The cars we loved.
The late 60’s was a fertile period for automotive aesthetics. Many of the era’s most desirable cars are considered modern classics today. The Lamborghini Miura, Iso Griffo and the Ferrari 365 Daytona are a few of the luminaries of the period. Lesser known and just as attractive were some of the limited production cars coming out of Italy from designers like Giorgetto Giugiaro and the Italian coachbuilder Ghia.
One of these products introduced in the 1966 Turin International Auto Show was the Ghia 450 SS. The two seat convertible was a standard rear drive front engine Gran Tourer, in the great Italian tradition. It was an understated, yet graceful design. As such it warranted enough interest to justify production later that year as a 1967 model. Selling for around $13,000, the 450 SS was intended primarily for the US market, with all US bound cars being sold through a single Beverly Hills California-based dealer. The California connection came via Hollywood producer Bret Sugarman was instrumental in getting the 450 SS into production. The glam of Hollywood reinforced the image of the 450 as an exotic, although it was not purely Italian or American – it certainly was exclusive and rare.Few options were available on the otherwise loaded car, but an optional color matched hardtop gave the 450 the look of a fixed top coupe.
The American emphasis meant that the 450 would be loaded with the creature comforts like air conditioning and power steering that most Americans demanded. That also meant V8 power. The money saved in engine development costs by using a Chrysler 273 cu. V8 ( the same that were found under the hoods of many Plymouth Barracuda Formula S models) allowed Ghia to embellish the 405’s interior with luxurious wood, leather bucket seats and tasteful chrome accents. Front disc and rear drum brakes rounded out the technical features of the steel bodied GT car.
In grand touring fashion, the 405 SS was a softly sprung smooth riding coupe. The same engine in the Barracuda felt brute, thanks to the stiffer suspension, but in the 405, luxury and smoothness was the order of the day. The transmission, a three speed automatic supplied by Chrysler, was the famous TorqueFlite. Although tuned to luxury standards, the quick shifting automatic helped the 450 SS achieve a 0 to 60 sprint in the mid 8 second range while moving the 3,000 plus lb. car to a top speed of 121 mph. A useful feature when trying to flee the paparazzi.
Only 52 of the handcrafted cars left the factory in Turin. The production run was up by the end of 1967 and all cars were accounted for, quickly falling into the hands of well-heeled collectors and enthusiasts.