The elegant and aerodynamic Fiat 8V at Cesana-Sestriere

The American-style Fiat

This lightweight sports car from the 1950s was equipped with an unusual eight-cylinder V-shaped engine, independent suspension and fibreglass bodywork that made it well suited for racing in its heyday. Now part of the FCA Heritage Collection, it is returning to action in the Cesana-Sestriere hillclimb.

In 1952, Fiat decided to revive its sporty image by launching a new car at the Geneva Motor Show. It was a prototype inspired by American style, as typified by the eight cylinder V-configuration engine, but with a relatively modest two-litre displacement that appealed to the European market. Even if the engine’s architecture was all-American, its size was suited to Italian-style sports car racing. 

The first version featured two dual-barrel carburettors and developed 105 hp, which was soon upgraded to 115 hp, while the latest version adopted three carburettors producing 127 hp. The classic configuration with longitudinal, front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive was enhanced with four-wheel independent suspension, including at the rear, where the axle was conventionally suspended by leaf springs.

But what most impressed the public was the car’s dashing design. Styled by the Carrozzerie Speciali department at Fiat’s Lingotto plant under engineer Fabio Luigi Rapi, the bodywork was particularly elegant and streamlined, resulting in a car that cut through the air and went like the wind.

The second series was developed in 1954 and featured a lightweight, fibreglass body that weighed less than 50 kg and enabled the Fiat 8V to reach 190 km/h. A total of 114 units were produced between 1952 and 1954.

While many chassis were sold to Italian coachbuilding firms and their one-off versions wowed the crowds at international shows, the Fiat 8V also impressed private team drivers with its performance in sports car racing events.

The first Fiat 8Vs entered the Stella Alpina rally in Trentino and the 12 Hours of Pescara. Perhaps the most spectacular result was achieved by Elio Zagato, who raced at Monza in the 1954 Coppa Inter Europa, a non-championship Formula One event, and won the 2000cc class in a Fiat 8V, averaging over 155 km/h, while Franco Martinengo finished ninth in his Fiat 8V behind a host of Alfa Romeos.

The car competing in the 2017 Cesana-Sestriere hillclimb is a second series belonging to the FCA Heritage Collection and is normally displayed at the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin, a museum full of epoch-making models in perfect working order that can still thrill drivers and spectators alike with their superb racing performance.

Read the stories of the FCA Heritage cars participating in Cesana-Sestriere 2017.
Stateside style for the Fiat 1100 TV Trasformabile, a mid-1950s roadster.
The original queen of rallies at Cesana-Sestriere: the Lancia Fulvia Coupé 1.6 HF.
The Lancia Rally, also known as the 037: a 2WD winner in an age of 4WD cars.

Keep up to date with all the news, events and insights from the Heritage universe.