|Piero Dusio, founder|
Cisitalia was an Italian sports and racing car brand.The name "Cisitalia" derives from "Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia", a business conglomerate founded in Turin in 1946 and controlled by the wealthy industrialist and sportsman Piero Dusio The Cisitalia 202 GT of 1946 is well known in the world as a "rolling sculpture"
Using Fiat parts as a base Dante Giacosa designed the D46 which made its successful debut in 1946. Giacosa had a vast knowledge of Fiat bits and pieces as he had designed the legendary 500 Fiat Topolino before WWII. The engine and suspension were directly derived from the small Fiat but extensively modified for racing. The engine received dry sump lubrication and further tweaks considerably increased the power output to 60-70 bhp. With a spaceframe chassis and weighing under 400 kg (880 lb) the available power was more than enough for competitive performance. Dusio's dream of a one model series came to nothing, but instead his D46s started to dominate the voiturette series. Highly talented drivers like Tazio Nuvolari piloted the D46 to multiple successes against more advanced but older racing cars.
This successes led to a much more ambitious single seater project that would prove too much for the small company. Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design and construct a full Grand Prix car which led to the innovative but complex Cisitalia 360. With a mid engined layout and four wheel drive the Type 360 was far too expensive for Dusio to support and the attempt essentially killed any further racing cars.
Piero Dusio, the creator of the Cisitalia brand, lives in a country house in San Isidro. We were with him while he played golf, while he took careo f the building´s he is constructing, and while he recalled the firm´s glorious days and his emigration to Argentina.
Piero Dusio is to the Cisitalia brand what Enzo Ferrari is to Ferrari, Ferruccio Lamborghini to Lamborghini, Alejandro De Tomaso to De Tomaso or Colin Chapman to Lotus. Piero Dusio was the creator of the Cisitalia brand and the promotor of most of the models that carried that name. A brand which is currently identified more frecuently with the decadente post-humous models and not with those which created the magic and legend of the name towards the late fourties. All of us who were born around the last War or before –surely not the youngest ones- are certain that in that Renaissance period which went from the end of the fighting to ´52/´53, Cisitalia was one of the Queens –if not the only one- of the motor racing world. This brand determined a very important momento in the evolution of the automóviles, since it created the first modern Grand Tourer and today´s conceptions of the Grand Tourer model. Therefore, those impressive models imported to Argentina fascinated us when parked on any Buenos Aires corner. And it is therefore fair to pay it and its creador an homage; so here it goes.
We are going to make the Cisitalia cars be reborn. We are in the year 1944, in Italy, in Turin and inside the Juventus Sporting Club. This is where we find a group of intimate friends talking passionately on a sofa: Gianni Agnelli (president of FIAT), Giovanni Nasi, Pininfarina, Dante Giacosa (current chief design engineer in FIAT and considered one of the best designer of the world, creater of the FIAT 600 among others) and Piero Dusio.
They´re talking, as is almost inevitable, about cars. So Dusio curves his back and throws his body forwards, bends his neck to look straight at his group of friends, and resting his chin on his closed fists, proposes a fantasy: “Wouldn´t it be interesting to prepare a small series of fast, light, manouverable single-seaters, all with the same power, so that in difficult circuits –for example, inside city or village streets-, the drivers could demonstrate almost exclusive their own driving abilities?”
For those who knew Dusio so well, this sporting and commercial proposeal wasn´t surprising, since Piero´s life had been a succession of succesful adventures which began at the start of the tirites. Particulary gifted for Sports, Dusio was the star of Turin´s best football team in the twenties. At the Peak of his football career, he suffered a strong hit on his knee and this put an end to his running alter the ball. But he was fortunate enough that the Mirsan Brothers, who financed the team, found Dusio a job representing a Swiss textile firm. In a week, he made as many sales in his branch as had been made over a year. He was immediately put in charge of sales for all Italy, and then he started racing, both sport and single-seated cars. He discovered a gift for motor racing, and achieved sixth place in the Italian 1936 Grand Prix driving a Maserati, but in 1933 he had already been Champion in the Rookie category: in 1934 he founded the brilliant and unforgettable Scuderia Torino. In 1937, he won the Mille Miglia in his own category with a FIAT Topolino, at an average of 78.085 km/h. The 1938 edition of the same race saw him come in at an absolute fourth place commanding an Alfa 8c 2300, and that year he won the Stelvio Climb with the same car. In that period he made it into the top three places in over fourteen races. Dusio was considered by the top-of-the-line pilots as one of the best amateurs, and by then the idea of winning the most important Italian races with a car of his own make was probably already growing in his mind. Dusio had already earned his reputation as a very aggressive and hard-working sports playboy. In 1939 he created a complex which consisted of his own textile company, a bank, a good number of hotels and a Sports good store. He called this complex Cisitalia, which stood for Compagnie Industriale Sportivo Italia. Dusio had great plans for this Cisitalia Consorzio. By the time the War broke, they were producing sports clothes, tennis rackets and bicycles. Cisitalia bicycles were named Beltrame. With the conflict official, Dusio obtained an exclusive contract to provide all of the Italian army´s uniforms and, in parallel, canvas for the Gemans. The first shipment consisted of a whole train, loaded to the brim. While the train rolled towards the frontier, the Nazi infrastructure collapsed. Dusio searched for a fast solution and intercepted the train in Verona, recovering the whole load.
