1953 Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale

Tim Scott ©2015, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Vignale bodied 10 8V chassis, all to Michelotti designs, of which the car offered here, number 000050, is the only cabriolet and one of very few open bodies produced for the 8V by any coachbuilder. The drawing for the cabriolet notes that it was an exclusive design created for a Sig. Leone. It bears a remarkable resemblance to a similar coupe built by Vignale on another 8V chassis, but it has the breezy nonchalance that only a convertible top can offer.

Whatever became of the mysterious Sig. Leone is unknown, but the car is believed to have actually been delivered new in the United States, where photographs were taken of it in Florida in late 1954. It is believed that its original owner was John Harrigan, who took delivery of it in September of that year. Photographs show that the car was originally fitted with larger, heavier bumpers, a different dashboard arrangement, and painted wire wheels.

In the early 1990s, the attractive 8V was discovered in the Utah desert by well-known enthusiast Don Williams. He did not hesitate to purchase the car and have it restored in its present livery: a classic Italian racing red with a tan leather interior and chrome wire wheels. He noted that the car, as-purchased, had no engine, which was typical of 8Vs sold in America, where service for the complex V8s was not readily available. He acquired another engine, number 000184, which is believed to have been a factory replacement engine from another chassis, and he installed it in the car.

It is important to note that, according to Mr. Williams, when found, the car had its present delicate competition-style “bumperettes” and redesigned dashboard arrangement, indicating that these modifications were performed by an early American owner. A 5-speed Alfa Romeo manual transmission was also fitted, and it is still installed today, as it is a desirable and suitable replacement for the fragile and finicky original Fiat 4-speed unit.