By Gijsbert-Paul Berk and friends
The text of the lead photo is a bit too small to see clearly, but it is worth reading:
Story by Gijsbert-Paul Berk
The name Cisitalia is inseparably linked to that of Piero Dusio. This Turinese sportsman, racing driver and entrepreneur was president of Juventus, Turin´s successful football (soccer) club and founder of the Scuderia Torino. His business enterprises were registered as Consorzio Industriale Sportivo Italia. Indeed: CISItalia! The business conglomerate included textile mills, a trading house, a bank, many hotels, sportswear manufacturing and bicycles.
Eighty years ago, in November 1937, Fiat introduced its first 1100 cc four-cylinder engine with overhead valves. This small, mass-produced engine not only powered a great number of Fiat’s bread and butter automobiles, but also became the heart of many exciting Italian and French specialist sports and racing cars. This article covers the years 1937 – 1940.
Story by Gijsbert-Paul Berk
In 1935 Italy was in the middle of a controversial colonial war in Abyssinia. In Turin that same year, Antonio Fessia, the manager of Fiat’s engineering department, asked the thirty-year-old engineer, Dante Giacosa, to develop a successor to the popular Balilla model. Giacosa had earned the respect of the Fiat management for his brilliantly designed 500 model, nicknamed Topolino (little mouse). Fessia explained that the new car should fill the gap between the small 500 and the recently introduced flagship of the Fiat range, the modern six-cylinder 1500 model.
A new challenge
As Giacosa describes in his autobiography Forty Years of Design with Fiat, Fessia wanted him to design simultaneously two engines: a four-cylinder and a six-cylinder, both with the same cubic capacity.
Aided by a team of about fifty draftsmen, he started on his task. “Our reference for the new engine was the ohv version of the 995 cc/508CS engine which was fitted in the Balilla Sport,” explains Giacosa. For an outsider, this replacement seems somewhat surprising – the 1492 cc six-cylinder of the Fiat 1500, which had been in production since 1935, already had overhead valves. But the engineers had to bear in mind that Fiat’s factories were equipped with the machines and tools to manufacture the 4 cylinder Balilla side valve engine. Since 1932 Fiat had produced 132,130 of these units.
“Therefore the choice makes economic sense.” Giacosa continues. “We increased the diameter of the cylinders (bore) to 68 mm. In the design, special attention was given to the shape and size of the combustion chambers, and to the position of the spark plugs. Our objective was to achieve a rapid progressive combustion.” In addition, the head was cast in aluminum.
“In accordance with my instructions,” wrote Giacosa, “we designed at the same time a six-cylinder. Being lower it permitted a lower bonnet and better streamlined front of the car, but being longer it needed a larger chassis. This engine was also substantially more expensive to manufacture; the four-cylinder configuration won the day.”
Story and photos by Hugues Vanhoolandt
More than 190,000 visitors attended the 27th edition of Techno Classica in Essen, Germany, making it once again the biggest indoor classic car show on earth, despite the competition from the more recent Stuttgart Retro Classics show.
More than 2,500 classic cars were on sale and 1,250 exhibitors were on stage as well as 220 clubs. Of course, as we are in Germany, the offers of local dealers mainly concentrated on Porsche 356s or 911s as well as Mercedes 300 SL or 190 SL. But the demand on Italian classics remains as strong as the prices.
As ever, the local German manufacturers took the opportunity to show their heritage and every German make had special displays celebrating model or racing victory anniversaries like 30 years of the Porsche 959 and the BMW 3 series or 60 years since the Mercedes-Benz victory in the Mille Miglia.
Mercedes-Benz also focused its exhibition on aerodynamic research through the ages. But enough speeches, let’s see a selection of what was not to miss in Essen.
Story and Photos by Alessandro Gerelli
A very rainy edition of the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti in Cortina d’Ampezzo witnessed the victory of Canè Galliani in both the events, the Coppa and the “Alte Sfere Heritage by Bark” of Sunday morning.
