1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073
Lot 61
Copiously documented and exquisitely presented
1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER
Sold for US$ 1,072,500 inc. premium

Lot Details
1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073 1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER  Chassis no. BS 509 Engine no. BS 073
1953 SIATA 208S SPORTS TWO SEATER
Coachwork by Motto

Chassis no. BS 509
Engine no. BS 073

260ci OHV V8 Engine
2 Weber Carburetors, 300bhp
4-Speed Manual Transmission (T-10 Cobra Competition Unit)
4-Wheel Independent Suspension by Coil Spring
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes


*Offered with its original engine (number BS 073)
*Period upgrade to Cobra performance
*Immaculately presented, with fresh leather interior
*Eligible for numerous historic events



THE SIATA 208S

The Società Italiana Auto Trasformazione Accessori, or SIATA, was established in Turin by Giorgio Ambrosini in 1926. Initially a manufacturer of speed equipment for FIATs – dual carburetor manifolds, high compression cylinder heads, overhead valve conversions, superchargers, gearsets and even complete gearboxes – SIATA enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with FIAT. The enhanced performance of SIATA-equipped FIATs brought competition success and encouraged sales without FIAT's direct involvement.

Following the war once again SIATA leveraged its success to resume construction of FIAT-based sports cars, winning the 750cc Italian Championship in 1948 and 1949 in the hands of Giorgio Ambrosini's son Renato with the FIAT-SIATA 750 Sport Competizione. A series of SIATA 300BC Spyders were built for the U.S. market powered by Crosley's potent little 750cc single overhead camshaft engine. Larger cars followed, which brought SIATA to the attention of American enthusiasts like Tony Pompeo, Briggs Cunningham, John Perona and Ernie McAfee.

Having been involved in FIAT's Otto Vu project from the outset, when the company ceased production after 49 cars were built, SIATA naturally had access to the overrun of planned V8 power units, leading them to produce their own models: the 2 liter, or 208S. It was undeniably the best looking car to wear the SIATA badge by then (arguably ever), wearing incredibly beautiful coachwork penned by the styling house of Motto, who would go on to style other iconic automobiles such as the Porsche Abarth Carrera.

Tuned by SIATA to make 125 horsepower or more, the SIATA 208S in both Coupe and Spyder achieved exceptional performance and a degree of aesthetic presence that is unexcelled in the early Fifties. Their design – leaning forward in a pose that recalls the photographs of early racing cars taken by cameras with focal plane shutters – is aggressive, potent, sleek and elegant. In the finest tradition of great coachbuilding and sports car design, the appearance of the SIATA 208S was matched by its performance, characterized by an early owner as "a dream to drive.... What I liked most about it was styling, handling and its ability to go like a rocket on demand."

As ever, the fabulous looks and sporting performance came at a price. Here in the States that meant a sticker of just under $5,000, which was a hefty number in the mid-1950s, but they were a natural fit for the California culture of design and performance and where they were best suited also to the warm climate. The legendary Los Angeles Hot Rodder turned dealer Ernie McAfee ensured SIATA's popularity here on the West Coast importing the lion's share of them helped by the backing of the wealthy Doheny family.

McAfee's period advertising proclaimed 'Equal these items in any Car and you have a SIATA V8 - 2 Liter V8 Engine, 4 Wheel Independent Suspension, 78 Spoke Borrani Racing Wheels, Genuine 120hp with 120mph, Fantastic Brakes, Michelin Tires, 1900 lbs Weight. $4995 Complete.' And he knew this from first-hand experience, having bravely campaigned one of the first examples on the Carrera Panamericana in 1953.

SIATA's long and successful history, its experience tuning and developing Fiat-based performance cars, the excellence of the Rudolf Hruska-led design team, the performance and refinement of the Fiat Otto Vu V8 and the simple, refined beauty of the coachwork provided by Italy's finest and most creative carrozzerias make the SIATA 208S one of the most appreciated, sought after and desirable high performance spiders of the period. They are rarely seen today, and even less frequently available to collectors.


THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

This fascinating and exquisite sportscar may be one of the finest balances of style and power of its generation, with the period enhancement of performance discreetly shoehorned unobtrusively into one of the most beautiful cars of all time.

