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Cisitalia logo2 copy.png
Tazio Nuvolari next to the 1950 Cisitalia Grand Prix, the lack of money would not allow the stunning car to be completed.

Consorzio Industriale Sportive Italia

The built for Porsche Cisitalia 360

Following the great success of pre-World War II Italian sports and racing cars like Ferrari and [Maserati], other wealthy Italian industrialists with a passion for motor sport yearned to build their own cars.

Piero Dusio was born in Scurzolengo in the province of Asti. He was an Italian footballer and played for Juventus from 1921 to 1922 but his soccer career was cut short after a knee injury. Dusio went into the textile business, initially manufacturing oilcloth followed by sporting goods, specializing in tennis rackets, bicycles, and clothing and, during the war, military uniforms. He was also a property developer.

The former football star became a very capable amateur racing driver, contesting the Mille Miglia between 1929 and 1938, during which time he finished sixth in the 1936 Italian Grand Prix driving a Maserati 6C-34 for his own team, Scuderia Torino, and won his class in the 1937 Mille Miglia in a 500cc Siata.

After the war, in 1946, Piero Dusio’s conglomerate, Consorzio Industriale Sportiva Italia, went into the car building business. They opened a factory in Turin and became the first company to build entirely new cars in Italy after the war, beating Fiat and Ferrari by some considerable time.

The company name was shortened for the cars that they produced and Cisitalia was derived as the marque. Dusio enticed Fiat engineers Dante Giocosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi to join him in the fledgling operation. Grand Prix driver Piero Taruffi became racing director, technical consultant, and chief tester.

Cisitalia’s first cars were based on Fiat mechanical components, and the space frame chassis were arguably the first used in motor racing and production cars, the rigidity providing precise handling and predating the Maserati Birdcage by several years.

The first Cisitalias were the single-seater 1,100cc D46s. Seven of these cars were entered in the Coppa Brezzi held in Turin’s Valentino Park in September 1946.

Against some of the greatest racing cars of the day, including Maseratis, Simca-Gordinis, and Enzo Ferrari’s Auto Avio Construzioni (the first Ferrari), Piero Dusio achieved a dream start to his career as a constructor, racing against some of the sport’s best drivers. He won the event in one of his own D46s. Amazingly it was a one-two-three for Cisitalia with Franco Cortese coming second and Louis Chiron finishing third. Raymond Sommer came home fifth whilst the man who would give the company its finest hour, the great Tazio Nuvolari, finished 13th.

Dusio’s ultimate plan was to produce a Formula 1 car and this was eventually designed by Dr Ferdinand Porsche’s company, the Porsche Büro. Dusio tried to qualify the car in the 1952 Italian Grand Prix, but failed because of engine problems. A company like Porsche might have been able to develop the car into a race-winning proposition but Cisitalia, by then cash-strapped, could not. If the work of Porsche designer Karl Rabe and that of Piero Dusio had been as they had envisioned, the history of Grand Prix motor racing could have been very different.

Cisitalia D46 and 360

Cisitalia D46

Using Fiat parts as a base Dante Giacosa designed the very economical racer, which make its successful debut in 1946. The D46, the small racer featured a simple, but sturdy space frame chassis. Giacosa had vast knowledge of Fiat bits and pieces, as he had designed the legendary 500 Fiat Topolino before the War. The engine and suspension were directly derived from the small Fiat, but extensively modified for their racing purpose. The engine received dry sump lubrication and further tweak considerably increased the power output. Weighing under 400 kg the 60-70 bhp available was more than enough for competitive performance.

Ilario Bandini driving with Cisitalia D46 in 1947.

Dusio's dream of a one model series came to nothing, but instead his D46s started to dominate the voiturette series. Highly talented drivers like Tazio Nuvolari piloted the D46 to multiple successes against more advanced, but older racing cars. The successes led to a much more ambitious single seater project that would prove too much for the small company. Ferdinand Porsche's Design Studio was commissioned to design and construct a full Grand Prix racer, which had the overly complex, but very interesting Type 360 as a result.

