THIS ROAD-GOING JET SPITS FIRE | 1

Let's dive into aerodynamics with this ‘aerticle’. This windtunnel tested rocket-like turbine engined concept car is one of the most striking cars I have seen. It looks like it comes from another planet.

In 2009 I visited the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este at Cernobbio at Lake Como in Italy. I was a bit disappointed that Ralph Lauren didn’t show up with his magnificent Bugatti Atlantic, but this was more than made up when I saw this Ghia Gilda spitting fire. I was thrilled to see those big flames being released, you need to see this too. Click here to see the Ghia Gilda and the enormous amount of heat released by its exhaust.

I enjoy going back to this moment, because the Ghia Gilda brings back nice memories that I share with my dad. Also the journey to the actual Concorso d’Eleganza was great. We delivered a very special 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Touring spider to the concours, but our transport – an Iveco truck – was far from a luxurious modern car with cruise control as you saw in an earlier article where we almost fell in the abyss with a Bugatti Brecia, fighting a hairpin. 

The one-off Chrysler Ghia Gilda Streamline turbine-gas-engined X Coupe Concept car can light your ciggies. A rocket-car that set the world on fire in the mid-fifties, because it was so extreme at the time with its high revving and hot jet engine. It has the looks of something that is about to take off to outer space…

At the time, the jet age was really hot (literally) – just look at the cars with wings, fighter-plane like tails, and transparent canopy tops such as Ford’s FX-Atmos (1954), Lincoln’s Futura (1955, also built by Ghia), and the turbine-powered GM XP-21 Firebird (1954). This was the age when jet fighters were the technology icons, and tail fins for cars bodies were just being introduced. Since most American families had already owned cars for a couple of generations, their dream cars looked more like rockets or airplanes and less like cars. While the jet theme also influenced the Italians to some extent, they felt more that cars had to look like cars.

This 1955 built concept car is the coolest Chrysler ever made. The non-running, fully trimmed prototype was built for the 1955 Turin Motor Show as an experimental body. It was the undisputed center of attention at the show. The concept of the Ghia Gilda was incredibly futuristict, and it appeared on Motor Trend’s September 1955 cover with the headline “The Engine-less Ghia X, ‘X’ for Chrysler’s Gas Turbine?” Surprisingly, the jet engine was only installed in the car several decades later by its restorers.

This vehicle must give a feeling of driving an aircraft. Its drivetrain consists of a hydrostatic automatic gearbox. It has no headlights, and a huge inflammable exhaust pipe. This car is the ideal illegal dream for a highway speed control. Not that they would be able to catch this rocket, once its engine is revving at 10.000 – 13.000 rpm. The distinction of airflow experimenting (managed by large wings or wind-directing buttresses) belonged for a big part to Italian engineer Giovanni Savonuzzi. Savonuzzi worked in Fiat’s aero engine testing division, Fiat Aviazione, and became Cisitalia’s technical director in August 1945. Cristalia, also known as Consorzio Industriale Sportive Italia, is one of the brands that helped Italy to make the motorsport come alive again. Founder Piero Dusio was a racing driver and decided to create his own racecar with Fiat parts mainly. A well-known Cisitalia model is the 202 which has different variants and is such a great iconic Italian car.

One of the scetches of Savonuzzi was the legendary the 202 CMM Aerodinamica Savonuzzi, which had to be built by Pininfarina. Another one was the SMM, which stands for Spider Mille Miglia, and was raced by Tazio Nuvolari. Nuvolari placed third overall in the Mille Miglia of 1947. The 202 has a 1100cc four-cylinder power plant producing just 61 hp, it cleared 125 mph in testing. You can defenitely say that this is a impressive small engine and a superb Itaian automotive design.

Savonuzzi already showed to go a bit more futuristic with the big wings of his aerodynamic design 202 CMM Aerodinamica Savonuzzi,, also known as the 'Savonuzzi Streamliner' or the 'Aerodynamica Savonuzzi'. This concept you also see in his later design of the Ghia Gilda.

Savonuzzi had a very significant and unrecognized role in designing the seminal Cisitalia 202. He left Cisitalia in 1948 to form his own design and engineering consultancy. He then took a second job as a lecturer with the Turin Politecnico. This assignment guaranteed access to one of the few windtunnels in Italy. In the 1950s, a consulting client of Savonuzzi’s was Carrozzeria Ghia, which in 1953 constructed the body for an intriguing one-off he had designed for his friend Virgilio Conrero, an Alfa Romeo tuner. This was to open the door to what came next…

To be continued tomorrow.