1953 Siata 208 CS Berlinetta

It was with the remarkable Daina series, launched in 1950, that Siata introduced their first in-house chassis. The timing was ripe for the company’s fortunes when Fiat management made the decision to produce a limited number of high-end sports cars powered by an innovative, all-alloy V8 engine. With this power plant, Siata saw the opportunity to create a car that could be homologated for the prestigious two-liter class. The chassis was mated to a tuned 8V engine, a 5-speed gearbox, fully independent suspension and sensational, low-slung aluminum coachwork fabricated by Stabilimenti Farina.

Boasting retractable headlamps, an exotic engine, competition-oriented cockpit and waist-high roofline, the first 208 CS stunned the crowds during its debut at the 1952 Turin Auto Salon. The Siata presented here, CS073, is one of just nine examples bodied by Balbo and one of only 15 208 CS models completed. Although the exact build date of this car is unknown, according to Fiat factory records the original engine, CS072, was invoiced to Siata on April 3, 1953.

While little has been recorded of the Siata’s earliest years, it is believed that the car arrived in the U.S. fairly early, as it was owned by Cornelius “Kim” McFadden of Philadelphia during the 1960s. During the summer of 1966, McFadden replaced the original Otto Vu engine with a Ford V8 in an effort to extract more performance. While he initially retained the original rear end, it was soon replaced with a more robust unit sourced from a Corvette.

In 1986, the current owner discovered the rare Siata coupe. By that time, the car was in a state of general disrepair. Nevertheless, the original Balbo bodywork was intact, the tubular chassis was largely untouched and many of the distinctive, original details were present. An agreement was struck and Jarl de Boer, the respected Italian car aficionado, collected and subsequently stored the car in California for its new owner. After 15 years spent gathering original components, an 8V engine (000026) and a genuine 8V gearbox were sourced through de Boer. In addition, a genuine—albeit incomplete—rear-end housing was found to complete the driveline. A comprehensive restoration was begun several years ago, largely the responsibility of David Tourlotte of Denver, CO. The jewel-like V8 was rebuilt and subtly upgraded with a modified oil supply, improved water pump and an electronic ignition system—in preparation for extensive road and rally use. Today, the Siata remains in excellent overall condition and would make a wonderful, dual-purpose sports car.