Last revised: 11-10-2010

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Fiat Otto Vu: the obscure sports car

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1952_Fiat_8V_berlinettaA large portion of the 114 produced 8Vs were fitted with a factory produced bodywork: Carozzeria Speciale FIAT. The car on this picture shows the first series of this type of bodywork, which can be identified by the two headlights in the grille.
The 8V was a completely new and innovative car which was introduced at the 1952 Geneva Motor Show. Apart from the differential all parts were specially designed for this car. The lightweight self-supporting bodywork was constructed out of thin-gauge steel panels in the form of two bearing shells: the outside shell provided the shape and combined with the inside shell a load-bearing box-section structure was created. It had a very aerodynamic shape which was tested in a wind tunnel; very advanced for that time. Even the rear wheel spats contributed to reducing drag and increased the top speed by 4 kph.
The looks of the car are not to everyone's liking, it's a bit of an acquired taste. Still, the bulgy but well-balanced proportions and the monumental grille make a lasting impression, establishing the car as an original piece of work.

1952_Fiat_8V_berlinettaThe Fiat 8V was developed by Dante Giacosa and stylist Fabio Lucio Rapi. It was based around an 8-cylinder engine in V-configuration which was originally designed by Fiat for a luxurious sedan, the successor to the pre-war Ardita models. After the engine had been finished the Fiat management decided to stop the project and not to enter this market segment (something they failed to do successfully ever since).
Fortunately this advanced engine was not shelved. The Fiat management wanted to boost the company's image and presenting an exclusive and competitive sports coupe seemed an attractive option. And so the team around Giacosa set out to create this car and of course they used the most advanced engine Fiat had available at the time: the only V8 Fiat ever built.
Oddly enough the engineers thought that the V8 designation was registered by the Ford Motor Corporation. That's why this Fiat wasn't named V8 but 8V, indicating the engine lay-out.

1952_Fiat_8V_berlinetta_ZagatoOnly 34 cars were fitted with the original Carozzeria Speciale FIAT bodywork. There were also a number of other renown Italian coachbuilders which supplied self-supporting bodies for the 8V, often unique designs.
The most important supplier of alternative bodywork for the 8V was Carozzeria Zagato. Zagato bought 32 complete 8V chassis from Fiat; four of those already had some portions of the original bodywork installed. These were modified with an aluminum roof and revised windows which were appended to the face-lifted lower steel bodywork. The cars which received this treatment became known as "Elaborata Zagato", and the car shown here is one of them.
But also Ghia and Vignale fitted most stunning designs on the Fiat 8V chassis. A true design classic of these is the Berlinetta Savonuzzi by Ghia, a streamlined coupe which was very influential on modern car design. There were also a small number of 8V spiders, small open top sports cars, constructed. Those are really the white ravens in car history...

1952_Fiat_8V_berlinetta_ZagatoIf you look at this car now, it doesn't seem so special. It's of course a wonderful car with a classic Italian sports car shape, but somehow familiar. But now imagine that it was designed in 1952, a time in which car designers had just dismissed winged fenders and were experimenting with aerodynamica. Then you'll understand that this design was quite avant-garde at the time and a trend-setter for what we now call a classic Italian Gran Turismo.
This car features Zagato's design trademark: the "double-bubble" roof: the roof surface has two "humps", one above the driver's and one above the passenger's head. It was optional and more or less a gimmick, but also gave some extended head room and the construction was a bit lighter and more rigid. The car on these pictures (chassis number 081) has an extensive rally and racing history.
Zagato fitted 28 Fiat 8V chassis with completely new bodywork. All of them featured lightweight aluminum bodies. These cars were often used in competition and were quite successful in road races like the Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia.

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