The ex-Lou Fageol
In same ownership for more than 4 decades
1953 FIAT 8V SUPERSONIC
Coachwork by Ghia - Design by Giovanni Savonuzzi
Chassis no. 106.000049
Engine no. 104.000.000085
1,996cc OHV Alloy V8 Engine
110bhp at 6,000rpm
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Alfin Drum Brakes
*One of just 15 iconic and exceedingly stylish 8V Supersonics built
*Displayed at the 1957 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
*In current ownership for 36 years
*Exhaustive 8-year restoration completed in 2015
*Exquisitely presented example of a coachbuilt jewel
THE FIAT 8V
In the spring of 1948, Fiat management instructed technical director Dante Giacosa to begin developing a V-6 engine to be used in a newly planned six-passenger sedan. The attempt to produce an American-style touring sedan never advanced beyond the inceptional stage, but the engine devised by Giacosa soon morphed into a V-8 of considerable merit. Displacing just under two liters, the Tipo 104 motor featured an unusual 70° architecture, as well as advanced racing components such as a finned aluminum sump, forged crankshaft, polished intakes and ports, and tubular 4x1 stainless steel exhaust manifolds. As Giacosa later noted of the V-8 in his autobiography, "the idea of mounting it on a sports car for a small production run was attractive and aroused the keenest interest among the design engineers."
And so was born the Fiat 8V, which featured the only overhead-valve V-8 that Fiat ever built during its long and storied history. Known in Italy as the Otto Vu, the new model was positioned as a luxury grand touring sports car, obviously a far cry from the automaker's niche for utilitarian mass-market cars like the 500. To maintain the necessary quality-control for such a high-end product, the fabrication of the chassis was farmed out to Giorgio Ambrosini's Siata, the tuning specialists that had long served as Fiat's in-house competition and customization department. This choice was probably further facilitated by Ghia owner Mario Felice Boano's 1950 hiring of Luigi Segre, a former Siata sales manager, as Ghia's sales director.
The 8V's tipo 106 chassis was one the world's most advanced, challenging the finest offerings from Ferrari or Maserati with four-wheel independent suspension (a Fiat first), and Borrani wire wheels with Rudge knock-off hubs. Completed chassis were sent to the Carrozzerie Speciali FIAT in Lingotto, where they were clothed with an elegant new coupe design by Fabio Lucio Rapi that was aerodynamically fine-tuned in the Turin wind tunnel. The Otto Vu made its public debut at the Geneva Salon in March 1952, and immediately impressed all who saw it with Fiat's ability to produce such a jewel-like automobile.
Over the following two years, about two hundred tipo 104 motors were produced (though more than fifty of these were eventually installed in the upcoming Siata roadster). The Otto Vu automobile was even more rare, with approximately 114 examples built through 1954. While at least forty of these cars were bodied with the factory coachwork by Rapi, the other chassis were clothed by coachbuilders such as Balbo, Pinin Farina, and Vignale.
Zagato bodied approximately thirty Otto Vu examples, including a lightweight aluminum version that was very popular in sports car racing. In this form, the 8V earned class wins at the 1955 Targa Florio and 1957 Mille Miglia, and claimed the 1956 Italian Sports Car Championship (2-Liter Class), a huge benchmark in the model's competition pedigree.
THE GHIA SUPERSONIC
Of all the boutique Italian carrozzerie, however, it was Ghia that proved to be the most noted coachbuilder of the Otto Vu. Probably accounting for 30 to 40 examples, the Turinese firm built coachwork that ranged from formal and clean to flamboyant and expressive. None of these various bodies, however, could match the Supersonic, an aeronautically styled coupe crafted by the great Giovanni Savonuzzi. The designer is renowned for penning the celebrated Cisitalia 202 (one of a handful of cars recognized for design merit by New York's Museum of Modern Art), and would go on to style the famed Ghia Gilda. Savonuzzi was later hired away by Chrysler, where he contributed to the design of their lauded Turbine showcars.
During his consultancy for Ghia in early 1953, Savonuzzi approached engine tuner Virgilio Conrero about the possibility of collaborating on an Alfa Romeo 1900-based racecar. While Conrero tuned the 1900's motor and chassis, Savonuzzi contributed a sleek new coupe body built at Turin featuring a long front deck and sloping fastback. The windshield was steeply raked, while the rear tailfins culminated in lamp bezels that resembled jet afterburners, and a consistent beltline accent ran through the entire length of the car. With such jet-like styling, there was little wonder that the coachwork was eventually dubbed the Supersonic.
While the unique Conrero sports-racer failed to finish at the 1953 Mille Miglia for which it was built (the car was destroyed in a fire), the body design was greenlighted for additional production after Segre received favorable feedback from creative collaborator Virgil Exner of Chrysler and designer Paul Farago. The official liaison between Ghia and Chrysler, it was Farago who suggested the idea of mounting the Supersonic body on a Fiat chassis. He would later prove his faith in the suggestion when he became the first private owner of the prototype Fiat Supersonic, chassis no. 000035.
According to a letter from Ghia to the consignor dated in the 1980s, Ghia built twenty examples of the Supersonic bodystyle. This included the Conrero Special, three cars built on Jaguar XK frames, and one example built on an Aston Martin DB2/4 chassis. The remaining fifteen cars were all built on the chassis of the magnificent Otto Vu, whose dimensions lent the design its most elegant stance.
