One doesn’t usually expect to see rare etceterini on the street in the Northeast till well into the month of May, though some even find May chilly. But every once in a while I am pleasantly surprised. Which is why the owner of this 1964 Fiat 1500GT Ghia Coupe gets a tip of the hat for driving this coachbuilt Fiat during the first week of March, before all the snow had even melted, and on day when the temperature barely reached 45 degrees.
A closer examination revealed that this was none other than the 1500GT Ghia Coupe that was last seen at Greenwich Concours 2009, which took place not even a quarter of a mile from where I spotted this Coupe a couple weeks ago. The Ghia is powered by a 1.5 liter straight-four, generally believed to make no more than 84bhp. Approximately 846 of these were built between 1962 and 1967, though the number is disputed. A Detroit-based importer is believed to have brought about 36 of these into the country, with no more than a dozen of these thought to still be in the US.
The 1500GT Ghia Coupe is based on the Fiat 1500 chassis, a chassis that was well suited for coachbuilt bodies. The overall design has a faint whiff of Alfa to it, but Ghia’s involvement is unmistakable. Ghia essentially lengthened the body, but also reduced the rear overhang and extended the nose, which actually conceals a bumper.
This particular example is obviously in concours condition, and has made several appearances at concours events throughout the northeast. This is perhaps my favorite type of car to see exhibited at Greenwich Concours; a small bespoke Italian etceterini that doesn’t even appear at most Italian car gatherings, and one that can’t be readily identified just by looking at it from afar (unless your name is Donald Osborne).
It’s definitely sad to see that this sort of coachbuilding has essentially vanished. Back in the day, cars like these were actually affordable because labor was cheap, and coachbuilders created these in numbers that assured that all would be sold. We’ve now gone to a business/luxury type of coachbuilding, with companies churning out armored SUVs with completely replanned interiors with reclining seats and more flat screens than a TV dish truck. I can only imagine how much money it would take now to have an Italian coachbuilder (out of the ones that are left) create a body based on the Fiat 500 chassis.
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]