SIATA 208 CS 2+2 Berlinetta 1952
SIATA (Societa Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori) was founded in Turin, Italy in 1926 by Giorgio Ambrosini, and began by modifying and tuning FIATs. Manufacture, under the name SIATA Auto Spa, began in 1948 with Fiat 500- and 750-based models and the firm was active in racing from its earliest days. During the 1950s and on into the ’60s a variety of US engines including Crosley, Ford and Chrysler V8s was adopted in addition to FIAT’s home-grown motors.
One of the latter was used to power what is arguably SIATA’s most famous model, the Tipo 208, which was based on the V8-engined FIAT ‘8V’ model and equipped with a variety of stylish Italian coachwork from the likes of Stabilimenti Farina, Vignale and Bertone. An unusual and exciting diversion for a company whose post-WW2 success was founded on the volume production of value-for-money transportation, the FIAT 8V (‘otto vu’) had been launched at the 1952 Geneva Salon. Rather than a series production model, the 8V had been conceived as the company’s exclusive image-making flagship as well as a contender in international 2-litre GT class racing. Designed by Dante Giacosa, the 8V’s 1,996cc, overhead-valve, all-alloy V8 engine was an advanced design, heavily over-square with bore/stroke dimensions of 72x61.3mm, and breathed via two twin-coke Weber carburettors. Varying states of tune were available, ranging from 105 to 127bhp. The 8V’s coil-sprung suspension was equalled advanced, being independent all round (a first for FIAT) while the in-house coachwork, designed by Fabio Rapi, is surely one of the most beautiful shapes ever created by a major automobile manufacturer. The V8 engine had been intended for a proposed luxury saloon; in the event, the latter never materialised and the motor was only ever used to power the 8V, a mere 114 of which were made between 1952 and 1954, and the even less numerous SIAT 208.
This SIATA 208 2+2 with matching chassis/engine numbers ‘CS057L’/‘CS023’ was bodied by Carrozzeria Bertone on a slightly lengthened (by 200mm) chassis in mid-1952. Only four 2,700mm chassis were built by SIATA for these special 208 models, which had resulted from a one-off order from Stanley Arnolt at the beginning of his collaboration with Bertone.
Having made his fortune supplying engines to the US Marine Corps during WW2, American industrialist Stanley Harold ‘Wacky’ Arnolt was able to indulge his lifelong love of automobiles, and by 1952 was a regional BMC distributor and US distributor for Bristol cars. In 1952 a meeting between Arnolt and Bertone at that year’s Turin Show led to Arnolt buying a stake in the Italian company, joining its Board of Directors and arranging manufacture of Bertone-bodied Arnolt MGs. By this time under the direction of Giuseppe ‘Nuccio’ Bertone, son of founder Giovanni, the Torinese firm was well placed to undertake Arnolt’s commission, having only recently moved into a large new factory at Grugliasco from which some 40,000-or-so Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprints would emerge by the decade’s end. As well as a gifted stylist, Nuccio Bertone was also a keen racing driver, campaigning a lightened and modified SIATA 208 until family pressure forced his retirement from the racetrack.
The first results of this US-Italian collaboration were sold as Arnolt-MGs in the USA. When the supply of MG TC chassis dried up, Arnolt’s next venture made use of his Bristol connections, the UK manufacturer’s ‘404’ getting the Bertone treatment in 1953. The following year, after a meeting with Aston Martin’s owner David Brown, Arnolt had eight Bertone-bodied cars built on the DB2/4 chassis, the first of which was exhibited at the New York Motor Show in 1954.
This particular SIATA 208 was exhibited at the Paris Auto Show in October 1952 and then at the New York International Motor Sports Show in April 1953. Arnolt eventually sold the car to Stuart Sherman in Illinois. It was sold on in 1955 to Roy Thoressen in Minnesota, who stored the car for more than 30 years until 1989. It was acquired in 1993, still in original condition, by Walter Eisenstark, of Yorktown Heights. Mr Eisenstark started a total restoration to very high standard before the car was sold to a Dutch collector in Europe.
This rare SIATA 208CS with its one-off Bertone body combines beautiful hand-built coachwork - typical of Italy’s 1950s ‘golden age’ of automobile styling - with the exotic FIAT 8V mechanical parts.
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