Glamorous Hollywood star Rita Hayworth’s 1953 Cadillac-Ghia was a make-up present from her estranged husband Aly Khan. It didn’t save their marriage, but she kept the car anyway. And what a car it was, a swanky streamlined coupe that glittered like the goddess herself; it rolled off the boat into tinsel town at its peak glam era.
When there’s trouble in paradise, most guys butter up their wives with a night out on the town or a spray of flowers, but when you’re the fabulously wealthy Aly Khan trying to woo your gorgeous Hollywood star wife, a box of fancy chocolates won’t do the job. But a coach built Cadillac-Ghia might just do the trick, at least Khan thought so.
Ghia had great success building one-off concepts on Chrysler platforms for legendary designer Virgil Exner during the early 1950s, so it wasn’t a stretch for the Italian firm to try their hand at re-bodying a Cadillac. They bought two Series 62 chasses with 210-hp, 331-cu.in. overhead valve V-8s and wrapped them in voluptuous bodywork that still turns heads like a Hollywood glamour queen should.
The Cadillac-Ghia coupes debuted at the 1953 Paris Auto Salon where Aly Khan saw them and was immediately smitten, choosing to purchase the white one.
A later, German owner had repainted it black and changed its upholstery. Later, the Petersen Automotive Museum purchased Hayworth’s car and re-restored it to a concours standard, changing its color to metallic burgundy with saddle tan leather interior and matching fitted luggage.
The other Cadillac-Ghia coupe is displayed in Las Vegas’ Imperial Palace. The Petersen coupe starred in Ironman as one of Tony Stark’s rides, and has won awards at both Pebble Beach and the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance.
Visitors to Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum can see the Hayworth Cadillac Ghia Coupe on permanent display in their stars’ cars section. Its sleek curvaceous look remains a crowd favorite today, just as it was at the 1953 Paris Auto Salon.
Written and photographed by Jim Cherry