|Piero Dusio, founder|
Cisitalia was an Italian sports and racing car brand. The name “Cisitalia” derives from “Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia”, a business conglomerate founded in Turin in 1946 and controlled by the wealthy industrialist and sportsman Piero Dusio. The Cisitalia 202 GT of 1946 is well known in the world as a “rolling sculpture”.
Using Fiat parts as a base Dante Giacosa designed the D46 which made its successful debut in 1946. Giacosa had a vast knowledge of Fiat bits and pieces as he had designed the legendary 500 Fiat Topolino before WW II. The engine and suspension were directly derived from the small Fiat but extensively modified for racing. The engine received dry sump lubrication and further tweaks considerably increased the power output to 60-70 bhp. With a spaceframe chassis and weighing under 400 kg (880 lb) the available power was more than enough for competitive performance. Dusio’s dream of a one model series came to nothing, but instead his D46s started to dominate the voiturette series. Highly talented drivers like Tazio Nuvolari piloted the D46 to multiple successes against more advanced but older racing cars.
This successes led to a much more ambitious single seater project that would prove too much for the small company. Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design and construct a full Grand Prix car which led to the innovative but complex Cisitalia 360. With a mid engined layout and four wheel drive the Type 360 was far too expensive for Dusio to support and the attempt essentially killed any further racing cars.
Dusio commissioned several automobiles from Europe’s leading designers. He provided Pinin Farina with the chassis, on which an aluminum body was handcrafted. When first presented to the public at the Villa d’Este Gold Cup show in Como, Italy, and at the 1947 Paris Motor Show, the two-seat 202GT was a resounding success. The 202 was an aesthetic and technical achievement that transformed postwar automobile body design. The Pinin Farina design was honored by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1951. In the MOMA’s first exhibit on automotive design, called “Eight Automobiles”, the Cisitalia was displayed with seven other cars (1930 Mercedes-Benz SS tourer, 1939 Bentley saloon with coachwork by James Young, 1939 Talbot-Lago Figoni teardrop coupé, 1951 Willys Jeep, 1937 Cord 812 Custom Beverly Sedan, 1948 MG TC, and the 1941 Lincoln Continental coupe). It is still part of the MoMA permanent collection. It was not, however, a commercial success; because it was coachbuilt, it was expensive, and only 170 were produced between 1947 and 1952. Most cars were coachbuilt by Pinin Farina with some by Vignale and Stabilimenti Farina.
Building on aerodynamic studies developed for racing cars, the Cisitalia offers one of the most accomplished examples of coachwork conceived as a single shell. The hood, body, fenders, and headlights are integral to the continuously flowing surface, rather than added on. Before the Cisitalia, the prevailing approach followed by automobile designers when defining a volume and shaping the shell was to treat each part of the body as a separate, distinct element—a box to house the passengers, another for the motor, and headlights as appendages. In the Cisitalia, there are no sharp edges. Swellings and depressions maintain the overall flow and unity, creating a sense of speed.
Cisitalia 202 MM
Since the 202 never made large scale production and all the cars were handmade, the small talented group at Cisitalia, including Carlo Abarth, Dante Giacosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi, made several variants of the 202. Of the more important versions, the SMM Nuvolari Spider was built and named after a class victory at the 1947 Mille Miglia. It is easily identified by its large rear fins, twin windscreens and usual Italian blood red paint scheme.
Partly due to expensive construction of the mid-engine, four wheel drive formula one car, designed by Ferdinand Porsche. In total, around 200 cars were made which made a large impact on the later marques, including Abarth‘s later range of cars.
Cisitalia 202 SMM
For the upcoming 1947 season, Giovanni Savonuzzi, who had designed most of the 202, sketched a coupe body for Cisitalia’s competition car. The design was executed by Stabilimenti Farina upon both chassis #101 and #102. After two coupes had been finished, a spider version, Called the SMM for Spider Mille Miglia, was completed which would adorn all subsequent competition cars bearing the MM designation.
At the 1947 Mille Miglia, the Cistitalia spider really proved itself by leading most of the race in capable hands of Tazio Nuvolari. Despite having competition with engines three times larger, Nuvolari held back the competition until troubles ensued in the rain. In the end, the Cistitalia took second overall and first in class. For this epic effort, subsequent competition spiders were known as 202 SMM Nuvolaris.
Since the 202 SMM received much attention at the Mille Miglia, Stabilimenti Farina continued production of the design for several customers. In total around 20 cars were made very similar to Nuvolari’s winning car.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
202D Coupe and Spyder
303 DF Spyder
- The Colin Chapman Museum. “Aesthetic Analysis: Cistalia 202GT”. Worlds Car Designers. Colin Chapman, Drexler. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Ludvigsen, Karl (2010). Colin Chapman: Inside the Innovator. Haynes Publishing. pp. 152–153. ISBN 1-84425-413-5.
- The Cisitalia 2002 at MoMA.
- “Results from Formula1.com”.
Cisitalia 202 de Pininfarina
Cisitalia 202 Streamliner
Cisitalia 202 C Coupé
Cisitalia 202SMM Spyder Nuvolari
Cisitalia 204 Spyder Sport
Cisitalia 303 Spyder
Cisitalia 360-Porsche 360 Grand Prix
Cisitalia 505 DF
Cisitalia D46-47-48 Monoposto Cisitalia Giacosa