Because of all this, that night in ´44, the group of friends received his adveturous proposal as almost logical. This is why the next day, the doorbell rang at Dusio´s villa near Turin, and Engineer Dr. Dante Giancosa entered to talk in concrete terms about the design of the post-War racecar. With constant, daily bombing, Dusio set up Giacosa in his own home, since Giacosa had lost his own as a result of the bombs. And they began work based on an affordable single-seater that could begin production as soon as peace broke out. Since most Italian industries had been destroyed, Giacosa suggested an exaggeratedly simple little car based on FIAT components. They thought that adapting a FIAT 1100 engine, adecuately treated, to a FIAT Topolino chassis, the weight/power ratio would turn out excellent, apart from easy access to the mechanical parts and the realiability that this would give to the customer. So, while Giacosa devoted himself to study the chassis and the engine modifications, Dusio took care of the sporting and commercial part of the future machine. By 1945, they patented the first mechanical solutions for the new car in Italy. Alter obtaining the support of FIAT for the provision of the most important parts, Dusio got his friend Pininfarina to prepare the prototype for the single-seater´s body and a first series of fifty units. He finally decided the production program: 50 Formula Junior single-seaters and 500 Spider two-seaters and coupes. But suddenly, these proyects underwent enormous changes, with which the machine increased its quality and exquisiteness. Dusio was showing Giacosa the Cisitalia machinery factory when the designer found an important stock of chrome-molybdenum tubes of different diameters. Giacosa was familiar with the aeronautical tubular designs since he had worked in FIAT´s aeronautics division. He immediately understood that using this type of construction, the chassis would profit from weight and rigidity loss. So, from the back of a factory emerged the first racecar to use a reticulated tubular structure. As for the engine, the 1100´s power was taken from the original 32 HP (DIN) at 6500 rpm. The mechanical development was carried out entirely within Cisitalia premises, which by then had enough machinery as to carry out its own modifications. The development of the propulsión system was complemented with an efficient semi-automatic gearshift operated by the same clutch pedal.
Dusio was in charge of taking that single-seater to the podium in the first race in which he participated, and the first alter the was had ended. It was organizad by the Italian Automobile Club and the Turin Automobile Club, trying to revive Italian motor racing as its best. It consisted a pair of races to be run in Turin in the Parco Valentino racecourse. The first one – the Torino Grand Prize- was arces on September 1st 1946 and was reserved to machines of up to 1500 cc or up to 4500 cc unblown, without limitations on weight or fuel. The second one was the Brezzi Cup, which was runo n September 3rd. This was a competition for single-seater and sports cars without compressors of classes up to 1100 cc and up to 1500 cc. This last competiton awoke particular interest because the Italian machines, prepared by several teams and driven by the popular idols of the time, were confronting the Simcas –the single-seaters developed by Gordini- which by then dominated the field of small displacement in the importan traces outisde Italy. Dusio has heading into that race of over 141.600 km well prepared. The Pescheira 251 factory, managed by Engineer Savonuzzi, prepared 10 specimens of an advanced single-seater called D46. In charge of technical organization, Dusio created a perfectly structured sports institution called Cisitalia Corse and put Piero Taruffi at the head of it.
The race was a triumphant run for the Cisitalias, which ended up taking over the first three places. They were the first four until Puma, at the head of Maserati, was able to get venid the third Cisitalia. The D46 team consisted of Piero Taruffi, Raymond Sommer, Tazio Nuvolari, Franco Cortese, Louis Chiron, Clemente Biondetti and Piero Dusio. (What a team!).
