128

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