As for other international events, the cars in the entry list are becoming more and more “young”: this year no Ferraris, only two Maseratis, no Oscas, one Bugatti, very few etceterinis, few Alfas, but many Jaguar, Triumph, Austin, Porsche.
See the website, Coppadorodelledolomiti for more details.
By Pete Vack and Alex Vazeos
Geburth Fiat Photos courtesy of Alex Vazeos
What about sending an Italian chassis out of Italy to have coachwork built? The normal direction would be to send your chassis to Italy where it would be given a fine set of new clothes by one of the famous carrozzerias that dotted the landscape in the 50s and 60s. It would be unique, well done, inexpensive and probably beautiful. A criss-cross, then, would involve having a chassis made in Italy bodied in some country not particularly known for automobiles and automobile design like Austria.
Italian chassis have been sent outward of their native land to be bodied and re-bodied for years, for example many pre-war Alfa Romeos were sent to the UK and bodied by James Young, Ranalah, or even more obscure firms such as Thornton. There was even a Ferrari 166 bodied by Abbot which did not last too long before being re-bodied again; another example was the couple of early Ferraris bodied by the Swiss firm of Ghia Aigle.
But still, such attempts go against the tide and in many cases were not very successful. Recently another such effort was uncovered in Austria, and therein lies our story…and as our resident car collector, Alex Vazeos, was quick to point out, “There couldn’t have been so many Austrian bodied Fiat 1100’s around so it might be worth a story”. We agreed.
The Fiat in question was a 1938 model, a simple 1089cc 508C four-door sedan, officially still called a “Balilla”, but the name was fading by then. The 508C was one of the most popular and successful Fiats to date, and over 250,000 were built between 1937 and 1939.
This 508C found its way to Austria, but the first ten years of its life are unknown, probably due to the war. It re-surfaced in November of 1948, when a Carl Rainer Harbach duly registered the car in the town of Pörtschach, famous for Johannes Brahms, who worked on his second symphony while staying in the tiny town, about 125Km from Venice. The next year it made its way to a new owner and location in Wein, a suburb of Vienna. After changing hands a few more times, on April 23 1955, it became the property of Dr. Oskar Göhring, the owner of a Heating-A/C firm by the name of Geburth-Kühlanlagen. Little did it know that it would be transformed, given a new life, and unlike most of the other 250,000 examples of 508Cs, be saved for posterity.
So of course he sent it to us. After doing a bit of searching, we could find nothing definite. It was time to call in the real experts. We turned to Dino Brunori, author of “Enrico Nardi, a Fast Life”, who replied:
The car is a Fiat 1100 body by Carrozzeria Ala d’Oro from Reggio Emilia, built in 1948. Carrozzeria Ala d’Oro was founded in 1946 by Franco Bertani, a gentleman driver italian champion in 1938 1100cc class, and Officine Reggiane in Reggio Emilia.
Officine Reggiane was a small factory that grow up during the war, manufacturing parts for airplanes, mainly wings and cockpits, and therefor had nothing to do at the end of the war.
The workforce was rescued by Bertani with the set up of Carrozzeria Ala d’Oro. The Ala d’Oro bodied most part of the first Stanguellini production cars and several sports models, plus artisans cars and trucks. This 1100 was originally fitted with an hard top very similar to an airplane cockpit (see picture). The design was an in-house work. The car still exist in the hands of an italian collector.
Our thanks to Bill Spear for the question and Dino Brunori for the answer!
Story and photos by Ean McDowell
“1965 Fiat Sedan, unable to get spare parts, is unroadworthy, so cannot be sold. I would give it to anyone who is interested in restoring old bodies. Has done approximately 40,000 miles. White in colour and quite dusty as it has been sitting in a carport for several years; Mrs Lorna Hansberry, Landt Hostel.”
The faded notice was in frail handwriting taken down from a noticeboard long ago. It was said the car was given away four times but no-one ever collected it and sadly Mrs Hansberry passed away in late 2009. [Read more…] about Mrs. Hansberry’s Fiat
Photos and captions by Alessandro Gerelli