1952 Siata 208S
Year of manufacture1952
Giuseppe “Nuccio” Bertone (acquired new in 1952)
John (Giovanni) Perona, New York (acquired from Carrozzeria Bertone in 1953)
John Holman, Charlotte, North Carolina (acquired from the above in the early 1960s)
Jarl de Boer, Walnut Creek, California (acquired from the above)
Jan de Reu, Belgium (acquired from the above in 2014)
Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Mille Miglia, May 1952, Bertone/Cernigliaro, No. 532 (DNA)
VI Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti, July 1952, Bertone, No. 100 (DNF)
XIV Aosta-Gran San Bernardo, August 1952, Bertone, No. 112
New York International Motor Sports Show, April 1953
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, August 2017 (Best in Class)
La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, April 2018 (Class Award)
OttoVu, Siata Derivata Fiat, Tony Adriaensens, pictured and discussed, pp. 1,034–1,037
Car Styling #19, September 1977, description with three period photos, p. 55
When Giorgio Ambrosini established Siata in 1926, few could have imagined that this small company, primarily focused on producing speed equipment for Fiat, would blossom into a formidable manufacturer of celebrated sports and racing cars. Like many companies after the war, Siata was determined to demonstrate its fortitude and technical capability, and thus decided to produce its own cars. By the early 1950s, the Amica, Daina, 300BC, and other models had evolved enough to earn Siata praise as a manufacturer.
In 1952, the 208 S emerged, inspired by Fiat’s brilliant, two-liter all-alloy Otto-Vu V-8 engine. The Rocco-Motto body enveloped a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension tubular steel chassis built around the V-8, but it also was designed to accommodate the Chrysler Hemi engine, in an effort to earn US customer interest. Many customers placed orders with Siata, but none was more impressive than chassis CS054, dispatched to Carrozzeria Bertone.
Bertone’s one-of-a-kind 208 CS was constructed in 1952, mating a distinctive Corsa Spider body to the Siata chassis, employing one of the first 8V engines, no. SC005. The body design was internally developed at Bertone during its most prolific period of aerodynamic body construction. Bertone had already established itself as a premier builder, investigating the latest in aerodynamic design when Nuccio Bertone assumed the helm from his father.
Many of Bertone’s ideas regarding air flow and body stability would converge as the alloy Corsa Spider body was constructed over the all-new 208 S chassis. The competition-inspired design would utilize blade-edge front fenders, gently arching over the wheels with open frontal area allowing for ample brake cooling, but also funneling warm air out from the concave sides. A distinctive twin-level hood scoop allowed for two stages of airflow, the lower scoop for slow-moving air, and the upper one for faster air streaming above the boundary layer. The floorboards were mounted below the chassis rails, significantly lowering the car’s profile. But the most striking aerodynamic aspect was at the rear of the car.
The dramatically shortened tail eschewed the long, tapered tails of the period, delicately joining the rear fenders into the body. The trailing edge of the rear then separated the underside of the car in what appears today to be one of the first sculptural applications of a modern underbody air diffuser.
With construction completed, Nuccio Bertone entered the Siata into the prestigious 1952 Mille Miglia. For reasons unknown, Bertone and his car were a no-show for this race. Later that summer, Bertone drove it at the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti (DNF) and at the XIV Aosta-Gran San Bernardo (results unknown).
In April 1953, with both Bertone and Siata eager to gain exposure in the US, CS054 was shipped to North America for the New York International Motor Sports Show. John (Giovanni) Perona, a New York resident and owner of the famous El Morocco nightclub, was so impressed by the Corsa Spider that he purchased it and had it registered on New York plate 3N55-96. To facilitate street use, Mr. Perona asked Bertone to equip the car with twin rear brake lights, with front turn indicators hidden in the grille.
In the early 1960s, the Corsa Spider reportedly was racing in the Northeastern US when the engine failed. John Holman, of the Holman-Moody racing team, happened to be at the track and offered to buy the car. While stored at Holman-Moody, the car was scheduled to undergo a mechanical conversion that would allow for an American V-8 engine, but the project was put on hold when demands for Ford GT40 preparation increased. While in storage, a fire broke out at the facility, destroying many GT40s. Thankfully, an attentive forklift operator managed to rescue the Corsa Spider, damaging the nose of the car but otherwise leaving it intact.
After the events at Holman-Moody, Italian sports car expert Jarl de Boer of California acquired the car, and it remained sequestered for several years as he sought and eventually found a proper 8V engine. In 2014, Mr. de Boer sold the car to a respected 8V authority, Jan de Reu of Belgium. Mr. de Reu commenced with a restoration, and amazingly found the original engine, SC005, in upstate New York, residing in an 8V Ghia Supersonic. It turned out that the engine accompanying the Corsa Spider was the missing original engine from the Supersonic, so a swap was worked out and both cars were reunited with their original engines.
In 2016, the consignor, a recognized leader in restoring premier Italian sports cars, acquired the Siata and completed the extensive and detailed restoration. The painstaking work paid off with a Best in Class award at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, among a field of formidable competition.
Today the Corsa Spider presents in exceptional restored condition, in its original Bertone configuration, including the hidden front indicators and cleverly positioned brake lights. The original alloy body and sculpted fenders are beautifully finished with stunning panel fit and remarkable contours. The nose section, damaged when rescued from the Holman-Moody fire, was carefully formed to precise dimensions in fresh alloy, along with a new passenger door skin. The purposeful interior is a brilliant combination of competition details and just the right amount of elegance in the leather seating, wood-and-aluminum steering wheel, and low-profile windscreen. The correct and matching-numbers 8V engine, per factory data tag, has been accurately restored reflecting the proper finishes, period details, and high-quality materials.
Brilliantly composed by one of the premier Italian coachbuilders, this one-off Siata 208 CS is a tribute to both the phenomenal efforts of Siata to build exceptional performance cars and the artful expression of a clean-sheet Bertone design. Together, they constructed one of the most exceptional and innovative sports cars of the early 1950s.