Mario Boano's Ghias*

In a previous story I have discussed how the Alfa Romeo 1900 Ghia Supergioiello's "look" was influenced by Chrysler's Virgil Exner. In this story you can see how this Exner-derived style was applied to two Alfa 1900 models, as well as several other makes.

(at right, a smiling, flamboyant Mario Felice Boano leans on a 1953 Plymouth.)

The original Chrysler K-310 "Dream Car", was designed by Chrysler's Virgil Exner and his Detroit team. This headlight treatment, borrowed from an earlier Bugatti show car, would soon characterize many Ghia designs in the 1950s, including Alfa Romeo 1900s (see photo bar at the top of this feature for a sampling). 

In 1953, Ghia produced the Chrysler d'Elegance dream car, showing a progression of the K-310's treatment of the front end that comes a bit closer to the Alfa-style treatment. 

Original press photo of an Alfa 1900 Supergioiello, also built in 1953, two years after the Chrysler K-310. The collaboration between Boano and Exner was bearing fruit for Alfa Romeo and other brands. The Dutch caption above this photo states that this car was a father & son Boano design. The son would be Gianpaolo Boano, who also designed a somewhat grotesque Lancia Aurelia along vaguely similar lines and "signed" it "B_Junior" (see very last photo).

The 1953 Dodge Firearrow, another Chrysler show car, clearly is following the frontal styling direction established by the Chrysler d'Elegance. And the fender line and headlight treatment continue to be very similar to that of the Alfa 1900 Supergioiello two-seaters and the "America" 4/5 seaters such as *01078* and *01085*.

Can there be any doubt that the same hands and mind crafted this car that crafted the Chrysler and Dodge show cars above? Assuming that Boano was following Exner's 1951 theme from the K-310, Boano must have liked the style very much, as he incorporated that look into many non-Chrysler products.

  And recently (2017) I came across this lovely Fiat 1900 Ghia, which more closely resembles the Chrysler Elegance dream car than the Alfa 1900 Supergioiello. This Fiat, like the Elegance, was done in 1953.

This Cadillac Ghia, also from 1953, bears a closer resemblance to the Alfa 1900 than to the K-310. Since Exner would have had no involvement in the creation of a Cadillac show car, the principal designer must have been at Ghia itself, in Turin, Italy, not in Detroit.

This 1954 Fiat 8V (Otto Vu) has a general form reflecting the 1953 cars from Alfa Romeo, Cadillac, Chrysler and Dodge, but differs in the headlight treatment. However, the literature clearly attributes this car to Mario Boano. In none of the online references is there any mention or even hint of Giovanni Savonuzzi, the other major Ghia designer who is sometimes said to have designed the SuperGs and who was responsible for the Fiat and other Supersonicas, as well as the Supersonica-style Alfa 1900s.

This 1953 Abarth Ghia coupe is another variation on Mario Boano's Chrysler-inspired theme while he headed up Carrozzeria Ghia. But by the end of 1954, however, Boano was out at Carrozzeria Ghia and he opened a new business, Carrozzeria Boano. But this car was done in 1953, possibly initiated in late 1952, and would certainly have been styled under Boano's direction. It was shown at the Turin Salon in April, 1953. 

Boano may have left Ghia in 1954 but, two years later, this 1956 Cadillac convertible "concept" by Ghia shows the unmistakable Boano legacy in the treatment of the headlights and, to a lesser extant, the fender form.

And, remarkably, Boano's influence at Ghia can still be seen on this 1957 Cadillac custom. Though "watered down", the headlight and fender treatment looks very familiar, doesn't it?

But wait...there's MORE! Remember the Dual Ghia, from Dual Motors? Yep. A Ghia production using Mario's front-end treatment yet again. Dual Ghia production started in 1957 and ran, with some updates, through the mid-1960s. The car in the photo at left is the progenitor of the original run of Dual Ghias, the 1954 Dodge Firebomb (I don't think such a name would fly today!!). It is virtually identical to the first run of production Dual Ghias.

There's also a great similarity between the rear-end styling of the great Chrysler show cars of the early 1950s and the Alfa Super-Gs. However, that aspect of Boano's design was developed not from the K-310 concept (pictured at left) but from Chrysler's Thomas Special, a presentation of K.T. Keller, President of the  Chrysler Corporation in the early '50s to his Export Division President, C.B. Thomas. Ghia produced as many as 18 examples of the Thomas Special under several model names, including "GS-1".

Compare the rear treatment of the Chrysler GS-1 variation of the Thomas Special (at left) with that of the bumperless Alfa Supergioiello *01505*, below left, and the Chrysler "Special", below right. It seems quite clear to me that these came from the same designer, either personally or by team leadership.

Finally, while the interiors of these many Boano creations varied considerably, the similar dashboard layouts of the 1953 Chrysler d'Elegance (at left) and Super-G *01505* (at lower-left) is certainly no coincidence, allowing for differences in American and continental tastes.

But how much of this work was Mario's and how much was his son's? Could we be seeing a son's work but crediting the father? Judging by the clumsy form of Gianpaolo's Lancia Aurelia (bottom left), I'd say Mario was was calling the shots and his son, if involved in these cars at all, was merely an aide.

There you have it. Mario Boano was the designer of the Alfa 1900 Supergioiello and the frontally-similar Alfa 1900 "America" and boenefitted substantially from his association with Chrysler's Virgil Exner. 

*Disclaimer: Please note that I'm not an expert on these Ghias or even on 1900s in general, so the opinions and speculations expressed are strictly my own. 

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