Cisitalia 202

Cisitalia 202

Dusio commissioned several automobiles from Europe's leading designers. He provided Pinin Farina with the chassis on which the Cisitalia's body was placed. The body was more or less handcrafted, with its aluminum panels shaped over wooden forms. Because of this time-consuming process, only 170 models were produced between 1947 and 1952. When first presented to the public at the Villa d'Este Gold Cup show in Como, Italy, and at the 1947 Paris Motor Show, the Cisitalia "202" GT was a resounding success. The two-seater Cisitalia "202" GT was an aesthetic and technical achievement that transformed postwar automobile body design. The extraordinary Pinin Farina design was honored by New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1951. In the MOMA's first exhibit on automotive design, called "Eight Automobiles", the Cisitalia was displayed with seven other cars (1930 Mercedes-Benz SS tourer, 1939 Bentley saloon with coachwork by James Young, 1939 Talbot-Lago Figoni teardrop coupé, 1951 Willys Jeep, 1937 Cord 812 Custom BeverlySedan, 1948 MG TC, and the 1941 Lincoln Continental coupe). It is still part of the MoMA permanent collection.

Building on aerodynamic studies developed for racing cars, the Cisitalia offers one of the most accomplished examples of coachwork (the automobile's body) conceived as a single shell. The hood, body, fenders, and headlights are integral to the continuously flowing surface, rather than added on. Before the Cisitalia, the prevailing approach followed by automobile designers when defining a volume and shaping the shell of an automobile was to treat each part of the body as a separate, distinct element—a box to house the passengers, another for the motor, and headlights as appendages. In the Cisitalia, there are no sharp edges. Swellings and depressions maintain the overall flow and unity, creating a sense of speed.

1948 Cisitalia 202 Vignale Cabriolet
1951 Cisitalia 202 B Abarth Allemano Berlinetta
1947 Cisitalia 202 CMM Pininfarina Coupe

Cisitalia 202 MM

Cisitalia 204A

Since the 202 never made large scale production and all the cars were handmade, the small talented group at Cisitalia, including Carlo Abarth, Dante Giacosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi, made several variants of the 202. Of the more important versions, the SMM Nuvolari Spider was built and named after a class victory at the 1947 Mille Miglia. It is easily identified by its large rear fins, twin windscreens and usual Italian blood red paint scheme.

Partly due to expensive construction of the mid-engine, four wheel drive formula one car, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, Cisitalia went into receivership in 1949 and was sold in 1952. In total, around 200 cars were made which made a large impact on the later marques, including Abarth's later range of cars.

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Nuvolari Spider

Cisitalia 202 SMM

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM

For the upcoming 1947 season, Giovanni Savonuzzi, who had designed most of the 202, sketched a coupe body for Cisitalia's competition car. The design was executed by Stabilimenti Farina upon both chassis #101 and #102. After two coupes had been finished, a spider version, Called the SMM for Spider Mille Miglia, was completed which would adorn all subsequent competition cars bearing the MM designation.

At the 1947 Mille Miglia, the Cistitalia spider really proved itself by leading most of the race in capable hands of Tazio Nuvolari. Despite having competition with engines three times larger, Nuvolari held back the competition until troubles ensued in the rain. In the end, the Cistitalia took second overall and first in class. For this epic effort, subsequent competition spiders were known as 202 SMM Nuvolaris.

Since the 202 SMM received much attention at the Mille Miglia, Stabilimenti Farina continued production of the design for several customers. In total around 20 cars were made very similar to Nuvolari's winning car.

Following the D46, the next logical step for Cisitalia was to produce a road-going sports car. The 202 was based on the same basic design as the D46 and used the space frame chassis. The first was bodied by Carrozzeria Colli and the second by Vignale. Most of the 170 or so cars built bore Gran Sport berlinetta coachwork by Pininfarina. The car was introduced to the public at the Villa d’Este Concorsa d’Eleganza at Como in Italy and at the 1947 Paris motor show. The Cisitalia 202 GT was a great success and was considered an aesthetic and technical masterpiece that transformed post-war automotive body design. The Pininfarina design was honored by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1951: the museum staged an exhibition on automotive design called ‘Eight Automobiles’, and the Cisitalia was one of the eight.

Five Cisitalias were entered for the first post-war running of the famous Mille Miglia road race in 1947 and a small talented group at the company composed of Giacosa, Savonuzzi, and Carlo Abarth made several variants of the 202. The 202 MM was named after the Mille Miglia and two of these coupé chassis, numbers 001 and 002, designed by Stabilimenti Farina were built.

A spider version called the SMM was also produced and in the 1947 Mille Miglia in the hands of the great – but by then sick – Tazio Nuvolari, the car, one of the lowest powered in the race, led for nearly the whole distance, finally finishing second and first in class. Cisitalias also finished third and fourth overall. After such a tremendous achievement the Cisitalia SMM became known as the SMM Nuvolari Spider.

