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March 14th, 2007

Story by Pete Vack

Read Part I.
As we approached the tomb of what promised to be the long lost Cisitalia D46 (oh, well, there may be more lost D46s, but nevertheless, this one was truly long lost) we wondered if it was possible, even remotely possible, that one of the rarest and most treasured Italian race cars ever built had been hidden from sight for over 40 years, and was only one hour from VeloceToday Headquarters?

"Howard Carter and King Tut's tomb had nothing on us.."

The answer was yes, but it is still a bit hard to believe, even now, when the Cisitalia has already arrived to the home of it's new owner on the west coast.

After talking with owner Betty Peters at her home in Suffolk, Virginia, we were led out to a corner of a very large lot. Her Grandson Bruce pointed to the shed, and said, "Go, see for youself."

Covered with years of bushes, the doors of the shed were difficult to open. But even at a glance, it was clear that the chassis did not belong to an American midget, or a Formula Junior. The rusty rails and tubular body supports shouted “Italian”. We stumbled through the shed until we got a good look at the front suspension. The transverse springs, Topolino style, dated the chassis to the early 1950s, as did placement of the front engine.

We were astounded. Though we’ve never seem a D46, naked or dressed, there was little doubt that this was in fact a Cisitalia D46. We just needed to find the cowl and the identification tag to make 100% sure of the find.

The body parts were strewn in piles around the chassis, which in turn sat on a trailer which had seen better days. Finding the cowl in the corner, we tried to read the id tag but it was difficult. After a bit of rubbing,, the name Cisitalia was visible. But the serial number was so faint we decided not to guess and leave that part of the story to the new owner.

The cowl, and all the aluminum body panels, were in great shape. But there was a lot missing, including the detachable steering wheel, the seat, radiator, instruments and instrument panel, all four wire wheels and the entire engine and pre-selector gearbox. The rear end did not look original nor did the brakes. Ouch.

In the engine bay someone had placed a Fiat 1100 engine and transmission, but a quick look told us that the engine was from a much later car, probably an 1100D. The brakes were also 1100D, though we weren‘t sure at the time. But it was simply amazing. Howard Carter and Tut's tomb had nothing on us.

Taking some quick photos just to convince ourselves were weren’t dreaming, we returned to the farmhouse. Betty by now was taking her new found treasure in stride, but it was nice for her to hear that yes, indeed, that pile of bones in the shed was indeed a Cisitalia.

Betty pulled out the photo albums and tried to recall when and why her late husband had bought the Cisitalia. “Wayne was into sports cars and had a Devin bodied kit car. I remember--it must have been about 1967-- he traded the Devin for the Cisitalia, then stored it.“ She got up to look in the closet again. “There is no paperwork, no photos, and I have no idea how the car came to the US or why.”

"..that pile of bones in the shed was indeed the remains of a Cisitalia D46"

Importing strange cars into the Tidewater area via the Army, Navy and Marines was almost the norm back in the fifties and sixties, but most were either for the street or track. One D46, owned by Paul Creosole, arrived in the U.S. in the mid fifties and competed in the Formula Libre events, without much success. But in the late 1950s, the Formula Junior craze caught on the in U.S .and the SCCA made a class for the new, predominantly Italian single seaters. Our guess was that someone brought the car in to be modified for the new Formula Junior.

Whatever the case, it was not before the enterprising widow found a buyer, in the form of Ed Godshalk from Oregon, who already owned a Cisi 202 and couldn’t believe his luck when he finally sealed the deal.

The story was so unusual, even the local paper picked it up. “A Rare Backyard Find” was given full color first local page coverage by the Newport News Daily Press, apparently impressed that a rusty chassis would fetch over $16,000. And by golly, it wasn’t even a Mustang.

A few weeks later, the car was pieced back together, some of the missing items were found (alas not the engine), wheels were found to fit the Fiat 1100D hubs and the remains of the long lost Cisitalia D46 were loaded onto an 19 wheeler destined for Oregon. New owner Ed Godshalk will pick up the story from here, eventually, and let us all know what it will take to restore a Cisitalia D46.

Please visit Ed's website for Cisitalias.

Body panels were everywhere, as if the tomb had already been raided. It had, but by a family friend who removed the body to help identify the car.

A Fiat 1100 engine sat askew in the engine bay, but it was from a later 1100. The original Cisitalia Fiat engine was missing.

A strange rear end, nicely located with tiny coil springs. But the axle--and brakes did not look original.

In mid January, Betty's son Kevin and new owner Ed Godshalk helped re-assemble the D46. Photo courtesy of Betty Peters.

The panels were re attached to the chassis and suddenly it was 1946. The car came together very nicely. Photo courtesy of Betty Peters.

Betty stands next to the Cisitalia before it left for the coast. This photo was also used in the local paper. Photo courtesy of Betty Peters.

After 40 years in hiding, the Cisitalia gets loaded onto the 18 wheeler bound for Oregon.

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