GHIA SELENE II "DREAM CAR" CONCEPT
Pearl white and black with white vinyl interior
The Sixties were fascinated by technology. All kinds of breakthroughs were seen as just around the corner. Miniature atomic powerplants were going to be in every home. Huge airplanes would be like flying club rooms. Every phone would have a television attached to it. The pages of Popular Science were filled with wonderful ideas, all drawn in primary colors and pastels like comic books.
Transportation, of course, was at the head of the list. Anti-gravity transportation modules, rocket sleds, helicopters and small airplanes that landed, retracted their wings and drove off like automobiles. It is not hard to see how creative organizations like Ghia and its designers got caught up in the excitement. Today's cars were the ones they'd put on paper two or three years ago and they had already put the cars of three years hence on paper, built models, wind tunnel tested them, built full size prototypes and been paid. Ten or fifteen years in the future wasn't really that much different. So they designed cars with bubbles, cars with fins, cars with jet pods, two wheel cars balanced by gyroscopes.
Sometimes they even designed cars that looked like they could fly but actually had wheels and contemplated even having engines.
In 1959 Tom Tjaarda (the son of John Tjaarda who, while he was at Briggs, designed the proposal that eventually became the Lincoln Zephyr) was working at Ghia and received the call to build Selene, a wild concept with the driver in front of the front wheels preceded into traffic by a long snout. Selene got plenty of press and it eventually caught the eye of some commissar in Moscow who seized upon it as the model for a proposed Russian taxi cab. When last heard from, Selene was still in Moscow.
Incredibly, a couple of years later Virgil Exner, Jr., working independently with his father who had left Chrysler after forming strong ties with Ghia, designed the sequel to Selene which also was built at Ghia. That project was the Ghia Selene II concept on offer here. If there ever was a concept that communicated a "space" theme it is the Ghia Selene II concept.
The Ghia Selene II concept's driver sits in front in a centrally-located minimalist bucket seat under a canopy. Steering is by an aircraft-style yoke. The two passengers sit behind the driver, also in the then-fashionable minimalist buckets but facing back looking at a television screen (one of the old small ones with rounded corners.) The doors have transparent windows that extend from the beltline to the center of the roof. The floor is raised. Behind the passenger compartment, which ends well in front of the rear wheels, a tapering tail with central fin (which is shaped remarkably like a '59 Plymouth's, even to the chrome trim along its trailing edge) extends to the rear bumper over cutaway wheel wells.
Like its predecessor, the Ghia Selene II concept attracted immense publicity, as well it should at the beginning of the Sixties, however it never ran and has remained in Ghia's small collection in Turin ever since. In the 1950s and '60s, the popular term for these wild designs was "Dream Cars" rather than the more common term today of Concept Models.
The Ghia Selene II concept's metal body is fabricated with the skill for which Ghia is known with good panel fits and even gaps. The suspension does not appear to work and there is no engine or any drivetrain components. The two side doors work well but drop slightly. The tires are 155-15s by CEAT mounted on steel wheels. The paint is in decent condition, appearing to have been repainted some time ago. The coverings on the passengers' seats is surface cracked but not torn.
Ghia Selene II is nothing less than a cultural artifact of the beginning of the 1960s when much of the world's population thought technology could accomplish anything. The intervening forty-three years have demonstrated that is not the case but the Ghia Selene II concept is an opportunity to recapture that optimism, enthusiasm and confidence while preserving an important and singular example of futuristic design.