The only Fiat model equipped with an eight-cylinder V-engine is a lightweight sports car from the 1950s, which excelled in numerous competitions in its heyday. The specimen belonging to the FCA Heritage Collection is also the only Fiat car with a fibreglass body, which weighs less than 50 kg.
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.
The first version featured two dual-barrel carburettors and developed 105 hp, which was soon upgraded to 115 hp, while the second series produced 127 hp thanks to the adoption of three carburettors. The car’s 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 it was the appearance of this agile berlinetta that caught the public’s attention at the time: the particularly elegant and streamlined design of the 8V engine was styled by Fabio Luigi Rapi, head of the Carrozzerie Speciali department at Fiat’s Lingotto plant where the car was produced. The resulting profile enabled the car to cut through the air and go like the wind.
In 1954 came the second series, which had a top speed of 190 km/h. A total of 114 units were produced between 1952 and 1954.
In addition to "Ottovù" (meaning "V8") cars with Fiat bodywork, numerous chassis were bodied by leading Italian coachbuilders, creating magnificent customised cars with evocative names like Supersonic or Demon Rouge, that wowed the crowds at international exhibitions and concours d’elegance. In addition, thanks to their powerful engine and low weight, Fiat 8V cars also impressed private team drivers with their excellence performance in sports car racing competitions.
The first Fiat 8V cars entered the Stella Alpina rally in Trentino and subsequently the 12 Hours of Pescara. Arguably 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 Romeo cars.
The specimen belonging to the FCA Heritage collection – which is preserved at the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin – is in perfect working order and is used in high-profile international events. In 2012 it participated in the 1000 Miglia, driven by FCA President John Elkann and his wife Lavinia Borromeo.