1952 SIATA 208S SPIDER AMERICA
COACHWORK BY BERTONE
Chassis No. 514
Engine No. BS071
Red with tan leather interior
Engine: Alloy 70 degree V8, overhead valves, 1,996cc, producing 105bhp at 5,800rpm; Gearbox: 4-speed manual; Suspension: all independent system with inboard coil springs operated by a rocker from the upper arm; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
Societa Italiana Applicazione Transformazioni Automobilistiche - always called SIATA - was set up in the mid-1920s by a capable amateur racer and tuner called Giorgio Ambrosini. SIATA was a speed shop specializing in high performance parts and accessories for Fiats, by far the most widely used automoblies in Italy. Less than a decade later, a sparkling performance in the grueling Mille Miglia race by a Fiat 508S Balilla equipped with a well-engineered SIATA pushrod overhead valve conversion galvanized Fiat into producing its own version and led to an enduring relationship between the two companies.
By the early 1950s Siata, as it was now designated, had evolved from a speed equipment supplier to a sporting car marque in its own right. An early effort was the advanced 1948 Amica roadster with all independent suspension and a tiny light alloy twin overhead camshaft engine. The link with Fiat continued with the Diana and Gran Sport series powered by modified Fiat 1,400cc engines. Looking toward the important American market, they were receptive when New York dealer Antoneo Pompeo proposed powering the Amica by the willing little 720cc American Crosley engine. Some were sold, but experience showed that too few Americans were enthusiastic about such tiny jewels. Instead, in 1952 Siata introduced their good looking Chrysler V8 powered American coupe.
The 208S Spider styled by Bertone and powered by a 110bhp version of Fiat's promising new V8 engine was seen in the same year's Turin and New York shows. This all light alloy unit, with a single camshaft between the cylinder banks operating pushrods to the overhead valves, was installed in a rectangular-tube chassis with built-up cross members at each end, a sheet metal floor pan and steel inner body panels, independent suspension system and well-finned light alloy brake drums. Maximum speed was variously said to be 115 or 120mph. Despite their real merits, altogether only 114 Fiat V8 cars were built and half of these were the five-speed Siata version. A total of 34 208S cars were imported into the USA. All except the New York show car were sold in California by Ernie McAfee. He raced one, sleeved down to 1500cc, in the Carrera Pan-Americana and said afterwards, its handling was so good you could corner as fast as your courage would allow.
This car is reputed to have had only three owners from new, and has been in the present owner's care for more than 20 years. It has been the subject of a Motor Trend retrospective feature and was seen in Automobile Quarterly's article on Siata's history. In 1993 it was given a meticulous respray by multiple Pebble Beach winner Rick Fitzgerald. A new leather interior was crafted and fitted by Richard Muehlig in December 1997. With suspension completely rebuilt in April 1998, it is described as in excellent condition, 'fully sorted, and meant to be driven'. The original motor is still fitted; all numbers match. An easy-to-use top and sidescreens keep the crew warm and dry in inclement weather. This Spider has started and successfully completed five demanding California Milles and performed with distinction in other Western Classic events. The Siata 208S was always rare. Today, as one of perhaps less than 20 survivors in original configuration, this carefully maintained example represents the best of Italian automotive engineering and styling from an important era. It will be welcomed in Historic events from Brescia, Italy to Monterey, California.