| Monterey, California
- One of 14 examples of the Supersonic-bodied 8V
- Exhibited at the 1957 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
- Originally owned by Indianapolis team owner and powerboat racing Gold Cup winner Lou Fageol
- Meticulous eight-year restoration freshened in 2021
- Awarded at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
- An exquisitely presented example of Fiat’s highly desirable, jewel-like sports car
“THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE YEAR”
A diamond that emerged from a figurative coalmine, the Fiat 8V was a shocking anomaly for a mass-market manufacturer better known for pedestrian models like the diminutive Topolino or the 500. Upon its introduction in 1952, Road & Track magazine described the jewel-like 8V as “the biggest surprise of the year.” It was understandably a shock to the automotive world that, after decades of producing entry-level consumer models, Fiat would suddenly introduce a boutique-production sports car featuring an advanced overhead-valve light alloy V-8 engine, Siata-fabricated chassis, and four-wheel independent suspension. The Otto Vu, as it was known in Italian, went on to be successfully campaigned by racing privateers all over the world.
Like most sophisticated chassis of its era, the 8V was a prime candidate for custom coachwork. In addition to the 40-some examples bodied with factory coachwork designed by Fabio Lucio Rapi, Carrozzeria Ghia of Torino accounted for 15 additional examples among the 114 total chassis built. The most striking of these were the 14 cars clothed in Giovanni Savonuzzi’s stunning Jet Age design, appropriately known as the Supersonic.
The Supersonic body was originally penned for an Alfa Romeo 1900 racing car, and was characterized by a long front deck with a steeply raked windshield, a curved nose that led into a straight-through beltline, and small tailfins flaring off lights intended to resemble jet exhausts. Soon thereafter American designer Paul Farago ordered similar styling for an 8V chassis, and 14 more copies followed, each of them bearing minor detail differences but remaining largely true to Savonuzzi’s original dramatic design. They are widely considered to be the most sought-after and desirable of the 8Vs, boasting the finest combination of avant garde design cues from the Jet Age.
THE SPEED KING: LOU FAGEOL’S 8V SUPERSONIC
According to Tony Adriaensens’ definitive 2005 book Otto Vu, chassis number 000049 was equipped with engine number 000085 and dispatched by the Fiat factory in mid-July 1953 to be mounted with the 10th Supersonic body built. According to previous longtime owner Gerald Farber, the car is believed to have been shown at the 1954 Geneva International Motor Show. Reportedly imported to the United States by Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller, the 8V was soon sold to its original owner, Lou “The Speed King” Fageol, a three-time Gold Cup-winning powerboat racer, as well as one of the brothers whose Twin Coach bus company built several interesting twin-engined race cars.
Mr. Fageol exhibited his futuristic new toy at the 7th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, then just a fledgling sports car show on the Monterey Peninsula. The Supersonic was presented in Class D, “European Sports Cars over $10,000.” He then customized the car by riveting Imperial-style fins on the rear fenders and adding a continental tire kit. Fortunately, both modifications were conducted as easily reversable “add-ons,” with no cutting of original metal, and Mr. Fageol’s son removed the changes following his father’s passing in 1961.
The Fageol family sold the Fiat in 1968 to Ed Hieshetter, who retained possession for eight years before selling the car to Paul Lazaros, the former employee of designer Paul Farago (a well-known 8V enthusiast who was the original owner of the prototype 8V Supersonic, chassis number 000035). In 1979, Mr. Lazaros sold the Supersonic to Mr. Farber, who put the car into long-term storage while planning a comprehensive restoration to original specifications. Content to take his time and ensure that the work was properly conducted, Farber scrupulously researched the car, assembling a book of period photography and documentation that remains with it today. He was also able to locate and reinstall the original engine, number 000085, which had been replaced earlier in the car’s history with a Chevrolet engine.
In March 2007 Mr. Farber finally began the long-awaited and well-researched restoration effort, drawing on extensive input from Mr. Lazaros, who allowed his personal car (the unrestored original 8V Supersonic commissioned by Paul Farago) to be carefully studied as an exemplar. The tail lamps and wheel discs were precisely remanufactured using those of the Farago-Lazaros car as patterns. Lazaros Engineering was entrusted with a majority of the mechanical restoration, including rebuilding the transmission, suspension, and running gear, as well as the dashboard switches. Dick Nuss’s Engine Machine Service of Inglewood, California, a shop respected for its 8V expertise, rebuilt the matching-numbers Tipo 104 engine with upgraded rods, pistons, bearings, and valve springs, ensuring that the notoriously fragile motor would last well into the foreseeable future.
The coachwork was smoothed and corrected as needed by Scutchfield Metal Shaping of Ray, Michigan, and then properly refinished in the current unusual, gorgeous original green hue by Brian Joseph’s renowned shop, Classic & Exotic Service. Their in-house upholsterer, Ken Litchfield, retrimmed the interior with proper leather paneling, a wool headliner, and Wilton wool carpeting, and reupholstered the seats in correct Italian doeskin leather. The masterful eight-year restoration was capped with the refurbishment of the original Borrani wire wheels by the specialists at Dayton Wire Wheels.
In August 2015, after 36 years of fastidious stewardship, Mr. Farber sold the Fiat to the respected collector Orin Smith, and he wasted no time in bringing the stunning beauty to the show field. The Otto Vu was judged the Most Unique at the Classic Sports Sunday at Mar-a-Lago in January 2016, and it received the People’s Choice Award two months later at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Consistently maintained in Mr. Smith’s private museum over the following year, the Supersonic was sold to the consignor at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale in March 2017.
From September 2019 through May 2021 the Supersonic received additional attention from the specialists at KTR European Motorsport in Ayer, Massachusetts, as clarified by invoices on file. Ensuring optimal operational quality, this bout of work addressed a myriad of minor issues, including a rebuild of the carburetors and distributor, a re-sealing of the gearbox, and repair of the wiring and wiper motor. The engine timing and wheels bearings were adjusted, and a new water temperature gauge, thermostat housing, fuses, and spark plugs were installed.
Presenting with spectacular flair, this breathtaking 8V remains fresh and ready for continued appearances at major concours d’elegance, being an ideal entrant for top-shelf events ranging from Villa d’Este to Pebble Beach. Also eligible for prestige driving events both in the United States and internationally, the Supersonic would surely draw a crowd at vintage tours and rallies worldwide. With its jet-age styling continually suggesting motion at rest, this 8V is a showstopper that claims significant provenance, making it a must-have for any collector of significant postwar coachbuilt sports cars.