Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Fiat Otto Vu: the obscure sports car

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1954_Fiat_8V_berlinetta_ZagatoWith each new body for the 8V Zagato modified the styling. This aluminum 8V berlinetta is quite a contrast to the 1952 Elaborata model shown on the second page of this tour. It still features the double-bubble roofline but is altogether far less bulgy. This is a simple, effective and crisp design.
Competition racing models only distinguished themselves from road cars by the lack of a heater and aluminum bumpers. Elio Zagato raced these cars himself and this design was his favorite of all Zagato designs. He won a number of races in lightweight 8V Zagato berlinettas and he said in an interview that the 8V had never failed him.
Fiat 8V cars were competitive in races until the end of the 1950s. An 8V berlinetta Zagato won its class in the (last) 1957 Mille Miglia for instance, with an average speed of 122.7 kph.

1954_Fiat_8V_berlinetta_ZagatoFrom this angle the typical Zagato style hunched roof is best noticed.
What made the 8V successful in races was its outstanding handling. The car had front and rear independent suspension, large drum brakes on all 4 wheels, a short 2400 mm wheelbase and rear wheel drive. Its welded chassis was constructed from large-diameter thin-wall steel tubes and the car measured 400 (406 for the Carozzeria Speciale FIAT) x 150 x 129 cm (length x width x height), so it was a very compact and particularly narrow car. Transmission was a 4-speed manual gearbox, with synchronized 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear.
All this combined with its favorable power-to-weight ratio made it the car to beat on the Italian tracks and it won the 1956 Italian Sports Car Championship for instance.

The Fiat 8V was only produced for 2 years, just enough to make sufficient cars to homologate it for the GT class. And it did what it was intended to do: win races and attract attention. But sadly it was slowly forgotten when it disappeared from racing competition. Only a small group of people cherished these cars, kept most of them in top condition and paid small fortunes to obtain one. This car deserves a place in modern car history, right up there with Ferrari and Maserati. I love these little gems, let's hope they'll get the attention they deserve.

1953_Siata_208S_spider_VignaleA very close relative to the Fiat 8V was the Siata 208S. Siata was a small Italian Turin-based factory which produced nimble sports cars on a very limited scale. The majority of their cars were based on Fiat components and the 208S was no exception.
Siata was very much involved in the Fiat 8V production. A number of mechanical components for these cars were produced and assembled by Siata for Fiat, because Fiat's experimental department lacked sufficient production capacity. Fiat produced a total of 200 8V engines in advance, but didn't use them all and sold some to Siata. The company designed a new tubular chassis around it and slightly reworked the engines. So the 208S (meaning 2-litre 8-cylinder Sport) appeared in 1952 with bodywork by Stabilimenti Farina. It proved to be the car to ensure Siata's place in automotive history and remarkably most of these cars were sold in the US.

1953 Siata 208S spider Vignale; class and Road And Track award winner in the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours.About 60 Siatas 208S have been produced and some where fitted with small-block Chrysler or Ford V8 engines; most however were fitted with the Fiat 8V unit. The majority of the cars featured an aggressive looking coupe body by Farina (later adopted by Balbo and ultimately Motto), but there were also a few spiders.
The most classic 208S spider body was made by Vignale, which you see here. It's a very simple and lightweight design which offers hardly any comforts but has beautiful flowing lines.
In the 208S the Fiat engine produced up to 122 hp @ 6300 rpm, enough to send this 780 kg light car to a top speed over 200 kph. It was really a competition sports car and even now cars like these are popular in classic car races.

Production ended in 1954 but there are still quite a number of 208S models around and though not cheap they are valued considerably less than the Fiat 8V.
(picture submitted by Anton Krivanek)

For additional, larger pictures you can visit RitzSite's Fiat Otto Vu gallery.

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