My Car Quest

June 20, 2024

Editorial: Too Smart by Half….

by Wallace Wyss –

Well, some car pictures hurt when I see them, like little slings and arrows. Mike Gulett’s picture of a Ghia Cadillac hurt because I think I missed a chance to buy one because I was, as the Brits say “too smart by half” which translates to the American phrase “too smart for your own good.” I outsmarted myself.

Ghia Cadillac

Ghia Cadillac – photo by Mike Gulett

What happened was maybe 24 years ago or so I was toodling down from Los Angeles to San Diego in my Karmann Ghia convertible with the Missus and passed a used car lot in Encinitas, a coastal town not celebrated like Nixon’s San Clemente or La Jolla, just a town by the sea.

I was on Highway 1, not the freeway. As I pass a used car lot which had 10 to 12 cars, I see a svelte coupe from the Fifties I recognize it as a Ghia but am not sure what car it is. I stop and walk around it. The crowning point is the well defined grille cavity and the rising fender line. The roof looked like an attempt to show Detroit “This is pillarless hardtop, you dummies.”

But when I saw three dummy exhausts sprouting out of the side of the rear fenders I chortled at the ineptness. I think they may have had lenses in them to be extra taillights. But the extra pipes were painted a grainy crackling gold, not chrome. As soon as I saw gold I thought George Barris, the customizer in North Hollywood, who painted everything that wasn’t moving gold, (I bet even his coffin was gold).

So I told the salesman “This couldn’t be a Ghia Cadillac. First of all Ghia did Chryslers. Pininfarina did Cadillacs. And secondly all that gold means George Barris.” I remembered a Silver Cloud Sedanca he did, hacking the front roof off a four door saloon, and laying the gold on an inch thick but if course it was for some celebrity who thrived on glitz like Zsa Zsa Gabor. I could see this was yet another Barris interpretation of The Way It Should be Done, if Ghia were to build a Cadillac.

Ghia Cadillac

Ghia Cadillac – photo by Mike Gulett

So, having pontificated mightily from on high, from the perch of being an automotive historian, I got back in my Ghia and continued south, marveling that they had the bloody cheek to ask $11,000 for some Hollywood customizer’s interpretation of how the Italians should do things.

So flash forward a couple of decades and I see the Petersen Museum showing a black Ghia Cadillac. Was it the used car from Encinitas? Maybe but the three pipes on each rear fender were gone and the chrome was chrome. Turns out there were three of them and each now is probably worth a million or more.

I recall how proud I was to have put that salesman in his place, telling him he did not have a one off (three off?) but a bloody Kustom from the King of Kustom.

Then years later I ran across a story on the Hudson Italia. Same thing, American chassis bodied in Italy. This time by Carrozzeri Touring. There’s those silly exhaust pipes sprouting out of the side of the rear fenders. So then I realize those pipes were but an Italian affectation used on the Hudson Italia–the car I had seen really was Italian bodied. But I still think the cheezy crackle gold–George had to have been messing with that car somehow somewhere, which threw me off the trail. And the car may have even been the one bought for movie star Rita Hayworth by her Prince of a husband Aly Kahn (who was on his way out of the marriage–maybe an attempt at getting back together?).

Or maybe it was one of the other two. There were three of them. And as a result of my know-it-all attitude, I missed owning a world class Italian example of hand craftsmanship.

So lesson learned? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist specializing in oil portraits of motorcars. He can be reached at


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Editorial: Too Smart by Half....
Article Name
Editorial: Too Smart by Half....
A photo of a Ghia Cadillac hurt because I think I missed a chance to buy one. I was, as the Brits say "too smart by half" which translates to the American phrase "too smart for your own good."


  1. This car was on display at the Audrain Concours in Newport last weekend where I showed my Iso Grifo. It was gorgeous! FYI this is a fabulous show quarterbacked by Jay Leno and Donald Osborne.

  2. wallace wyss says

    Is there anyone who took pictures at the show? Maybe this Concours will be a rival for Pebble…if you’ve got pictures, contact MCQ and we can get a story written

  3. Mike Stellato says

    Coulda…..Woulda….Shoulda !!

  4. Wayne Watkins says

    Reminds me of the time Boyded , a GMH car dealer in Sydney had a used car Manager who bought himself with the company’s money a 1969 Detomaso Mangusta as a drive car . He was a poser and hopeless as a Manager, so they fired him and as they were a GM dealer did not want to be seen with a car with a Ford V8 in it . I was offered the car for A$10,000 as it owed them heaps more . I agreed and when I was driving it home it spat out two spark plug leads , so I limped back to their dealership and said it needed $1,500 mechanically spending on it , so could I change my cheque to $8,500 . They reluctantly agreed and the rest is history as I later found out that it was one of four RHD Mangustas sold new in Australia and possibly now worth half a million bucks .

    • Wayne,

      But you did buy it! Not many of us can say we owned a Mangusta.

      • Wayne Watkins says

        Yes I did buy it and owned for 6 months . It was fitted with a later model 351V8 and was red in colour and when I was stopped at traffic lights you could see bystanders mouthing Ferrari . The rose joint suspension was very worn and it had no spare wheel and when it rained the Italian wipers refused to work and when it was hot the aircon failed and the side windows only lowered about an inch , but my 8.5 grand investment made me feel like a million dollars . I more than doubled my money when I sold it , so thought I had won the lottery .

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