Piero Dusio’s dreams came to an end when, thanks to flamboyant spending, much of which went towards the cost of the stillborn Grand Prix car project, his company went bankrupt. Carlo Abarth started his own automotive empire with the assets of the failed company, and the initial Abarth cars were based on the Cisitalia designs.

1950 Cisitalia 202 SC Castagna Spyder

Piero Dusio moved to Argentina were he established Automotores Argentinos S.A.I.C. with financial backing from Juan Peron. Dusio died in Buenos Aires in 1975.

Cisitalia 202 SMM, chassis number 005, was raced extensively by Piero Dusio throughout 1948. He competed in the Mille Miglia of that year with his son as co-driver but the pair failed to finish. After the race the headlamps were faired in to improve the aerodynamics. Dusio left for Argentina in 1949 and the car was sold to Nico Dellepiane, who raced it with considerable success, winning the 1,500 cc Championship in 1950. It was then sold to Ernesto Tornquist and won the Championship again in 1951.

The engine was subsequently changed to the 1.4-litre competition Gordini unit that the car retains to this day, at which point the car became known as a 202 SMM Speciale. Tornquist went on to win the Championship in 1952, 1953, 1954, and 1955.

At the 1947 Mille Miglia, the Cistitalia spider really proved itself by leading most of the race in capable hands of Tazio Nuvolari. Despite having competition with engines three times larger, Nuvolari held back the competition until troubles ensued in the rain. In the end, the Cistitalia took second overall and first in class. For this epic effort, subsequent competition spiders were known as 202 SMM Nuvolaris.

Since the 202 SMM received much attention at the Mille Miglia, Stabilimenti Farina continued production of the design for several customers. In total around 20 cars were made very similar to Nuvolari's winning car. Source


Cisitalia 303

A 1953 Cisitalia 303 DF Source
  • 4-door 5-seater coupé
  • 4-cylinder 8-valve straight (inline) engine, OHV (overhead valve, I-head) 1089 cm3
    • 66.5 cu in
    • 52.0 hp @ 5500 rpm
    • 84.1 lb·ft,
  • manual 4-speed transmission
  • rear wheel drive
  • top speed: 140 km/h / 87 mph

Cisitalia 505

1953 Cisitalia 505 DF

Only 10 of the beautiful Cisitalia 505 DF's were built and the DF stood for "derived from Fiat" and the engine and frame was from a Fiat 1900.

Cisitalia 808 X

These were experimental cars and only around 3 or 4 were ever built.

Cisitalia Abarth 850 Spider

The 1961 Cisitalia Abarth 850 Spider by Allemano, a very rare car indeed with only a tiny number thought to have been built. Several Italian coachbuilders deployed their talents on the Fiat 600 chassis modified by Carlo Abarth in 1955. Zagato's berlinettes, and Allemano's coupés and spiders, stand out.

Between 1957-59, Allemano designed three variants of the Riviera Gran Sport Spyder. The car presented here was one of the last to be built. At the same time, Allemano also designed the Scorpione coupé - a berlinette of equally sober, elegant design with a very light interior. Neither model comes on the market often: only 30 coupés were ever made, and even fewer Riviera Spyders - according to Peter Vack's Abarth Buyer's Guide, Allemano produced just 2 or 3! Other authors have no hesitation in calling the Riviera Spyder the 'most handsome rear-engine Abarth cabriolet ever made' - the accepted wisdom being that anyone lucky enough to find one should buy it whatever the price!

The Riviera Spyder and Scorpione coupé were powered by Fiat 600 rocker-arm engines, raised to a capacity of 833cc by increasing the cylinder circumference and clearance. They were first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1959, and commercialized by Abarth & C°.

With a compression ratio of 9:1, and a 32mm carburetor, the 850 engine yielded 52bhp at 6000rpm (57bhp in the 850/S version); the Spyder's total weight in working order was 630kg. Although only a tiny number of Spyders were ever made, that had nothing to do with the car's quality - quite the contrary: one Spyder cost the price of two Porsche 356's. Contemporary testing measured its top speed at 96 mph, with a standing-start kilometer-time of 35 seconds; the test-driver vaunted its agility, light steering and quality finish, noting its rainproof qualities.


Complete Formula One results

Yr Main drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Nuvolari Spider

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