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FIAT 8V. Dante Giacosa's unexpected creation with eight cylinders

Dante Giacosa designs for FIAT have always been coupled with the practicality needed in any mass-market automotive business. In this sense, he is remembered for being the father of models such as the 500, the 600 or the 126. However, he was also the main promoter of a model closer to the approaches of Jaguar or Maserati than of FIAT. We are talking about the FIAT 8V. The unexpected sports car from the Italian house created from scratch in 1952.

Along with others like Vittorio Jano, Dante Giacosa was one of the leading engineers in the history of Italian motorsport. Closely linked to FIAT, its designs range from aviation to military vehicles through the development of the 600. A milestone of such caliber that it catapulted him from the design table to that of the board of directors of the Agnelli company. Being thus fundamental in the deliberations on which models to take to series. In that sense, Giacosa was always distinguished by a marked instinct for practicality.

Knowing that in the Italy of the fifties the sports spectrum was already covered with trainers such as Abarth in the first echelon to Scuderia Ferrari in the highest, Dante Giacosa opted for large series vehicles. So things, yours are not only FIAT 500 and 600, but also the 1100, 1800 and 2100 saloons. Maximum luxury granted by him to his designs. Since in his list the utilitarian ones stand out especially, being also responsible for the 850 and 126. All of them popular models sold to millions with the mission of motorizing the new middle classes.

However, the truth is that in the history of this influential and disciplined engineer there was also room for the exclusive. So much so that, although it clashes with the biography of the character, Dante Giacosa was the main promoter of one of the rarest FIATs of all time: the 8V. A sports car marked by its agile and competitive behavior. Winner of the Italian Touring Car Championship in the 2-liter class from 1954 to 1959. Of which only 114 units were served between 1952 and 1954.


When FIAT launched the 1955 in 500, it was right about what entire countries like Italy - and later Spain - were asking for in the post-war scenario. A simple, affordable and practical vehicle to offer private transportation to the millions of families that, little by little, were entering the consumer society. A whole revolution in the history of the automobile, which was finally beginning to be massive in Europe. Nevertheless, In the midst of this developmental euphoria, there was still a space for the most exclusive sports vehicles.

During the fifties in Italy, this gap was especially filled by Alfa Romeo, although brands such as OSCA, Maserati and Ferrari dealt with more specific niches. In this context, the last thing that was expected of the general and massive FIAT was the manufacture of a sports car with a short run created from scratch. For this reason, magazines such as Road & Trac defined the FIAT 8V as the "Biggest surprise of the year" at the 1952 Geneva Motor Show. And it is that there, among the typical utility vehicles of the Agnelli company, a sports car with futuristic shapes appeared with only 997 kilos and a innovative eight-cylinder engine at 70º, 1996cc and 105CV in its first version.

However, the appearance of this boast that is the FIAT 8V is explained by a more rational than it might seem. And it is that, around 1950, Dante Giacosa was fully immersed in the design of a V8 engine destined for a mid-range saloon. Project that finally did not go ahead. Therefore -contradicting their lines of work- He suggested to FIAT management not to discard the ingenuity, but to incorporate it into a high-end sports car. Of course, by outsourcing the assembly of the same to SIATA (Società Italiana Auto Transformazione Accessori) workshops.


Turning around the commercial operation that the FIAT 8V entailed, the truth is that it does not fit much in the European market. In fact, analyzing the supply of high-end sports cars for 1952 it is easy to see that FIAT had no noteworthy market niche available to fill with the 8V. Thus, the explanation we have to look for in the United States. Country where the light and nervous European sports cars of MG, Jaguar or Porsche were gaining followers day by day. Interested in probing this market, those of Turin saw in the FIAT 8V a good opportunity to do so.

Something that is seen even in the aesthetics of the model, which sports futuristic lines loaded with chrome details in the taste of the Americans in practically all its units. Of course, as regards the bodies of the FIAT 8V, a prior clarification is required. And it is that, diving between different galleries of images, we noticed the many versions that firms such as Ghia, Pininfarina, Bertone, Zagato or Vignale made on this chassis. Curiously, almost all of them with clear nods to the dominant aesthetic in Detroit, clearly influenced by the Space Race fever.

An aesthetic approach that is based on the 34 units of the first series. All of them with bodies made by FIAT's Carrozzeria Speciale department following the lines set out by its chief designer Luigi Rapi. From them, the FIAT 8V was developed in two more series up to 114 units. Of which 95 to 96 survive depending on the source consulted. On a mechanical level, the only notable difference between the three was the carburetion. Which was tuned to go up from 105CV to 115CV and 127CV of the second and third series respectively. A priori not very high powers, but that combined with its tubular steel chassis and low weight made the FIAT 8V one of the benchmark sports cars for the 2-liter class.

Photographs: RM Sotheby's

P.D. The unit with which the item is illustrated It was auctioned last September in Switzerland by RM Sotheby's. It is number 11 of the first series. Dressed therefore in the FIAT design by Luigi Rapi and finished on April 24, 1953. Furthermore, from 2011 to 2014 it underwent a profuse restoration process that makes it one of the most interesting first-series units. .

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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