This rare Italian racer, with gorgeous coachwork by Stabilimenti Farina in Torino, is powered by a Siata-modified Fiat 8V, 2 liter, alloy engine with dual twin downdraft Weber carbs, and a 3-point suspended alloy differential, driven through a 4-speed box and is regarded as one of the most brilliant designs ever created by the marque.
Siata had a close collaboration with Fiat and got involved in the development of the Fiat 8V at an early stage. It is generally recognized that the suspension and chassis construction of the Fiat 8V was carried out in close collaboration with Siata, with its headquarters based in Torino.
Interestingly enough, Siata tested the first Fiat 8V engine in the Giro di Sicilia on March 9th, exactly 11 days before the new “ottovu” (8V) was introduced at the Torino Motor Show in the spring of 1952 when both companies presented their new models simultaneously.
The 208 CS Berlinetta was an in-house development by Siata using a special oval tube chassis of the famous “Coca-Cola bottle” configuration with impressive lightweight Stabilimenti Farina Berlinetta coachwork in all aluminum. It featured new and very advanced design standards like mechanically retractable headlights and ultra light and low coachwork construction. The Coke bottle shape of oval tubing allowed Siata to place the bucket seats on the alloy floorpan between the chassis tubes enabling a low and beautiful roofline and additional weight savings.
Siata bought the 8V suspension unit at Fiat and installed a Siata-prepared 2 liter all alloy 8V Fiat engine and gearbox. This very nimble Berlinetta of gorgeous and advanced styling had a formidable impact at the Torino show. Captains of industry and presidents of state held their breath admiring this beautiful, lightweight Italian sculpture. Period photos in leading journals like Motor Italia (Primavera 1952) extensively showed the new car, including pictures with Prince Rainier of Monaco, confirming the wide admiration this car generated. In fact, the model being auctioned by Bonhams, chassis #052, was the factory’s very display car at the Torino show.
Since the fabled Mille Miglia race started at the end of the first week of the May motor show, Siata removed the car from the stand shortly before the race started in Brescia. Chassis number 052 SC was one of three Siata factory entries that year (the other Berlinetta’s being 053 and 055) for which some last minute preparation took place, such as the fabrication of two small trapdoors in both front fenders and the installation of a third windscreen wiper on the drivers’ side.
The car started in the Mille Miglia with start number 542 driven by Tullini and Rossi. It is unknown why the car was a DNF. One of the sister cars finished 11th overall, indicating high speed and excellent road behavior – a brilliant first for a 2-liter car in this most challenging and famous road competition.
After the Mille Miglia all three ex-ufficiale Berlinettas were sent back to the factory for small modifications. The side vents were increased in size and the fog and spotlights were removed from the grill as was the third wiper. Furthermore, the lateral petrol tank neck and quick filler cap fitted through the right rear quarter window changed position. The car got a new large capacity petrol tank that was fitted in a more common space behind the rear axle and differential with the quick filler cap placed in the midline below the rear window. The original tank behind the driver seats was removed creating more space inside. All three cars got the same treatment and from 1953 onwards all appeared in this configuration.
Number 052 was in many ways a unique exception. It is the only example with an upward kink of the lateral upper contour of the side window frames, exactly were they join the A-posts of the windshield. It is therefore easy to recognize and is one of the most exciting low roof Berlinetta shapes ever produced. Another unique feature on this Stabilimenti Berlinetta is the telescoping 4-spoke wooden steering wheel. Only the sister car, spider #054, constructed by Bertone, has the same steering wheel construction.
Painstakingly restored to the utmost historical and professional level, this unique piece of Italian automotive art of unsurpassed beauty is ready to be entered in any top historic event in the world, whether Concours or race, even being guaranteed entry at the Mille Miglia as an ex-works car.
Bonhams & Butterfields’ auction of competition and collector cars will take place at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, California, on Friday, August 14th.
Owners interested in consigning individual cars or entire collections to this world-renowned auction should contact Bonhams’ North American Motoring Department. E-mails can be sent to [email protected]
Calls can be made to:
Mark Osborne, VP & Head of Department, San Francisco: 415-391-4000
Rupert Banner, VP Business Development, New York: 212-461-6515
For more information, visit www.bonhams.com/cars.