29 August 1999
1952 SIATA GRAN SPORT SPYDER
Chassis No. SL 0245B
Engine No. SL 0245B
Silver/red with silver leather interior
Engine: four cylinder in line, 1,395cc, overhead valves, 65bhp at 5000rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual with synchromesh on top three gears; Suspension: independent front by wishbones and coil springs with antiroll bar, live rear axle with coil and half elliptic springs; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
One of the back street tuning shops set up in the 1920s to make the small Fiats go faster than their creators ever dreamt possibe was Societa Italiana Applicazione Transformazioni Automobilistiche-ever after known as Siata- founded by Giorgio Ambrosini, an inventive racer and tuner. In the 1930s a clever overhead valve version to the Fiat Balilla which shone in the grueling Mille Miglia road race helped cement a lasting relationship between mass production manufacturer and tuning equipment supplier. In the early 1950s Siata emerged as a high performance marque, building on the impact of its Amica, a watchlike little roadster with a tiny light alloy racing-style engine and all-independent suspension. The Amica was gorgeous if hardly a production possibility, but Fiat benignly oversaw the conversion of one of their popular models into Siata's 1400 Gran Sport. Around a shortened Fiat pressed steel platform frame Farina wrapped a trim vee-windscreened bodyshell with just a hint of tailfin. Under the hood was a balanced and tuned version of Fiat's strong pushrod overhead camshaft engine breathing through a pair of carburetors and Siata's own patented manifold. Becoming a serious contender in Italian national events, in 1952 Fiat Siatas were third in class in both the 750CC and up to 2000cc classes of the great Mille Miglia race at respectable speeds. Examples found their way to Sebring and other American racing venues and performed creditably.
This Siata was first sold through Fergus Motors of New York City and by 1958 was in the hands of Mr. Bernard Ryan of New Jersey (a copy of the 1958 title accompanies this lot, along with a large file of supporting restoration documents). Mr. Ryan kept the car for some 25 years before selling it on to Mr. Stanley Weiss of Long Island, New York. By this time the car was possibly in need of some attention and he embarqued in 1984 on an no expence spared restoration, carefully keeping records of work done. The majority of the mechanical and bodywork was undertaken by Works Automotive Ltd of Port Jefferson, New York, with over 600 man hours undertaken which culminated in a cost of over $22,000. Specialist work such as rebuilding the Veglia guages was subcontracted out, these alone cost some $530. To finish the car to show standards Showtime Auto Restoration Inc of Setauket, New York carried out a meticulous re-paint and preperation work which cost just under $15,000. A George Whitman interior was fitted at a cost of $2,000 in 1988. Just recently this car left the family of Mr. Weiss as it was sold by his estate.
With its matching numbers and original configuration this Siata is a rare survivor indeed. Usable and eminently raceworthy, with a pedegree extending back to the the great Mille Miglia itself, this eye-catching little spyder would be a suitable mount for an owner considering a relatively low-cost programme of historic racing or such long distance events as the Tour de France and Mille Miglia retrospective.
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