Fiat 8V Coupe

The name Fiat is generally associated with small cars of four or fewer cylinders, although some of the very early fours were of gargantuan proportions. The 60 horsepower cars of 1904 to 1906 exceeded ten litres, and the company’s first six in 1907 displaced a mammoth 11,044 cc. More recently there have been sixes of more modest size and even a V12 in 1921-1922, the Type 520 of 6,805 cc. But not until 1952 did the Italian auto giant build a car with eight cylinders. This 8V model, or Otto Vu in the Italian, was built for two years only in 114 examples and remains an enigma to this day. Star of the March 1952 Geneva show, the streamlined two-seat coupé turned heads, and its proffered performance, 120 mph from a 1,996 cc narrow-angle V8, set tongues a-wagging. “Could this be,” wrote the late historian Michael Sedgwick in his 1973 book Fiat, “the poor man’s Ferrari?”

The 8V’s godfather was Dante Giacosa, director of Fiat’s Technical Office from 1946 to 1955 and later director of Technical Affairs and Project Management. A mechanical engineering graduate of Turin Polytechnic, he began his career at Olivetti but soon gravitated to SPA, a maker of commercial vehicles that Fiat had acquired in 1926. He then worked briefly in Fiat’s passenger car design office before moving into aero engines, where he quickly became Head of Section. He was soon back into cars, however, designing the engine for the 500 Topolino and working on the 508 Balilla and 1500. During the war years, his work was directed mostly to aeronautical matters.

In 1944, Giacosa was introduced to Piero Dusio, a textile entrepreneur and motor sport enthusiast. By 1938, Dusio had his own racing team. Having made a good deal of money from military uniforms, toward the end of World War II he started dreaming of his own line of race cars. Giacosa took up the challenge, moving to Dusio’s villa outside Turin and designing a monoposto race car, the Cisitalia D46, and a two-seat sports car. He then returned to Fiat and was appointed to head the Technical Office.

In 1947, Giacosa spent some time in America, principally at Detroit, in search of ideas for a larger, five-seat car that Fiat was considering. The project was designated “101,” and following Giacosa’s American trip, he advocated accommodating a two-litre engine for western markets. In the end, the 101 used a 1,400 cc four and debuted as the Fiat 1400 in Geneva in 1952.

Fiat’s Associate General Manager Luigi Gajal, however, still wanted a larger engine variant. A straight six wouldn’t fit under the bonnet, and Giacosa felt a V6 would be too hard to balance. A 90-degree V8 was too wide for the 1400’s engine bay, so, after a number of engineering studies, he settled on 70 degrees as a compromise between overall width and ease of manufacturing. The project was given the designation “104.”

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2009 at the Battersea Evolution, London.

114 bhp, 1,996 cc overhead valve V8 engine, four-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel coil spring independent suspension, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5".

Source: RM Auctions

Gallery: Fiat 8V Coupe