1988 Ford Ghia Saguaro - precursor to today’s crossovers (was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1988)
Built by Ghia of Turin, the aerodynamic, seven-passenger Ford Ghia Saguaro concept featured a steeply raked windshield angle, fastback roof, and flush door glass and door handles. Wraparound taillights accented the rear, and the liftgate draped over onto the roof. The Ghia Saguaro had its debut in Italy a year earlier, then arrived in North America to be exhibit at the 1989 Chicago show.
Capable of seating seven passengers, the Saguaro featured flush four-sided glass on the side doors, flush exterior door handles, and a sleek windshield angle. The unique 19-inch wheels were placed farther from each other than on standard vehicles. Air intakes were placed inboard of each headlight for improved engine cooling during off-road driving. The interior featured two seats up front, three in the middle, and two in back. Both rows of rear sears could also fold flat to create extra luggage space. The rear hatch was hinged on the roof, enabling larger objects to be loaded into the car. Electronic digital instruments lined the dashboard.
Concept Car Central
Silver blue mauve with ice blue leather trim and grey cloth interior.
The Ghia Saguaro concept pushed the SUV envelope in a different direction. Designed on the Ford Mondeo platform, it focused on the car-like attributes of successful SUVs, emphasizing straight-forward daily use and enjoyment while retaining some design characteristics of SUVs.
Giuseppe Delena, who was Design Manager at Ghia at the time, worked on the Ghia Saguaro and recalled, "The concept was to take the idea of an SUV - but remember, this was 1988 - but rather than the rugged aspect we wanted to concentrate on a street version of the SUV...the high position...and combine it with the sleekness of a sporty car. ...Shade the rugged sportiness more toward road sportiness. We came up with the idea of a hybrid. ...It was particularly interesting, with big wheels and tires. We had to get a really fast windshield to get the appearance of a very slick vehicle. ...The front end, with the horizontal louvers and interrupted by fog lamps was particularly similar to other later vehicles."
The Ghia Saguaro concept presents a wedge profile behind a distinctive oval grille with horizontal elements, interrupted by fog lights as it wraps around the front corners under elongated ovoid headlight covers. A fastback, the SUV look and utility are preserved by the Ghia Saguaro concept's high, haunchy tail. 19" wheels wear tires with an outside diameter of over two feet, communicating the Ghia Saguaro concept's all-elements capability with their massive presence. The side windows are flush with their frames and the door handles recessed for lower drag and reduced wind noise.
Interior seating is unusual for 1989 but highly functional, a 2-3-2 arrangement with individual front seats, a modified bench second seat and backward-facing seating for two in the rear. Both sets of back seats fold to convert the Ghia Saguaro concept into a spacious cargo carrier. The hatch-style rear gate was hinged well up into the roof to make room even for tall items when it is open. A vertical glass element lies below the spoiler that terminates the wedge line. This lower glass gives the driver a much better sight line behind the Ghia Saguaro concept. Delena commented on the interior form development, "The front seats were integrated into the console - they seem to be coming out of the console - to form a cocoon around the driver and passenger. The colors - a cool light green - are fresh and interesting."
The Ghia Saguaro is a full-interior platform concept constructed of fiberglass. The doors do not open. The wheel covers are plastic and the tire treads and sidewalls are custom cut. The front wheels turn by pushing them, a function known in the car show world as "kick-steer". Paint and interior show their age and are not in good condition. The left rear quarter window is missing.
Today, the Ghia Saguaro concept might be known as a "cross-over" model, a term that had yet to enter the auto design lexicon when this concept was created. Taking the most popular features of SUVs and family sedans, it was an early foray into a segment that is still evolving today, over a decade after the Ghia Saguaro concept was built.