As recorded in the period journal Sports Car Graphic in November 1964 and also 'The Book of Ford-Powered Performance Cars', the SIATA-Ford, as it came to be referred to, was the ingenious creation of chassis BS509's second owner, cinematographer Kent Wakeford of Los Angeles. When new, like the majority of these cars, the Doheny family had supplied it here on the West Coast, before passing it to Wakeford in 1962.

Wakeford was unquestionably very gifted when it came to visual appreciation and would go onto have a very storied studio career working on noted films such as Martin Scorcese's Mean Streets and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (among others), so he would almost certainly have enjoyed the beautiful styling of these Italian jewels. It is understood that either the original power unit started to give trouble, or perhaps didn't have the 'oomph' of some of the more modern contemporaries on the LA streets, such that Wakeford considered some alternatives.

He was fortunate to meet Allan Johnston, a local electronics engineer, and ultimately commissioned him to replace the car's engine. They chose a 260 cubic inch Cobra unit of which it is written they got directly from Shelby, which had been in one of their early cars. Johnston's engineering background insured that the project was precisely thought out before it was acted upon, and that this was no 'quick and easy', half-baked job, no sir...

Both Johnston and Wakeford wanted to keep the same driving characteristics of the sprightly Italian barchetta. And so, they set the Cobra motor 4 inches further back into the car, mating it to a close ratio four speed Ford casing and Corvette tailshaft assembly. A Lincoln drive shaft was fitted arriving at a Ford U-joint, while the back axle remained stock only with the final drive altered by using Fiat 2300 gears. Testament to the modernity of the SIATA as built, the suspension and brakes actually were up to their new engagement, and needed little amendment; only the rear received an additional pair of tubular shocks. Naturally, a larger cross flow radiator was employed, and some slight appeasement around the firewall, but ostensibly the structural integrity of the car was unaltered and most importantly its visual aesthetics were unchanged.

All of the details are fastidiously recorded in the pair of period articles on the conversion. The car emerged finished in 1964, clearly it was something that they were proud enough of to immortalize it in print.

As Wakeford's career began to take off he parted with the SIATA around 1966, both the car and seemingly its original engine (now separated) remained in California for the next decade. The car headed south to San Diego, then back to Los Angeles and out to Santa Monica where it arrived at Steve Taube Porsche in 1976.

It was there that the car was espied by another connoisseur of design, an aspiring young architect Daniel Rowen, then in his Twenties, who promptly acquired it and would keep it for the rest of his life until his untimely death in 2009. Mr. Rowen would go on to become a true custodian of the car, amassing copious amounts of information on this little known model as well as using it. It was a well-known sight in the various locations around the country that he made his home, first in Washington DC and latterly in Connecticut. In the mid 1980s, after nearly a decade of ownership he commissioned Don Lefferts' famed Vintage Auto Restorations Garage in Ridgefield, Connecticut to carry out a full restoration at which point it was refurbished in a typically appropriate livery of red.

On Mr. Rowen's death the car was purchased by a well-known authority on its power unit, and subsequently re-restored to the more tasteful scheme of black. In researching its early days in California and with the help of noted authority John de Boer, its original SIATA Ottu Vu power unit, number 073, was found with Jeff O'Neil in San Francisco. Sensibly this was acquired to re-package the car and provide the opportunity for any future owner to return it to its 'as born' configuration, but the reality is that through the last two ownerships, the potential 'reigning in' of its performance hasn't been opted for. Its current custodian has added further to its appeal by sourcing various 'hen's teeth' parts to the engine, including an ultra rare set of correct carburetors, while on the cosmetic side its upholstery has been completely refurbished by respected craftsman Mike Curley in a deep tan leather, elevating the car's condition.

As its stands today, the car is arguably the best of all worlds, being better looking than a Cobra, a faster and more dependable Etceterini, and with the trump card of the matching numbers power unit up its sleeve.

Copiously documented and exquisitely presented, this sexy Italian-American could provide its next owner with a suitable mount for a multitude of long distance tours from those of Rich & Jean Taylor's New England 1000, Mountain Mille, etc., to the California Mille, Colorado Grand and Copperstate 1000. Reverted to original specification it may even grace the Mille Miglia.

Looks, power, eligibility and rarity: what more could one ask for?

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the correct engine number for this vehicle is C20E6015J and its title is in transit.
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