1953 Fiat 8 V

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1953
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    149
  • Drive 
    LHD
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

PROVENANCE
Original Owner, Milan, Italy (acquired new in 1953)
Jean-Claude Arifon, France (acquired in 1956)
Private Collection, France (acquired in 1972)
Paul-André Berson, Paris, France (acquired circa 1995)
Scott Gauthier, Scottsdale, Arizona (acquired from the above in 1998)
Current Owner (acquired from the above)

RACE HISTORY
VI Coppa Internazionale delle Dame, May 1956, Peduzzi, No. 64 (2nd Place)
Montlhéry Prix de Paris, June 1957, Arifon, No. 72
Montlhéry Coupe du Salon, October 1957, Arifon, No. 61
V Rallye des Forêts, April 1958, Arifon, No. 25

EXHIBITED
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, August 2002 (2nd in Class)
Colorado Grand (Two Entries Between 2002 and 2010)
Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance, Beverly Hills, California, April 2010 (People’s Choice Award)

LITERATURE
Tony Adriaensens, Otto Vu, discussed and pictured on pp. 308–311 and 436–437
Auto Passion, October 1998, cover feature

THIS CAR
More than any other coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Zagato contributed to the competition legacy of Fiat’s incomparable Otto Vu. After years of producing lightweight bodies for small-displacement Fiats, Zagato welcomed an exciting opportunity to design coachwork for Fiat’s new eight-cylinder sports car, which looked to be competitive in the two-liter category. Eight months after taking delivery of its first 8V chassis, Zagato unveiled its new Fiat Berlinetta at the 1954 Torino Motor Show.

Later that year, Zagato developed the double-bubble roof, and this now-iconic feature made its first appearance on a Fiat 8V Berlinetta. In typical Zagato fashion, this distinctive roof treatment went beyond mere aesthetic interests, increasing structural rigidity and improving headroom for taller drivers.

In 1955, Zagato introduced a new body style for the 8V to complement its already successful line of berlinettas. Known today as the Elaborata, this Zagato creation was intended to appeal to clients who wanted a more sporting 8V, but did not want to commit to the full rebuild process and minimal interior accommodations of the competition-oriented berlinettas.

Rather than fashioning a body from scratch, as was the case with earlier 8Vs, Zagato instead modified the original Rapi coachwork, hence the Elaborata moniker.

Incorporating a dramatically restyled upper section – complete with the distinctive double-bubble roof and lightweight Plexiglas windows – along with other lightweight features, the 8V Zagato Elaborata offered a unique appearance and improved performance.

Of the five Elaboratas completed, no two were the same. Despite their limited production, these 8Vs upheld the reputation of the earlier Zagato-bodied Fiats, racing with success in European venues. That is certainly true of this example.

Although this car carries the earliest chassis number (106.000022) of any 8V Elaborata, it was not the first example to be updated by Zagato. In fact, only two of the five Elaboratas were completed before delivery to their first owner. Like chassis 000025 and 000092, this 8V was delivered to the Zagato workshops to be transformed into its more exotic form at the request of its first or second owner.

According to factory records, this Fiat was originally sold on April 20, 1953, as a first-series 8V with Rapi coachwork. It wasn’t until it arrived at Zagato that the car received the double-bubble roof, lightweight bumpers, Plexiglas windows, and other desirable features that distinguish it as an Elaborata. While no dates have been recorded regarding this 8V’s transformation, the work was certainly completed before spring 1956.

This fact is confirmed by the car’s well-documented competition history, which begins with Anna Maria Peduzzi, one of the most successful female drivers in Italian motor sport. In 1932, Peduzzi began racing in local events with her husband’s Alfa Romeo 6C. By the 1934 season, she had earned a drive with Scuderia Ferrari and won her class at the Mille Miglia with a 6C 1500 Testa Fissa. After WWII, she returned to racing and was often seen driving a Stanguellini.

In May 1956, Peduzzi raced this Elaborata in the VI Coppa Internazionale delle Dame, a special race for female drivers. The popular event, also known as the Trofeo Luisa Rezzonico, was divided into two sections: first was the 7.4-kilometer Como-Lieto Colle hill climb, followed by six laps on the Circuito di Campione. Wearing race number 64, Peduzzi – who had won the race in 1951, 1952, and 1954 – drove the 8V to an impressive 2nd place finish behind Gilberte Thirion’s 300 SL Gullwing.

Following its impressive racing debut, the 8V was sold to Jean-Claude Arifon. M. Arifon, a French sports car enthusiast who had previously raced a Simca, was particularly taken with his latest acquisition and immediately began to race the Fiat. In June 1957, he entered the Elaborata in the Prix de Paris at Montlhéry and returned to the Parisian circuit that October for the Coupe du Salon. The last known competition outing for the Elaborata took place at the V Rallye des Forêts in April 1958.

Although M. Arifon sold the 8V in 1959, it certainly left a lasting impression. When contacted by a subsequent owner decades later, he recalled the Elaborata fondly, saying that it was the only car he had raced that gave “the impression of driving a go-kart.”

In 1972, a French enthusiast discovered the rare 8V and, following a restoration, the Elaborata participated in several historic rallies around Paris. Some years later, the 8V was sold to noted Bugatti collector Paul-André Berson. During his ownership, the car was refinished in a unique livery (red with a white central stripe) and featured on the cover of French classic car magazine Auto Passion in October 1998.

That same year, the Elaborata was sold to Scott Gauthier of Scottsdale, Arizona, and joined his exceptional collection of Zagato-bodied sports and racing cars. Soon after arriving in the US, the 8V was entrusted to Tillack & Co. in Redondo Beach, California, where a comprehensive restoration was performed between 1998 and 2001.

Once disassembled, it was discovered that the car was in good, sound condition with its original bodywork and engine intact. Only the nose was in poor shape and, as a result, the decision was made to restore the front end in the more typical Elaborata style, rather than retain the original wide grille opening. Beyond the cosmetic work performed, the 8V was mechanically restored with the intention of being used for road rallies. To this end, a five-speed gearbox was installed; however, the original four-speed unit was retained and accompanies the sale of the car.

In 2002, the 8V Elaborata made its post-restoration debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, where it earned an award for Second in Class. During Mr. Gauthier’s ownership, the Fiat also completed the Colorado Grand and captured the People’s Choice Award at the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance.

In 2011, the 8V was sold to the consignor, a Florida-based collector of exceptional postwar sports cars. Since that time, the Elaborata has received a second comprehensive restoration, this time conducted by leading East Coast specialists. During this process, CB Restorations repainted the bodywork in Grigio Fumo, an elegant period-correct color; Paul Russell and Company re-trimmed the interior in red leather; Chuck Sim went through the car’s mechanical systems including the engine; and Steve Claassen oversaw the final assembly. As a result of this work, the Fiat presents in excellent condition throughout and appears to be an ideal candidate for either show or tour.

Of the five Zagato Elaboratas originally built, just four are believed to exist today. Not only does this beautiful 8V have a noteworthy period competition history and a fascinating provenance, it retains its original engine, received an award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, and has proven itself in one of the most challenging tours.

Without question, this exquisite Fiat 8V Berlinetta Elaborata possesses an undeniable appeal for connoisseurs of great Italian sports cars.