This unique 1900 was bodied by the Swiss coachbuilding company, Ghia Aigle, specifically for the 1955 Geneva Salon.

This is the earliest of eight Alfas bodied by Ghia Aigle known to survive, and as such, in many respects the most interesting and most important. After the Geneva show the car appears to have remained in Switzerland before being acquired by a Dutch Alfa enthusiast earlier last year. Today the car is remarkably well preserved and apparently unmodified from its appearance forty-five years ago.

During the 1980s, S/N 01959 underwent a restoration by its then-owner, Pierre Le Grand. The car then passed unto the hands of Claud Fresard and was featured prominently in the “Musee de l’Automobile Muriaux” near Saignelegieer in Switzerland. The collection had a strong tendency towards vehicles with a Swiss coachbuilt history.

On finally leaving the museum, and Switzerland for apparently the first time, the car was acquired by an enthusiastic Dutch classic car collector, and he has maintained, used and displayed it for the past eighteen months. Finished in traditional Italian racing red, with tan leather upholstery, this beautiful sports car benefits from the successful, well-proven mechanics of the popular, sporting 1900 model allied to the handsome work of one of Europe’s most respected and stylish coachbuilders.

{analysis} This car sold for $64,390 at the Barrett-Jackson/Coys of Kensington Auction in Monaco on May 27, 2000. That is a handsome price for a 1900, reflecting the car’s custom coachwork. The competition 1900 Zagato coupe can bring $20-50,000 more, while we’ve seen average Touring coupes sell for under $40,000.

In the first half of the 1950s, car designers made the transition from pre- to post-war design. Ghia was certainly among the most daring and experimental of the Italian bodybuilders. Their styling efforts ranged from the sublime to the unarguably ugly. By exploring both boundaries, they clarified for everyone else what worked and what did not. As a result, and certainly because of some of their most outlandish efforts, they had a major impact on the shape of the modern automobile. Ghia’s international respect is reflected in the fact that they worked for American manufacturers at a time when it was politically correct to sneer at European cars. The Chrysler Dual Ghia, of Rat Pack fame, is one example.

Ghia Aigle was an attempted expansion of Ghia by Mario Felice Boano and his son Gian Paolo, owners of Ghia at the time. They purchased the Swiss company De Secheron and renamed it, but only a few cars were built in Aigle, Switzerland. Towards the end of the company’s short life, many of its bodies were actually formed at Ghia’s facility in Italy, then installed on chassis in Aigle. It’s notable that, according to Peter Marshall, two Ghia Aigle coupes and one Spider still remain in Switzerland.

This cabriolet embodies styling elements of both Ghia’s successes and failures. The finely drawn front end on this car, with its delicate heart-shaped grille, hints of the elegance that characterized the original Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia. The scoop on the rear fender suggests the gaping grilles that adorned some of Ghia’s most ridiculous creations, rear fender scoops being a popular area for experimentation as designers searched for ways to create an attractive rear fender line on otherwise slab-sided efforts.

Touring included rear fender scoops in a much more restrained way on its Tipo 55 prototype 1900 C cabriolet, and they were seen on several other marques on both sides of the Atlantic. The wrap-around windshield on this 1900 is another signature of ’50s cars, and it works nicely in this instance.

Virtually all the Italian bodybuilders used the 1900 platform. The most notable experiments were undoubtedly the three Bertone BAT coupes. The majority of custom bodies on the 1900 floor pan were coupes, and only a small percentage had convertible tops. It is likely that the 1900 pan was simply not strong enough for a topless car, and reinforcements to the floorpan were required for the few that were made by Zagato, Touring, Farina, Boneschi and Pininfarina.

The chassis number of this car is for an early 1955 second-series Sprint, indicating a 2.5-meter wheelbase with dual carburetors on an engine producing 115 hp.

Its provenance goes back to its first appearance at the Geneva Salon for 1955, but there is a significant gap in ownership between that date and Le Grand’s restoration sometime in the early 1980s. The new owner will surely want to fill this void, but the effort may be difficult because the car seems to have remained in very private hands.

The 1900 driveline is very sturdy and even though this car has sat idle for much of its life, it should still give strong service to its lucky new owner. The price seems more than reasonable for an attractive open Alfa with an interesting history. Let’s hope we see the car on some European touring events in the near future.—Pat Braden{/analysis}

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