vineri, 15 aprilie 2016

Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale 1953 - Classic Cars -

Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale 1953

Of all the famed Italian automakers, Fiat is not normally recognised 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 to 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”. With 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.

CHASSIS NUMBER 000050
Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale 1953

According to Tony Adriaensens’s book Otto Vu, 8V chassis number 000050 was exported as a chassis on 8 July 1953 to the renowned Italian coachbuilder Alfredo Vignale. Adriaesens notes that Vignale would work with his stylist, the talented Giovanni Michelotti, to discuss potential designs, and then the two would work together to evolve and “flesh out” a final automobile.
This process resulted in Vignale bodying ten 8V chassis, all to Michelotti designs, of which the car offered here, number 000050, is the only cabriolet and one of very few open bodies produced for the 8V by any coachbuilder. The drawing for the cabriolet notes that it was an exclusive design created for a Sig. Leone. It bears a remarkable resemblance to a similar coupé built by Vignale on another 8V chassis, but it has the breezy nonchalance that only a convertible top can offer.

Whatever became of the mysterious Sig. Leone is unknown, but the car is believed to have actually been delivered new in the United States, where photographs were taken of it in Florida in late 1954. It is believed that its original owner was Sunshine State resident John Harrigan, who took delivery of it in September of that year. Photographs show that the car was originally fitted with larger, heavier bumpers, a different dashboard arrangement, and painted wire wheels.
In the early 1990s, the attractive 8V was discovered in the Utah desert by well-known enthusiast Don Williams. Mr Williams was very involved in the 8V market at the time, and he did not hesitate to purchase the car and have it restored in its present livery: a classic Italian racing red with a tan leather interior and chrome wire wheels. In a recent telephone conversation, he noted that the car, as-purchased, had no engine, which was typical of 8Vs sold in America, where service for the complex V-8s was not readily available. He acquired another engine, number 000184, which is believed to have been a factory replacement engine from another chassis, and he installed it in the car.
Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale 1953

It is important to note that, according to Mr Williams, when found, the car had its present delicate competition-style “bumperettes” and redesigned dashboard arrangement, indicating that these modifications were performed by an early American owner. A five-speed Alfa Romeo manual transmission was also fitted, and it is still installed today, as it is a desirable and suitable replacement for the fragile and finicky original Fiat four-speed unit.