Cisitalias are one of those odd exceptions to the "top goes down, price goes up" rule, and in this case the coupe is actually the preferred model


A talented "gentleman driver" and owner of the sports equipment concern Consorzio Industriale Sportiva Italia-or Cisitalia, as it was known-Piero Dusio recognized that post-war Italy would have a thirst for motor racing. He conceived of a one-make series to quench the pent-up demand of both drivers and spectators, based around the ubiquitous Fiat 1100 engine.
The single-seat Cisitalia D-46 was arguably the first space-frame racing car. It carried Fiat suspension components and was powered by a reworked version of the 1100 that made 60 horsepower. But Dusio saw that a sports racing car would present an even greater opportunity, so he created a two-seater from the same basic design. This was the 202, prepared for the 1947 Mille Miglia and driven to a second place finish by Tazio Nuvolari.
A variety of bodies were created for the 202 by several local coachbuilders including Colli, Vignale, Pinin Farina and Stabilimenti Farina. Most of the output of some 170 cars bore Gran Sport berlinetta coachwork by Pinin Farina, a milestone aerodynamic design that was chosen by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of its permanent collection. But 17 of the chassis were bodied by Carrozzeria Vignale as cabriolets, one of which is offered here.
As with so many coachbuilt cars, it contains some unique aspects, including the one-piece, curved glass windscreen and subtly lower hood line and driving position.
Owned by a dedicated Italian collector for nearly three decades until the mid-1990s, it has been lovingly preserved and is especially well equipped, with wire wheels, the original Condor Ultraplat radio and dual Weber carburetors.

SCM Analysis


This 1948 Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet sold for $88,599 at the Bonhams’ Monaco auction held on March 15, 2004.
As a new generation of affluent collectors becomes more seasoned they are moving beyond the Holy Trinity of Alfa Romeo, Bugatti and Ferrari, and seeking out other milestone cars. The Cisitalia 202 has become one of the cars on the new must-have list due to its significant place in history.
The Cisitalia 202 forms a bridge between pre- and post-war sports car design. It set the Italian school of automotive design in motion by unifying the passenger cabin, fenders, trunk and engine compartment into a single organic piece. Indeed, the first Ferrari coupes and the Lancia Aurelia GT are direct descendants of this masterpiece.
The cabriolet is actually the less-desirable 202 body style. Cisitalias are one of those odd exceptions to the “top goes down, price goes up” rule, with the coupe being the preferred model. This is because the coupe is generally recognized as Pinin Farina’s masterpiece, and since the coupes were raced in the Mille Miglia they are eligible for the modern version of this event.
To rub a little more salt in the wounds of Cisitalia cabriolet owners, their cars are probably not as rare as popular legend has it. For some unknown reason most references on the marque state that 153 coupes and 17 cabriolets were produced, but this is incorrect. Nino Balestra, the recognized authority on Cisitalias, believes that about 100 coupes and 60 cabriolets were produced; he has recorded at least 34 surviving cabriolets and 51 coupes.
Pinin Farina created the first cabriolet (S/N 021) in 1948, but turned production over to both Farina and, to a lesser extent, Vignale. Both models transitioned from having two-piece windshields to curved, one-piece units beginning around chassis 100, and one reference credits the 202 Cabriolet pictured here as the first example to carry the curved windshield.
Novice collectors are often confused by the fact that a Fiat 102-series engine block forms the basis of the high-performance engine in the Cisitalia, and that some Fiat components are used in its suspension system. But calling a 202 a “pretty Fiat” is like calling a Lotus Elite a roadworthy fire pump, since the robust Coventry Climax fire pump motor formed the basis of its powerplant. The truth is that Cisitalia was simply too small a company to create a custom block and the Fiat unit was readily available.
While the auction catalog lists the engine number of this car as “012,” records indicate that this car should carry engine number 112, so this may simply be a misprint. It is very desirable to have a correct Cisitalia motor since they are incredibly rare, selling anywhere from $20k to over $30k depending upon power output and originality.
The Cistialia motors carried such high performance items as a billet crankshaft, forged connecting rods, high compression pistons, and dry sump lubrication. For reliability there was no fan belt-both the generator and water pump were gear-driven. Power output for the road cars was 55 to 65 horsepower, depending on whether one or two Webers were fitted. An even higher state of tune was available with the special order Mille Miglia “MM”-series motor that had a 9.8:1 compression ratio and a magneto.
A multi-tube frame provided a rigid chassis and precise handling, and it’s worth noting that this revolutionary design presaged the Birdcage Maserati by several years. The 202 had good performance due to its low weight (about 1,700 pounds) and excellent aerodynamics. The coupe’s streamlined body allowed a top speed of somewhere around 90 to 100 mph, while the cabriolet was a bit slower.
To modern readers these may sound like modest performance figures, but consider that the 1947 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport two-door coupe was 90 hp, weighed about 3,000 pounds, and had a typical top speed of 96 mph. The 1948 single-carburetor Ferrari 166 Sport coupe made 89 hp, weighed 2,000 pounds, and did all of 93 mph.
With the limited supply of Cisitalias out there, we’re beginning to see an upward pressure on prices. Complete examples in running condition that need restoration should rise in value from their current $60k to $100k range, as the better examples are snapped up and restored. To wit: Both the Miles Collier Collection and the Petersen Museum have restored 202 coupes to Pebble Beach standards recently. Expect to see coupes worth $125k-$200k and cabriolets fetching $100k-$175k in five years.
If the buyer of this Cisitalia 202 was looking specifically for a cabriolet then he should be ecstatic, since they rarely come along, particularly in usable condition. I have personally seen only a few cabriolets in my 20 years of involvement with the marque, which includes owning one cabriolet and two coupes. I know of, at most, six cabriolets in North America.
One of them was so decrepit that it had to be moved on pallets when its restoration began, and in the end the costs were astronomical, on the order of four times what the car pictured here sold for. Similarly, I’ve seen a restoration on a 202 coupe with major body damage and motor issues triple the price of this car.
So if this 202 Cabriolet was indeed “lovingly preserved” and has the correct engine and no serious problems with the body or chassis, mark this one firmly in the “well bought” column.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)-Ed Godshalk

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