The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179

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Lot 261
The Last 208S bulit, 1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta
Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179

US$ 700,000 - 750,000
£ 550,000 - 590,000
Amended
The Last 208S bulit
1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta
Chassis no. BS 535
Engine no. BS 179
FIAT was the Italian Ford, making reliable, affordable, practical automobiles that put Italy on four wheels. Also like Ford, the ubiquity and inherent quality of FIAT’s automobiles encouraged owners to extract more performance from them. An industry of tuners, mechanics and specialist manufacturers developed in Italy to respond to the enthusiasm. One of them was SIATA, Società Italiana Auto Trasformazione Accessori, 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.

A SIATA prepared supercharged FIAT Tipo 514 achieved a class win in the Mille Miglia, but it was the FIAT 508, the Balilla, which propelled SIATA’s success with a pushrod overhead valve cylinder head and supercharger that doubled the Balilla’s horsepower. Bodied by SIATA as a cycle fendered roadster, it achieved success based on both appearance and performance.

Similar success was achieved with the FIAT 500, the immortal Topolino, with SIATA speed equipment and complete sports cars based on the Topolino. A streamlined berlinetta set 500cc class records at Monza in 1938 and SIATA leveraged the resulting notoriety to produce the Amica roadster in 1939.

Following the war SIATA designed and built a series of 48cc four-stroke powerplants to power bicycles, the cucciolo (puppy), eventually building over 100,000 of them. 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.

Larger cars followed, which brought SIATA to the attention of American enthusiasts like Tony Pompeo, Briggs Cunningham, John Perona and Ernie McAfee. A series of SIATA 300BC Spyders were built for the U.S. market powered by Crosley’s potent little 750cc single overhead camshaft engine.

At about this point FIAT began its own performance development, developing the famed FIAT 8V, known as the Otto Vu. A lightweight short stroke 70° V-8 displacing just 1,996cc, the 8V conservatively tuned for FIAT production made 105 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. SIATA was given the privilege of constructing the prototype, guided by Rudolf Hruska, trained in Porsche’s engineering office and one of the engineers behind Piero Dusio’s Cisitalia grand prix project. It featured fully independent suspension and sublime monocoque coachwork designed by Luigi Rapi.

Only 49 Fiat 8Vs were built before Fiat decided to concentrate on four-cylinder engines of 1900cc or less. The remaining 8V engines from the initial production of 200 were turned over to Siata where they powered a short series of legendary automobiles, the Siata 208 S. With fully independent suspension, five-speed gearboxes and a superb, balanced chassis, they were bodied as coupés by Stablimenti Farina (later produced by Carrozzeria Balbo) and as spyders by Bertone.

Tuned by Siata to make 125 horsepower or more, the Siata 208 S 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 208 S 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.”

With only 150 or so Fiat Otto Vu engines available to Siata the 208 S is one of the most rare and desirable of all early Fifties Italian sports cars. 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 208 S one of the most appreciated, sought and desirable high performance spiders of the period. They are rarely seen today, and even less frequently available to collectors.

There are few more beautiful cars of this era than a well restored example of the Siata 208S Barchetta, the proportions, lines and exquisite curves simply looking even more gorgeous when finely presented…. In this case it was earned the hard way, both in terms of time and cost, its rebuild having begun back in the 1980s and not actually reaching completion until 2007.

Most of not all 208S’s were sold new in America and although all built in 1953, the date spread on the cars is accounted for by them being dated as and when sold. This was the last built and was sold in 1955. It is thought that the car was bought new by an Air Force serviceman, who was based initially in the Boston area. He was then posted overseas to England and took the car with him.

From 1962-63, the car was in Phoenix, after which it spent two years in Clevis, New Mexico. It headed back east in 1965 when it passed to Franklin T. Sweet of the General Photo Products Co. Newton, New Jersey. Among an extensive file are letters from Franklin Sweet to FIAT New York and then in turn directly to Siata in October 1969, confirming his purchase and inquiring about the availability of spare parts. In this period there are various bills for work and parts, at a variety of Sweet’s addresses in Massachusetts, Florida and New Jersey. It seems that the restoration was never completed and perhaps having tired of the project it was laid up for most of the 1970s and early 1980s. Sweet must have got bored of trying to fix the ‘Otto Vu’ motor, but who could tire of the shape of the car, so he rather sensibly fitted a Ford motor instead at which point the motor became separated from the car.

It was around this time that it came to the attention of the current owner a true fan of the marque and ‘Etceterini’ in general. The car was viewed in Mass. and then purchased. For a while the current owner drove it with the Ford motor, but when arch enthusiast Jarl de Boer contacted him to say that he had the original motor for the car it seemed logical to re-fit this and restore the car. During the restoration, an extremely rare 5 speed Siata gearbox as normally fitted to the competition coupes was fitted to the car. Initially, it crossed the country to de Boer and work began on a rebuild. Fourteen years later with not to much having been completed the car was transferred to Nino Epifani’s renowned workshops in Berkeley, CA. $200,000 or so later, in a rebuild that is charted completely by invoices and photographs, the Siata finally returned to the road in March 2007.

The car debuted on the concours circuit a few days later at Bill Warner’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and was immediately appreciated taking an award in the Pre-1954 Sports Cars Class. It has since attended numerous similar events and the quality of its restoration has been recognized wherever it goes. As with any restoration there has been some ‘shaking down’ and detail refinements that come from using the car, these have been tended to by one of the North East’s most respected restorers Automotive Restorations of Stratford, CT.

Today, aside from its pure aesthetic beauty it is one of the narrowing field of sports cars that are eligible to run in the universally appealing Mille Miglia retrospective. It was even recently invited to represent the event at the Mille Miglia New York reception at Bonhams Madison Avenue offices in April.

With matched numbers, immaculate condition and broad eligibility for events and tours in the US and Internationally, the only question to ask here is ‘show or go?’.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that this car is one of only 35 Motto built Spyders and has been dyno-tested at 118hp at 6,000rpm
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
The Last 208S bulit,1953 SIATA 208S Barchetta  Chassis no. BS 535 Engine no. BS 179
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