In November 1946, Commendatore Piero Dusio, general manager and co-owner of the Cisitalia firm, decided to build a Grand Prix car in his premises and entrust the proyects to Porsche. The fact that he himself built the sports car in his factory can be considered a post-War phenomenon. He came up with the idea of a Grand Prix car alter producing the Cisitalia 1100, a sports single-seater, without the collaboration of Porsche. The car became renowed for its victories all over Europe and America, not only in its own class but in many cases also winning the qualifying runs against much larger machines. Between 1946 and 1949 almost all the great drivers tried the small racing Cisitalia: Ascari, Taruffi, Von Stuck, Bonetto, Nuvolari, Lurani. In terms of anecdotes, we can recall the 1947 Mille Miglia in which Nuvolari, driving the Cisitalia Sport, was first overall and was defeated at the last straight straight stretch by Biondetti in a blown Alfa 2.9.
But Dusio had great ambitions and an 1100 cc car wasn´t enough; if he wanted to conquer world fame, he had to have a Grand Prix machine and ensure the collaboration of the best proyect designers. With the war over, the Porsche people were going through dificulties in Austria. Why not appeal to these excellent technicians? Besides de GP, Dusio also had in mind a 1500 cc sports car, and the Porsche engineers could well design it for him. The first negotiations with the German firm´s management were carried out at Zell am See in December 1946. When the conversations were over, the Cisitalia firm comisioned a Grand Prix (Porsche typ 360), a 1500 cc sports car (Porsche typ 370), a small 11 CV tractor (Porsche typ 323) ad a hydraulic turbine (Porsche typ 385). But among all of them, Dusio gave priority to the Grand Prix project.
Meanwhile, the person in charge of the project was Ferry Porsche, his father; professor Porsche was a prisioner of war in France. Through Louise, Porsche´s daughter, Piero Dusio contacted the French authorities –via Raymond Sommer- and, paying a large sum of money, got Porsche to return to his country. This sum he paid for the freedom of the genius manufacturer allowed Dusio in particular and Cisitalia in general to enjoy the best predisposition of Ferdinand Porsche, and on the other hand, that large sum reduced the costs of the projects comissioned to the Austrian firm, since it was discounted from the total budget. Dusio simultaneously obtained the freedom of Dr. Piëch, Porsche´s son-in-law and ex-manager of Volkswagen.
On November 15 th 1948, Auto Italiana published an article according to which the construction work on the Cisitalia Grand Prix was almost finished. But internally, things were not so rosy. Dusio thought that in order to have a trae and serious racing team, they needed at least 6 Grand Prix, and at the end of the summer of 1948 the expensses for the total project made the Dusio firm hesitate. By then, Dusio had already begun negotiations with the Argentine government. The media presented the imminent Italian-Argentine treaty for the creation of a stock company called Autoar, for the construction of touring, sports and industrial cars, and tractors. Piero Dusio was the president and manager of this society, having assured the Argentine government the technical collaboration of the Porsche Group and renowned Italian engineers. With the Autoar project a go, the Cisitalia Grand Prix project was transferred to Argentina.And just in time, because in February 1949, Cisitalia began having financial dificulties of such magnitude that its creditors –specially the accesories manufacturers- obtained from the Turin courts a sequestration for 240 million lira in debt. At the same time, the 400 workers also sued the company. At any rate, the firm´s management opposed the sequestration and work continued.
In the summer of 1949, the Argentine government allowed the Turin machines to be imported, under the condition that Dusio moved to the country with his engineers and specially with his complete Cisitalia GP project (the cars and the pieces already built). On May 12th 1949, the Porsche managers at Gmünd received a telegrama from Dusio in Buenos Aires: “Communicate to them that all the base agreements have been stipled with the Presidency and the relevant ministers.”
The negotiations in Argentina were long andi t was only in autumn 1950 that Autoar was consolidated, and by the following summer it had begun production. As for the GP project, a complete and another less complete single-seater were added. This was considered the most fabulous Grand Prix of all time (1500 cc, 12 opposing cilindres, four-wheel drive, 450 –theoretical- HP at 10.000 rpm). The car would make its debut in Buenos Aires, at the first race of the 1951 Season. But it didn´t turn out that way; having cut the umbilical cord with Porsche when the car came to South America, the car didn´t make its debut and nothing was known about it during 1952. Although it was said that that year, Dusio had gone to visit Porsche to try to make an unblown 2 or 2.5 liter Enghien to adapt it to the new formula. In 1953, the evidence and rumors continued. Clemar Bucci finally tested the car on the airport highway and established the South American record for drag racing thanks to the tune-up by engineer Juan Rossi, today general manager of FIAT Argentina. It seemed that the completion of the Cisitalia Grand Prix project was being delayed without anyone knowing why, but as if each one of its authors and collaborators were intimately aware that the death of this single-seater would mean the inevitable death of all the magic and legend of a name. Gianni Rogliatti, the great Italian journalist, wrote back then: “All histories of unrealized things are sad, but this is more than a sad story, this is a thrilling romance which talks about the end of the car that should have been the most extraordinary racing machine of its time.”
