1950 Cisitalia Abarth 204 #7
Chassis no. 07
* 1,100cc Fiat in-line four-cylinder
* 75hp with twin carburetors
* 4-speed manual transmission
* Fascinating race history
* Restored by Tillack & Co.
* Eligibile for multiple events, including the Mille Miglia
The Cisitalia Abarth 204 would be notable in history if it were only one of the following three things - the last 'real' Cisitalia, the 'first' Abarth or the car in which the immortal Tazio Nuvolari achieved his final victory. That it is in fact all three makes the 204 remarkable. The story of how the visionary and ambitious Piero Dusio set into motion the meteoric rise and ultimate sliding fall of Cisitalia in the years following WWII is well known. Dusio's gift for both inspiring and attracting the best in engineering, design and driving talent made the small enterprise the center of the sports car world for a brief moment in time and resulted in the creation of what are today some of the most desired collector cars in the world.
The Cisitalia 204 sports racer was being developed simultaneously with what would prove to be the company-destroying Tipo 360 Grand Prix project. For the 204, a novel front suspension design was adapted from the GP car in order to lower the front aspect and provide more precise handling. Dusio's aerodynamics specialist Giovanni Savonuzzi drew a very simple, smooth, low shape for the car, tightly pulled around the compact two-seat cockpit. The Fiat 1100-based 4-cylinder, dual carburetor engine put out 75hp and combined with the lightweight streamlined bodywork gave the 204 ample capability for both circuit and hillclimb events. After the competition appearances, Savonuzzi revised the styling, removing the enveloping front bodywork and replacing it with small cycle fenders.
When the debts accrued due to the disastrous Porsche-designed GP project became too much to bear, the company was placed in receivership. Production was halted on new projects and much of the assets of the firm were transferred to Karl Abarth, who along with Porsche, were major creditors. Among those assets were the remaining stocks of, as well as the manufacturing rights to, the Tipo 204 and 205. The last of the 204s to be completed became 'Cisitalia-Abarth' cars and a new chapter in motorsport was born.
Argentina is central to the story of Cisitalia, not only because Piero Dusio relocated there following the collapse of the original Cisitalia company in Italy. During the bright times, the racing establishment in the South American country was very keen on the cars, none less so than Juan Peron himself. As a result, many Cisitalias were sold to Argentinian drivers. Patricio Badaracco and Ernesto Mario Tornquist, who sometimes ran under the pseudonym 'Emart', were Argentinean gentlemen drivers in the mid-fifties. They are listed in the entry of the 1955 1000 Kilometers of the City of Buenos Aires race, credited with driving an "Cisitalia Abarth 1100" to a 9th place finish. What is believed to be a period photograph of this car appears in an Argentinean motoring magazine.
In another magazine clipping circa 1960 is said to show the car again, this time as modified with an inline 6-cylinder Studebaker engine installed and driven by Lelio Castelli. The grill opening of the 'Santo-Studebaker', or Abarth Studebaker as it was sometimes called has been opened up and re-shaped into a rectangle and the front fenders are now of the cycle type. This car may have even been a 'movie star'- an advertisement for a film called 'Como una Nube di Algodon' (Like a Cloud of Cotton), an Argentinean comedy from the late 1950s. After its competition life was over, this car was left ignored in storage, the fate of many an old racer. As in a romantic fantasy, this car was found stored in a boathouse, lashed to a pallet in a corner by the late Stan Nowak, an eminent Cisitalia authority and enthusiast. Brought to the U.S. in the late 1990s, it was purchased by the vendor from Mr. Nowak. As the car had been last run with the American engine a search was begun for a proper Fiat-based unit. After three years, an appropriate motor was located in Italy and the restoration was started in earnest.
The work was executed by the firm of Tillack & Co. of Redondo Beach, California who are renowned for the quality and detail of their world-class restorations. The car, while having been modified for the installation of the Studebaker engine, was remarkably complete and otherwise original when found, enabling the restorers to confirm the correctness and authenticity of many of the components and construction.
As completed, it stands ready to run in any one of a plethora of international events, from races to rallies to concours. Finished in a perfect shade of Abarth silver, with black leather seats, it is a testament to the simple, brilliant design of Savonuzzi, Porsche and Abarth, and a symbol of what the best minds of an age can achieve in collaboration. In an article in the Argentinean magazine "Ruedasclasicas", noted Cisitalia guru Dr. Sergio Lugo detailed the story of the 204, and states that while there are eight chassis numbers listed for the 204, it is believed it to be likely that only five were ever built. Remarkably, all five exist today. To own a vehicle which marks a major milestone in two of motor racing's most notable firms is truly an opportunity not to be lightly considered.