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Coachwork by Ghia
Please note this vehicle is titled 1955.
Formerly the Property of Al and Katherine WilliamsThe 1954 Los Angeles Auto Show Car
The Alfa Romeo 1900
Brilliantly engineered by Orazio Satta, Alfa Romeo’s 1900 series debuted to great acclaim and quickly achieved commercial success. As Alfa Romeo’s first model built on a standardized production line with unitized construction and available left-hand drive, the 1900 swiftly evolved into the short-wheelbase 1900 C – with the “C” denoting “corto” or “short” – and the more-powerful 1900 TI of 1951 was followed in 1953 by the 1900 Super and 1900 TI Super, also known as the 1900 SS or Super Sprint, with enlarged 1,975 cc engines.
The ultra rare “C SS” combined the short chassis with a racing-specification engine, gearbox, and revised final-drive ratios, plus “Alfin” self-adjusting brakes. The excellent five-speed manual gearbox featured synchronized second, third, and fourth gears, with carefully selected ratios matching the power curve of the twin-cam Tipo 1308 engine.
The 1900 series basked in competition success and particularly that of the 1900 C SS, with the 1900’s racing credentials earned at the major races and rallies of the era, including the Targa Florio, Stella Alpina, and Mille Miglia.
July 1959 marked the end of nearly a decade of 1900 production. While more than 21,000 examples of the 1900 were built in all, only 854 were the ultimate-specification 1900 C SS. From introduction, the 1900 received the deft touch of Italy’s coachbuilders, with Zagato and Ghia utilizing lightweight alloy panel work yielding even greater performance.
During early 1954, legendary racer, tuner, and builder Carlo Abarth collaborated with Ghia on a one-off Abarth 2000 Coupe, inspiring the coachbuilder to order a new 1900 C SS chassis from Alfa Romeo to construct another special new car with Abarth’s assistance. The car offered here is the fruit of that effort, bearing chassis no. AR1900C 01742 and built to special order by San Francisco restauranteur Al Williams, who operated the famous Papagayo Room atop Nob Hill’s Fairmont Hotel with his wife Katherine. Mr. Williams’ specific color, trim, and detail requests very closely matched the car Ghia had already intended to build on the bare Alfa Romeo chassis, and he was willing to pay an incredible $23,000 for his new car.
One of Mr. Williams’ requirements was for the car to be equipped with a disappearing, rear- folding occasional seat for the family’s Great Dane, a seat configuration that later became de rigueur for production automobiles. Ghia’s only request was that upon completion, Mr. Williams would display the car at the Los Angeles International Motor Revue.
Ghia’s design was revolutionary in several important respects, with styling cues and details later gracing such vehicles as Ferrari’s 1957 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta and the mid-1960s 275 GTB, particularly their C-pillar louvers. The useful rear hatchback, yet another of this vehicle’s many innovations, became ubiquitous by the 1970s. Perhaps most significantly, the exterior and interior styling of this Ghia 1900 C SS profoundly influenced the members of the design team that later executed the styling of Ford Motor Company’s wildly successful first-generation Mustang.
Upon completion during late summer 1954, this Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS was shipped from Genoa, Italy, to the port of Oakland, California. True to his word, Mr. Williams displayed the car at the December 1954 Los Angeles International Motor Revue, where it received Best of Show honors, the first of many awards to follow. Tom Medley photographs of the Alfa Romeo appeared in the January 1955 edition of Motor Trend, followed by Road & Track coverage the next month with the 1900 C captioned as being “...considered the most beautiful car of the show.” After its triumphant debut, the Alfa Romeo was returned to the Williams’ Tiburon home and was enjoyed by them as a daily driver. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Williams regularly commuted across the Golden Gate Bridge with it to and from their restaurant.
In 1957, the Williams’ sold the one-off Ghia creation to Peggy Tush of Whidbey Island, Washington, who enthusiastically owned the Alfa Romeo for many years. Subsequent owner and well-known Californian collector Paul Forbes commissioned its complete concours-quality restoration by noted Italian-car specialist Tony Nicosia of Costa Mesa, California, with the restoration completed in 1996. The freshly restored 1900 C SS was displayed by Mr. Forbes at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it earned an award in the Grand Touring class. In 2001, the Alfa Romeo was sold via Emeryville, California’s Fantasy Junction to Dennis Gibbs of Castro Valley, who received the Parish-Heacock Award for the Most Outstanding Alfa Romeo at the 2005 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
The consignors acquired the Alfa Romeo following its appearance at the April 2012 La Jolla Concours d’Elegance where it won a class award. The Alfa has continued to win awards, including the People’s Overall Choice Award at the Festival of Cars in Oregon in 2012 and a Best in Class as well as a Best in Show nomination at Concorso Italiano in 2013.
This Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS retains its factory-original engine, gearbox, rear axle, original alloy coachwork and sub-panels, and other as-built components, including the chassis and suspension. The sole feature of this vehicle that differs from the original design are the restored seats, which no longer feature the “AW” monogram of the car’s original owner.
Remaining in concours-condition and exceptionally attractive throughout, this custom Ghia-bodied Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS stands equally ready to grace the show field or provide a spirited drive with a new owner.