The project was finally abandoned so that the exquisite single-seater could go and rust in some forgotten garage. Ferry Porsche found out that and in the spring of 1959 exported the only Porsche Cisitalia to ever exist to Germany´s Porsche Museum at Zuffenhausen. The brand continued to be used, although that was the only thing it inherited from its ancestors, because not even the villa in Turin exists where one day, among the bombs, Piero Dusio dreamt of making the best racecar ever.
Dusio commissioned several automobiles from Europe's leading designers. He provided Pinin Farina with the chassis, on which an aluminum body was handcrafted. When first presented to the public at the Villa d'Este Gold Cup show in Como, Italy, and at the 1947 Paris Motor Show, the two-seat 202GT was a resounding success. The 202 was an aesthetic and technical achievement that transformed postwar automobile body design. The Pinin Farina design was honored by New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1951. In the MOMA's first exhibit on automotive design, called "Eight Automobiles", the Cisitalia was displayed with seven other cars (1930 Mercedes-Benz SS tourer, 1939 Bentley saloon with coachwork by James Young, 1939 Talbot-Lago by Figoni teardrop coupé, 1951 Willys Jeep, 1937 Cord 812 Custom Beverly Sedan, 1948 MG TC, and the 1941 Lincoln Continental coupe). It is still part of the MoMA permanent collection. It was not, however, a commercial success; because it was coachbuilt, it was expensive, and only 170 were produced between 1947 and 1952. Most cars were coachbuilt by Pinin Farina with some by Vignale and Stabilimenti Farina.
Building on aerodynamic studies developed for racing cars, the Cisitalia offers one of the most accomplished examples of coachwork conceived as a single shell. The hood, body, fenders, and headlights are integral to the continuously flowing surface, rather than added on. Before the Cisitalia, the prevailing approach followed by automobile designers when defining a volume and shaping the shell was to treat each part of the body as a separate, distinct element—a box to house the passengers, another for the motor, and headlights as appendages. In the Cisitalia, there are no sharp edges. Swellings and depressions maintain the overall flow and unity, creating a sense of speed.
The 202 is featured in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire by Rockstar Games and Team Bondi as a secret car called the Cisitalia Coupe.
Cisitalia 202 MM
Since the 202 never made large scale production and all the cars were handmade, the small talented group at Cisitalia, including Carlo Abarth, Dante Giacosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi, made several variants of the 202. Of the more important versions, the SMM Nuvolari Spider was built and named after a class victory at the 1947 Mille Miglia by famed driver Tazio Nuvolari. It is easily identified by its large rear fins, twin windscreens and usual Italian blood red paint scheme.
Partly due to expensive construction of the mid-engine, four wheel drive formula one car, designed by Ferdinand Porsche. In total, around 200 cars were made which made a large impact on the later marques, including Abarth's later range of cars.
Cisitalia 202 SMM
For the upcoming 1947 season, Giovanni Savonuzzi, who had designed most of the 202, sketched a coupe body for Cisitalia's competition car. The design was executed by Stabilimenti Farina upon both chassis #101 and #102. After two coupes had been finished, a spider version, Called the SMM for Spider Mille Miglia, was completed which would adorn all subsequent competition cars bearing the MM designation.
At the 1947 Mille Miglia, the Cistitalia spider really proved itself by leading most of the race in capable hands of Tazio Nuvolari. Despite having competition with engines three times larger, Nuvolari held back the competition until troubles ensued in the rain. In the end, the Cistitalia took second overall and first in class. For this epic effort, subsequent competition spiders were known as 202 SMM Nuvolaris.
Since the 202 SMM received much attention at the Mille Miglia, Stabilimenti Farina continued production of the design for several customers. In total around 20 cars were made very similar to Nuvolari's winning car.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
- D46 Monoposto
- D47 Monoposto
- D48 Monoposto
- 202SMM Spyder Nuvolari
- 202C Coupe
- 202C Cabriolet
- 202 Streamliner
- 202 MM Razzo
- 202 Giacossa
- 202 Cassone
- 204 Spyder Sport
- 360 Grand Prix
- 202D Coupe and Spyder
- 303 DF Spyder
- 303 DF Coupe
- 33DF Voloradente
- DF85 Coupé
- 505 DF (by Ghia, 10 examples)