By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

We’re quite familiar these days with the unique automotive offspring of American and Italian descent. Beautiful in appearance, but a bit brutish behind the wheel, cars like the DeTomaso Pantera, Bizzarrini Strada and Iso Grifo combined exotic European flavor with proven American V8s from Ford and Chevrolet. The big cubic-inch engines provided gobs of torque for cheap, and were relatively simple and reliable when compared to smaller displacement European V12s and quad-cam V8s.

Largely stifled by the oil crisis of the mid ’70s, these cars fell off the radar, and into obscurity in some cases. But today, values have skyrocketed, and affordable classics like the Pantera now command $80,000 to $100,000-plus.

The pair of little Italian-American exotics seen here on eBay may stump even the devout Euro enthusiast, and rightfully so as just 2,200 of them were made and just 200 are thought to be in existence today. Known as the OSI-Ford 20M TS, these cars are another interesting marriage of Italian design and American mechanicals, but with a significant difference over the more prominent Italian-American exotics. The OSI is actually an Italian rebody of the Ford Taunus 20M, which was built by Ford Germany using the Ford Cologne V6 engine. (The Taunus was sold with V6 and V4 engines, but the OSI was sold with a choice of V6 engines.)

In production from 1939 to 1994, the Ford Taunus was an unassuming family car built by Ford’s German subsidiary throughout Europe. As a plain and simple commuter, it took a special kind of crazy to envision the 20M as a coach-built exotic, and that kind of thinking came courtesy of Turin-based OSI, or Officine Stampaggi Industriali, which loosely means Industrial Stampings Workshops. In business from 1960 to 1968, OSI was founded as an independent design branch of Ghia that would focus on niche projects. An existing stamping facility known as Fergat made up the other arm of the joint venture. Luigi Segre, former president of Ghia, headed up the firm, and work soon started on several coachbuilding projects. The Innocenti C coupe, Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina de Luxe, Ford Anglia Torino and Alfa Romeo Giulia Scarabeo are some of the other significant projects in OSI’s brief period of operations. In ’63, Segre died, which started to alienate OSI from Ghia, and the work slowed. Operations ended in ’68, and parts of OSI were combined with Fiat.

Based on an all-steel monocoque, the 20M TS was a stylish coupe with your choice of 1,998 cc and 2,293 cc Ford iron-block, pushrod V6 engines. At 89 hp and 107 hp respectively, these two engines won’t be winning many races, but each should prove plenty lively in a car that weighs 2,535 pounds. Cars came with a four-speed transmission as standard, and power was sent to the rear wheels.

The owner of these two 20M TSs must have an unmatched appreciation for the marque, as he owns three cars, two ’67s and one ’68. The owner claims that only nine OSI 20Ms reside in the United States, so this collection represents a significant portion of OSI production worldwide.

From the ad, it appears that two project cars are offered for sale here on eBay for the sum of $17,500. Despite missing some parts, the cars are in respectable condition for their age, and the seller claims $30,000 worth of parts is included in the deal. That’s a bit of reassurance, as these parts are probably very difficult to come by, but we’re assuming a couple of the hard-to-find items made it onto the seller’s other car, a fully restored version to be offered for sale soon.

While these small Italian-American exotics don’t have the same pedigree as the Bizzarrinis, DeTomasos or Isos, they’re quite unique, and really stand out from the affordable classics we’re used to. They’ve got an interesting shape that seems to be equal parts Fiat Dino Coupe and Ferrari Dino 208, with a little BMW 2800 CS sprinkled in. And as values on ’70s exotics continue to skyrocket, these little OSIs stand to be worth a pretty penny some day.

See the seller’s ad here on eBay.