The Supersonic has gone on to be recognized as one of Ghia's most seminal designs. No less an authority on coachwork than Howard "Dutch" Darrin visited the Ghia factory during Supersonic production and was so impressed that he ordered two Ghia-bodied Fiats, including a Supersonic that he sold to movie star Lana Turner. Now a darling with collectors because of their impressive Otto Vu mechanicals and spectacular body design, the 8V Supersonic has evolved into one of today's most desirable collectible Italian sports cars, combining rarity, cutting-edge mechanical specifications, and coachbuilt beauty.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
According to the research of Supersonic expert Erik Nielsen, as well as Tony Adriaensens' authoritative 2012 volume on the Otto Vu model, chassis number 000049 with engine 000085 was dispatched from the Fiat factory on Wednesday July 14, 1953. The chassis was destined to receive the tenth Supersonic body built by Carrozzeria Ghia.
It is believed that the car was shown at the Geneva International Motor Show in March 1954 before being exported to Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller, and subsequently sold to the first private owner, Lou Fageol. Mr. Fageol was notable in hydroplane racing as a three-time Gold Cup winner, and also owned an Indy racing team during the late 1940s. His family-owned Twin Coach bus company ideally facilitated production of the signature twin-engine racecars for which he became known, including a Porsche 356 and the double-Offy champ car he campaigned at Indianapolis.
In April 1957, Mr. Fageol exhibited this Fiat at the 7th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in one of the first appearances of the Supersonic model at the hallowed 18th hole. According to the 1957 Pebble Beach program, the car competed in Class D, for European Sports Cars over $10,000. Mr. Fageol later conducted some custom modifications to the Fiat, including the addition of Imperial-style fins on top of the factory tailfins (involving only riveting with no cut-outs of the original metal), and a continental tire kit. Following his passing in 1961, the 8V was assumed by his son, Ray Fageol, who set about a full restoration in 1965 to return the car to factory specifications.
After passing through two additional interim owners, chassis number 000049 was acquired in 1979 by the consignor, an enthusiast who immediately recognized the Supersonic's rarity and long-term value as a collectable. Planning for a restoration to proper factory specifications, the consignor invested years of effort in the research and sourcing of correct parts. In the intervening period, the rare 8V was carefully garaged to minimize any possible deterioration.
Discovering that the car was equipped with a fuel-injected Chevrolet motor, the consignor removed the Detroit block and began searching for a proper Fiat 8V engine. After finally finding and purchasing the rare motor, the owner received an unexpected phone call from someone in possession of the car's original powerplant, engine no. 000085. Capitalizing on this great stroke of fortune, the consignor purchased the original motor and reunited it with chassis no. 000049.
In March 2007, the consignor set about the restoration in earnest, with painstaking efforts to maintain factory standards to the greatest possible degree, and the entire process photographed for a permanent record. The well-known Paul Lazaros was engaged to assist in the process, and his expertise proved to be significant to the effort. In the mid 1950s, Mr. Lazaros was an employee of Paul Farago, the original owner of the prototype Fiat 8V Supersonic (chassis 000035). Mr. Lazaros had purchased the prototype from his employer in 1955 when it was nearly new, in pristine condition, and displaying a mere 17,000 original miles. The untouched original served as a perfect case-study for 000049's restoration, as Mr. Lazaros agreed to let the consignor examine his car (including digital analysis) so that the refurbishment could be as technologically precise as possible.
Scutchfield Metal Shaping of Ray, Michigan, disassembled the car, smoothing out the original bodywork as needed. Dick Nuss of Engine Machine Service in Englewood, California, who has previously refurbished several 8V motors, rebuilt and upgraded the original tipo 104 engine, bagging and saving many removed original pieces, like rods, pistons, bearings, and valve springs.
Lazaros Engineering handled a bulk of the mechanical restoration and detail work, including rebuild of the transmission, suspension components, brakes, differential, steering box, and dashboard toggle switches. A handful of missing items, such as the tail lamps and wheel discs, were carefully replicated from Mr. Lazaros' car to precise original dimensions and specifications. Brightwork was re-chromed by Jon Wright's Custom Chrome Plating of Grafton, Ohio, while Bruce Woolsey of Bob's Speedometer in Howell, Michigan, restored the dashboard instruments and gauges.
The seats were re-trimmed with Italian doeskin-tan leather with blue-green welting by DiGiovanni Custom Upholstery, and Ken Litchfield of Classic and Exotic Service installed identical leather interior paneling, a wool headliner, trunk liner, luggage straps, and seafoam green Wilton wool carpeting. The well-known Dayton Wire Wheels in Ohio restored the original Borrani wire wheels, and Brian Joseph's shop Classic and Exotic Service conducted a bare-metal repaint in the original shade of Ghia's blue green metallic paint, also overseeing the final surface detailing and finishing. Taking eight years to complete and totaling approximately $600,000 in invoices, the cost-no-object restoration was thoroughly documented with invoices and photographs, and returned 000049 to an exquisite state of presentation.
Restored to as-new condition and accompanied by numerous original parts, this breathtaking Fiat 8V will be warmly welcomed at vintage events, eligible for rallies around the globe like the Mille Miglia Storico and the Colorado Grand, though perhaps better-suited for world class concours d'elegance like Pebble Beach, Villa d'Este, and Amelia Island. One of just fifteen examples of the Fiat Supersonic, chassis no. 000049 is a rare automobile that has seldom been displayed, and will be enthusiastically received
by the Fiat 8V and Supersonic niche. Furthermore claiming a documented history of just five owners, this Supersonic promises its next caretaker a collectible of almost unmatched provenance. It is a nearly flawless example of Fiat's one and only V-8 prestige car, and should command the attention of collectors worldwide.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.