Represents the genesis of the rebirth of the affordable 2 seat sports car
Barchetta (“little boat” or “skiff”) is what the Italians traditionally called their spartan high performance roadsters – the kind that ran in the Mille Miglia. There were Lancia Barchettas, Ferrari Barchettas and even a Fiat, too. By the early 1980’s the small two-seat performance convertible following the tradition of a Porsche Speedster or Ferrari “Barchetta” had become almost extinct. According to Tom Tjaarda and Filippo Sapino the barchetta rebirth actually started before Japan’s final sports-car onslaught of the late 1980’s. Both point to Ghia’s aptly named Barchetta show car of 1983 as the movement’s first modern expression. Before this very important concept car, production barchettas were mainly English, mainly retro car and mainly small potatoes. The story begins at the Geneva Show in March of 1982. During the press preview Bob Lutz and Karl Ludvigsen were wandering around and deploring the lack of a modern elemental two seater sports roadster in the tradition of the Porsche Speedster or MG TC – no options, side curtains and flop down hood. Lutz, who was then vice president of Ford’s International Automotive Operations, decided to have Ghia come up with a new concept vehicle to test the waters for what he considered to be a viable yet empty niche. Filippo Sapino, Ghia’s managing director, was given the job to design and construct the new prototype. ‘Yes’, said Sapino, ‘the car will be beautiful. We call it the Barchetta. But it will never be shown.’
It was originally destined to be one of the 20 or so Ghia prototypes built every year that are never publicly exhibited. Ghia’s strength among Ford’s several design studios was its ability, in a very short period, to construct a functional concept, very close to the production realization. Barchetta demonstrates that capability and is a shining example of the metal forming talents passed down through the centuries by Turin’s famous calderai, the traditional crafters of ornamental copper and brass.
Almost production ready the Ghia kicked it all off. Barchetta so excited everyone who saw it that against all odds the Ghia Barchetta Concept burst upon the scene at Frankfurt ’83 and completed the International Auto Show circuit to rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. American enthusiast magazines and even fewer attain the standards of Car and Driver, as did the “Ghia Barchetta” in December of 1984. The January 1984 of Car Styling Quarterly had this to say; “anyone who calls himself a car lover is almost certain to fall in love with Ford’s Ghia
Barchetta.” In Germany a “Barchetta Club” was formed that within a short period counted as many as 10,000 members. Sadly, only one Ghia Barchetta was ever made as Ford management was unable to identify a manufacturing facility that would allow “Barchetta” to reach production.
The Barchetta captures the spirit of earlier European sports cars which combined low price with youthful, fun-to-drive appearance. Designed jointly by Ford of Europe and Ford’s Ghia Operations in Turin, Italy, the car has a wedge-shaped, aerodynamic exterior with flush eadlamps, turn signals and tail lights.
A driveable concept vehicle, the Barchetta is equipped with a four-cylinder 1.6 liter OHV engine and a four speed manual transaxle. The car also features a fast 60 degree windshield, a scissory type convertible fabric roof which stows behind the seats, integrated plastic bumpers, 13-inch wheels and servo assisted disc brakes.