Cadillac is a company that has had some fantastic highs as well as some depressing Cimarron-level lows. The prewar V-16 models were world leaders in luxury, but even after WWII, Cadillac had a few offerings that still put it at the front of the pack. Some early versions of the Eldorado were in a price bracket with Rolls-Royce, and then there were the Series 62 Ghia coupes. Coachbuilt cars in general were far less plentiful by 1953 when the Ghia coupes were built, and Cadillacs even more so. The company had invested heavily in coachbuilding during the ’20s in order to be able to offer a staggering number of body styles and customization options without buyers needing to go to a third party to have a body built.

So even in the ’30s, couchbuilt Cadillacs were already rare, but in 1953, the Ghia coupe was something extra special. But what makes these cars so great, apart from the fact that they are so very rare, is that they are also something of a mystery. Very little information, paperwork or even photos from the period remain, and there are even unconfirmed rumors about the cars that get passed around as facts.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia.

Exterior

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Exterior
- image 662571
1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Exterior
- image 662573
1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Exterior
- image 662591
The design makes it look like a much smaller car than it actually is, like an Alfa Romeo that was scaled up to a 124-inch wheelbase.

As the name of the car states, this is a Cadillac Series 62 with a special body made by Ghia, the Italian coachbuilder and design house. Only two were ever made, by special order of a dealership in New York. The design itself was by Luigi Segre, who had just taken over as owner of Ghia in 1953. For all of the Cadillac badging all over the car, it still has a very Italian look to it, and by that I mean it is absolutely gorgeous. Interestingly, even though the car has a roof, it was built on the Series 62 Convertible chassis. This was because the convertible chassis was stiffer, and would therefore give Segre more freedom with the overall shape of the car.

The design makes it look like a much smaller car than it actually is, like an Alfa Romeo that was scaled up to a 124-inch wheelbase. The hood is very low in comparison to the Cadillac-bodied examples, and the small pontoon fenders, headlight pods and oval-shaped grille have a distinctly European flavor. But look at sides and you’ll see ducts behind the wheels with accent lines coming out and running the length of the car. This might have been European at the time, but by 1958, the Corvette was sporting a very similar look. There is a lot of glass on the car, with wraparound windshields in front and back. The pillars are very slim, and this is probably part of the reason why a convertible chassis was needed.

Interior

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Interior
- image 662578
1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Interior
- image 662582
1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Interior
- image 662563

From the outside, the Ghia coupe looks a lot like a 2+2, but take a look inside and you’ll only see two seats. The large back area is basically just a big cargo shelf. It makes for a fairly practical layout, and an excellent grand tourer. And of course, it does give the appearance that it’s big enough to use the shelf as a bench seat, it’s not as though anyone in 1953 cared about seat belts anyway. All of the instrumentation of the Series 62 is still there, the huge speedometer, the radio and so on, but the dash has been redesigned to curve around. The steering wheel was changed to a wooden one, and the seats were switch from a bench to a pair of bucket seats. The upholstery is fine leather, and it covers the whole of the door panels as well, rather than just the bottom on the standard Cadillac interiors. The Series 62 was an entry-level model for Cadillac, so it’s not all that surprising that the coachbuilt version really turned up the luxury on it.

Drivetrain

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 662583

The Series 62 engine stayed in place when the other modifications were made. It was a 331 cubic-inch (5.4-liter) V-8 that produced 210 horsepower, a pretty respectable amount for a mainstream car in 1953. With its live rear axle and four-wheel drum brakes, the Ghia coupe wouldn’t have really been as well suited to European high speed touring as the bodywork might lead one to believe. But this was still essentially an American car, and it is perfectly well suited to the longer and straighter roads that we have here. It just looks more stylish on them.

Prices

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia High Resolution Exterior
- image 662587

There are only two of these cars that were ever made, and even those two aren’t entirely identical. The overall shape is the same, but quite a few details are different. This one is going up for auction soon, but the other car resides in the Peterson Auto Museum. We don’t actually know a whole lot about the history of either car. This one was delivered new to John Perona, the owner of the legendary El Morocco nightclub, the premier Manhattan hangout for the rich and famous from the ’30s until the late ’50s. The other one was said to have been given by Prince Aly Kahn as a gift to actress Rita Hayworth. This is an often-repeated story, but there isn’t actually much in the way of evidence to support it, and it’s entirely possible that it’s nothing more than a persistent myth. In any case, there is essentially no “market” to speak of for the car, so determining a price is more educated guess than it is with a lot of other classics. Still, RM Auctions has given it an estimate of $1.5 million to $1.8 million.

Competition

Continental C3

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia
- image 662599

Just one year before Ghia put the custom bodies on a couple of Cadillacs, Briggs Cunningham put a Chrysler 331 V-8 into a custom chassis and commissioned bodywork by an Italian coachbuilder, in this case Vignale. It was much more sports car than grand tourer, and with 25 units built, it’s actually possible to own one. But don’t let that stop you from seeing it as an unobtainable exotic.

Continental Mark II

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe By Ghia
- image 662598

In 1956, the Continental Mark II wasn’t a Lincoln, and neither was much like the later versions of Lincoln-branded Continentals. This first postwar Continental was a very serious luxury car, on par in price with what Rolls-Royce was making. The styling was even very clearly European influenced, forgoing much of the chrome trim that was typically slathered all over American luxury cars at the time. The car sold in decent numbers for the price, but would still be considered rare today. That said, it’s one of your best options for a really special American car from the mid-’50s.

Conclusion

It’s cars like this one that really show what a shame it is that custom coachbuilding is no longer the industry it used to be. It’s one thing to see those gorgeous prewar cars from Bugatti, Voisin or Talbot-Lago, those were cars that were built to be the best in the world and have the most beautiful bodies that technology would allow. But the Series 62 was not only mass produced, but was an entry-level car for Cadillac. Ghia turned this very normal and everyday machine into something truly exceptional.

  • Leave it
    • * There are only 2 and you can’t have one
    • * Four-wheel drum brakes
    • * History shrouded in mystery
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: