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Concept Car of the Week: Ford Ghia Focus (1992)

Fri, 30 May 2014

As far back as the 1960s, Luigi Colani was preaching about organic design, and the 'biodynamic' forms that eventually became his signature. However, organic design didn't gain widespread popularity among car designers until the late 1980s and early '90s, and no car paid a greater tribute to nature and its forms than the Ghia Focus.

Designed entirely by Taru Lahti only two years after graduating, the concept was a real breakthrough for the usually conservative American brand. In his personal notebook we can read: "The language of the automobile has become too self-referential. I looked to other forms for inspiration.

"This alternative language escapes from the traps of what has thus far been considered design. Embracing design's earlier innocence while not accepting some of the more superfluous technological distractions."

Despite its asymmetric nostrils, the Focus had a very aquatic appearance – the headlamps looked like bubbles and the front stabilizers like fins; the side protection bar wrapping around the rear corners also recalls a catfish's whiskers.

The flanks flowed seamlessly towards the rear and wrapped sinuously over the rear deck, curving inward like on a Bertone BAT concept to offer rollover protection. The same bubble theme was applied on the tail-lamps and the exhaust was centrally mounted, poking through gunmetal-painted carbon fiber.

Lahti had given the same attention to detail when creating the Steampunk-ish cabin. The asymmetric wooden steering wheel and the gear lever used undulating tubes, matching the outside mirror's mountings, while the tapered dashboard was extended to merge with the door armrests.

Built in the workshops of Ghia in Turin, the skill of the metal craftsmen was evident in the instruments, mirrors, console and rear deck trim, all beautifully hand-formed, brushed and clear-coated steel. The cold metal finishers contrasted with the warmth of the thick tan natural saddle cowhide covering the seats and the doors.

The two-seater roadster was built over a shortened floor plan from the four-wheel drive Escort RS Cosworth and was powered by its 227bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

More sculpture than car, the radical concept has since become the symbol of the bio era. Its unique philosophy impressed even the greatest, as Giorgio Giugiaro commented "it is not a car, it is a piece of art."

First seen 1992 Turin Motor Show
Designer Taru Lahti
Length 4,135mm
Width 1,793mm
Height 1,224mm
Engine four-cylinder, 1993cc, turbocharged
Power 227bhp

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if it isn't already in your bookmarks, it certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet