1953 Fiat 8V Coupé by Ghia
Sold For $946,000Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
- The only non-Supersonic Fiat 8V bodied by Ghia
- Beautifully restored to original specifications
- Ideal for either concours judging or grand touring
115 bhp, 1,996 cc overhead-valve V-8 engine, four-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel coil-spring independent suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.
Of all the famed Italian automakers, Fiat is not normally recognized as a builder of lavish, coachbuilt grand touring cars. The Italian automaker’s first engines were four-cylinder units, often of gargantuan proportions. Fiat produced its first six-cylinder engine in 1907 and even a V-12 from 1921–1922. However, it was not until 1952 that Fiat would produce an engine with eight cylinders, and the chassis and bodies it resided in were just as special as the engine.
This 8V model, or Otto Vu in Italian, was built for two years only, in 114 examples, and it remains one of the marque’s most legendary motor cars to this day. It was the star of the Geneva Salon in March 1952, and it goes without saying that this new Fiat got lots of attention from the motoring press. Road & Track called it “the biggest surprise of the year,” and The Motor remarked that “the last thing which had been expected from Italy’s largest car factory was a truly streamlined 2-seater saloon.” Considering its potent new powerplant, which was clothed by bodies designed by the world’s finest coachbuilders, everyone knew that this was truly a special automobile in every sense of the word.
While Fiat themselves did not race the 8V, the cars often found their way to owners who would. The resulting competition successes only helped to solidify the 8V’s performance reputation. An 8V driven by Vincenzo Auricchio and Piero Bozzinio was entered in the 1952 Mille Miglia, where it finished 5th in its class. Ovidio Capelli, the Milanese Fiat dealer, commissioned Zagato to develop a full race-spec 8V, and a lightweight car with an aerodynamic body was turned out in record time for the Giro della Toscana. It placed 3rd in class, but during the remainder of the season, the 8V accumulated numerous stellar results, becoming the national two-liter GT champion. However, it was Elio Zagato, the coachbuilder’s son, who really put the 8V on the map. His success in competition was so great that a steady clientele for Zagato 8Vs developed, and Zagato eventually built two different competition versions of the cars.
Aside from the Zagato-bodied 8Vs, other coachbuilders also got the opportunity to put their own bodies on Fiats newest offering. Pinin Farina produced a coupe version that debuted at Geneva in 1955, and it carried several visual cues from a Ferrari 375MM that was shown at Paris the year before. No less than fifteen 8Vs left Ghia’s facilities wearing custom coachwork, and fourteen of those boasted “Supersonic” coachwork, which was penned by Giovanni Savonuzzi. The fifteenth of those 8Vs was unique in that it did not wear Savonuzzi’s Supersonic coachwork; instead, it was graced with a body designed by Mario Boano.
Chassis number 000042, a 1953 model, was sold new to Ghia on June 10, 1953, and the completed car left Ghia’s facility five months later. To those familiar with Ghia’s designs of the day, it is obvious that Boano’s design draws on a variety of their spectacular creations: Savonnuzzi’s Supersonic, Exner’s K310 and d’Elegance, and Boano’s Gioiello, not to mention the Cisitalia 808. The car also shows several design cues found on Chryslers that had been designed by Virgil Exner, who was known to work with Ghia in this era and to produce auto show cars for Chrysler.
Admittedly more subtle than the Supersonic, this 8V has the “concentrical” 8V oval mouth grille, which is adorned succinctly with twin horizontal bars. The Ghia “kickup” in the rear wing is muted, but the C pillar treatment displays hints of the d’Elegance style.
The car itself displays exquisite Italian craftsmanship in the finest sense, and the interior is truly a special place to be. The instrument panel, which has been painted bright red, holds matching white-on-red gauges and a symmetrical half-moon speedometer and tachometer in a binnacle in front of the driver, while the clock and fuel and oil pressure gauges sit in the center of the dash.
By 1957, this 8V was imported to the United States by a Hollywood movie director, according to one account. Around this time, the present engine, number BS099, was installed. The car then spent many years in California, returning there in the 1980s after a brief stay on the East Coast.
This Fiat 8V’s body, which is exquisite in all respects, was fastidiously restored by a master craftsman in Southern California, with the final paintwork being applied by Steve Beckman in the 1990s. Renowned Italian car specialist Tony Nicosia, of Costa Mesa, attended to the mechanical work, while its owner at the time, an Italian car enthusiast, oversaw disassembly and reassembly. The restoration features original specifications and details throughout, with Carello headlamps, Marchal driving lights, and an original mechanical fuel pump all included. The engine and gearbox have been completely rebuilt and are period correct. Fiat 8V expert Tony Krivanek, who owned the car prior to the restoration, was involved with the historical research and supervised the early stages of the project.
Additionally, the quality of this car’s restoration is complemented by the fact that it has participated in both concours and driving events with successful results. The 8V was an invited participant at the 2002 and 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and it took part in The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering in 2005. In 2006, it completed the California Mille in the company of several other Fiat 8Vs, and in 2008, it made a trip back to Italy to compete in the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa D’Este, where it was awarded Second in Class.
The 8V was undoubtedly a significant motor car for Fiat. While the company was known for producing much smaller cars at the time, the 8V proved that Fiat had the wherewithal to compete with manufacturers of much more exclusive motor cars. As this is the only non-Supersonic Fiat 8V to be bodied by Ghia, there is no question that this car is unique. This 8V is still in spectacular condition overall, and it is prepared for either concours judging or touring. This is an excellent vehicle that has a compelling history, and it is ready for whatever the future sends its way.