Admiring the car offered here, one would be hard-pressed to guess its origins as anything but Alfa Romeo in the early 1950s. Only its very American size and presence belie its roots, as do the subtle Cadillac script and badging. Underneath its design, the creation of Ghia principal Luigi Segre is the same Series 62 that the average neighborhood banker drove to work in 1953. Such is the power of a coachbuilder to make over a car’s entire personality, transforming a staid Cadillac into something of sensual flash and dash. The Cadillac offered here is distinguished from its sister Ghia coupe by its front-end design, which features a unique grille with thin vertical bars finished in gold-anodized aluminum, as well as no front fender parking lights, different taillights and rear license plate holder, and two half “bumperettes” rather than a full front bumper. Don Williams of the Blackhawk Collection acquired it for its current owners some two decades ago; Williams recalls it as a solid, original car that was then restored by the late Mike Fennel, the well-known restorer from Santa Clarita, CA. The combination of great 1950s American chassis, engineering and build quality with breathtaking Ghia design is a showstopper. Desired by socialites of the era and wrapped in an air of romantic intrigue, this car ranks as one of the great coachbuilt creations of its age. It needs only a Hollywood starlet wrapped in mink and Givenchy to complete its appeal.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe by Ghia
Years Produced:1953
Number Produced:Two
Original List Price:Unknown
SCM Valuation:$1,500,000–$2,000,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Distributor Caps:$45
Chassis Number Location:Right hand side of crankcase and on right frame rail
Club Info:Cadillac/LaSalle Club
Alternatives:1953 Chrysler Ghia Special coupe, 1954 Chrysler GS-1 Special by Ghia, 1952 Chrysler d’Elegance by Ghia
Investment Grade:A


This car, Lot 254, sold for $1,430,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Phoenix, AZ, auction on January 29, 2016.

This stunning 1953 Cadillac coupe, one of two that were built by Ghia, is shrouded in mystery. We do know that two coupes were built on the 126-inch wheelbase Cadillac chassis, and they were both powered by Cadillac’s 331-ci V8.

The other example, painted maroon, resides in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and it is frequently displayed. It differs slightly from our subject car in that it has parking lights, a slightly different rear fender treatment and more of an egg-crate-designed grille. Beyond that, little is known with absolute certainty.

A cloud of mysteries

Why did Ghia build the two Cadillac coupes? Was there also a third, as one source suggests? Who ordered them? Why are there no period photographs of the cars? Who took delivery of the cars? The list of questions goes on with no real answers after 60-plus years.

Giacinto Ghia opened his small shop in 1918 with an established reputation as a builder of “carrozzeria di lusso e di gran sport.” In time, the factory employed 30 craftsmen and was producing two or three custom coachwork cars a month. A contract with Fiat followed and the firm prospered.

World War II, however, crippled the firm. Allied bombers destroyed the factory in 1943 and Ghia died in 1944, at the age of 56, while supervising the reconstruction of the factory.

The Ghia name lived on as his widow offered what was left of the company to Giorgio Alberti and Felice Mario Boano. Early in the 1950s, Chrysler realized that Ghia offered an opportunity to revise their staid image by taking advantage of the design and coachbuilding skills that Ghia offered.

Luigi Segre, who eventually designed the Cadillac coupe, was hired to nurture the Chrysler relationship.

With Ghia’s relationship with Chrysler firmly in hand, why did they turn to Cadillac? It is doubtful that Cadillac commissioned the cars, as they had their own Le Mans show car and were heavily promoting their high-profile Eldorado.

Who took delivery of the cars? Legend has it that actress Rita Hayworth received one as a gift from her short-term husband Prince Aly Khan. If so, which one?

Time in New York City

In the May 1955 issue of Road and Track, a reference is made to one of the Cadillac Ghias being sighted at a garage in New York City, offered for sale for $10,000. It was owned by John Perona, who also owned a Ghia-bodied 1951 Ferrari 340 America coupe.

Perona was the owner of the El Morocco nightclub in New York City, where, interestingly enough, Rita Hayworth was a regular. Did they both own Cadillac Ghias or did they own the same car at different times? If so, who was the first owner?

Rare and valuable

There still are far more questions than answers. There is no doubt, however, that both cars are stunning and combine Italian styling with American engineering.

If forced to pick between the pair, our subject car has slightly cleaner lines without the parking lamps, as well as the less-cluttered grille.

All this is choosing between degrees of greatness, as both will stand the test of time, and the price paid for this car will prove to be a most solid investment. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

Comments are closed.