SCM Smith Corona GT Ghia

This typewriter was new in 1975, an unwanted present and had never been used. It was to all intents and purposes, a new machine. This review was the second and last by Form Five Com (commercial), the shorthand typists of the 1960’s before we type off into the sunset.


The plastic casing was styled by Ghia, better known for designing cars than typewriters or indeed anything else. Even the name GT is associated more with cars, perhaps then, this is the GT (Grand Tourer) of typewriters? The lid has two go faster stripes and the Ghia badge. The base of the case is also the base of the machine and instead of the usual round rubber pads there are two strips of rubber like the tread on car tyres so it should be slip resistant even on a wet surface! Removing the lid the typewriter smelled very strongly of rubber. The carriage return lever also has a rubber pad glued onto it with a tyre pattern.

Features: This certainly is a feature rich typewriter especially when compared with the very basic Empire Corona de luxe we reviewed before. This typewriter sports graduated scales on both the paper bale and behind the platen together with a double scale on the left of the platen to indicate when reaching the end of the page. On the left of the space bar is the power spacer and the right the error control. It doesn’t stop there either, the back space key also doubles for returning the keys should you stack a couple of them up when typing. It has a touch control with three settings, the ribbon selector has three positions for black, red and for cutting stencils.

Performance: The key cover had a tape warning to remove the inner packing and that was removed along with the British Standards Institute sticker as this machine is compliant with the typewriter standard and also the sticker from the London Design Centre together with the Union Flag sticker proudly proclaiming it was made in the UK. I am sure that this may well have influenced prospective buyers.
The paper handling proved to be the usual bun fight as with other typewriters from this stable if you want to adjust the paper once you have fed it in. It is not too bad with just two sheets of paper, one being a backing sheet but really one original and one carbon copy is the maximum without it turning into a tug of war contest. It should be remembered though that typewriter paper used to be very thin about half the thickness of most A4 copy paper now and that the machine was clearly intended just as a typewriter to be used at home for letters and such. The touch control did nothing at first but after a few pages you could detect the difference between low, medium and high settings. It proved to be easy and quite pleasant to type with and I tended to type at a faster rate of knots than with a lot of other machines. The print quality was good but this is a very intolerant machine and it is all too easy to end up with a wavy line of typing if you do not let the strikers return. Apart from the Ghia styling this is the same machine as the calypso and that came in for a lot on criticism over print quality  when tested by several magazines in the seventies but as with the Empire Corona which has the same basic mechanics it is more down to the typist than the typewriter. This is enough though for many to choose a more tolerant machine more suited to indifferent typing.The error control in case you have not come across this before is just a half space and typing the letter with the space bar depressed to insert a missed character. Not, I think something that most professional typists would want to do. Pressing the power space on the left of the space bar moves the carriage along at a fair pace with a loud grating noise.  I was not too impressed with this feature. The Tabulator is something else as well. This is the first time I have come across a pre-set tabulator. This is fine if you want a tab set at 20,30 and so on to 60 characters on the scale but not if you do not since that is all the choice you are going to get. Pressing the tab key was a bit scary for the first time too. The carriage accelerated at lightning speed to stop with a loud bang against the tab stop. So violent was this that the whole machine shook and slid across the table in spite of the two rubber tyre treads running across the base of the typewriter. Since this typewriter is car themed, we timed the carriage on a standing start from the left margin to the first tabulator stop. We then converted this into the equivalent of a standing quarter of a mile. The result is that the SCM Smith Corona GT Ghia achieved an amazing standing quarter mile in only 26.2 minutes! This may not be fast for a car, even an East German Trabant could do better but a typewriter carriage?

Speed and Accuracy: The construction of the whole typewriter is very flimsy and after the Empire Corona self destructed on us we decided to go a little more gently with this one as the mechanics are the same, just that the GT has a few more extras on it. One thing that should be mentioned is that the machine has a few sharp edges and corners on it so a little care has to be exercised and a packet of first aid plasters kept handy is not a bad idea either. Will it do the ton, a hundred words per minute? Yes and we managed over this for short bursts and over three minute RSA and LCC speed and accuracy tests from the 1960’s.  We did not deduct 5 words per minute for errors and we gave ourselves a time allowance because of the weakness of the carriage return mechanism and we were not going to wreck a brand new typewriter. An office typewriter or a decent quality portable would not have these problems. Even with with a 5 wpm penalty we managed 80 to 90 wpm. In the real world, of course, I doubt if any of us ever did more than 40 wpm except perhaps on a Friday morning so we could leave work early and get a head start on the weekend!

Conclusions: This typewriter is definitely one for the boys. The coffee bar racer of typewriters. This one still smells of rubber tyres. It is a very noisy machine and has a ringing sound to it. It needs the loud bell at the end of the line. It is a bit like a motorcycle with holes knocked in the silence to make a loud noise. The noise increases as the carriage moves from left to right when typing. It does have a nice keyboard and a light positive feel to it. It is, however, a no go show-boat, looks nice but performs poorly when compared to most other portable typewriters. Very popular with collectors of memorabilia but not one for the typewriter collector perhaps. They are not rare and although on Ebay these sometimes sell for eye watering amounts you should be able to pick a mid week one up for the twenty pound mark. Be careful though if you want one, they damage and mark very easily. Good enough for occasional use but make sure you get a little used one like the test machine. There are a lot of them about so don’t get involved in a week-end bidding bun fight. They are like London Buses, there will always be another one along in a minute.