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 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.
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.