1948 Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet Gran Sport
Why am I an Automotive Masterpiece?
L. Limited edition cars
no. 17 manufactured. Supposed 17 convertibles built
Founded in 1939 by Turinese texile industrialist Piero Dusio to manufacture sports equipment, Consorzio Industriale Sportiva Italia (Cisitalia) amassed a fortune for its former soccer star owner making military uniforms during WW2. An experienced amateur driver, Dusio used his fortune to become involved with the sport he loved. After winning his class on the 1937 Mille Miglia, he began to explore the possibilities of building his own racing cars. Cisitalia's first model was the D46 appeared in 1946, a small single seater which used a tubular steel space-frame chassis crafted at Cisitalia’s bicycle factory to support readily-available Fiat mechanicals as Fiat 1090cc engine and Fiat 500 suspension. After fifty D46s were sold and the model archived a debut victory in the Coppa Brezzi in Turin, Cisitalia focused on building small passenger car based on the D46, including its Fiat components and space frame chassis. In the summer of 1946, the 202 CMM (Coupé Mille Miglia) was initially designed by Dante Giacosa and continued by Giovanni Savonuzzi (hired by Dusio in August 1945). The first coupé was built by Alfredo Vignale, at the time the departmental head of Stabilimenti Farina and allowed him to set up his own carrozzeria. The Cisitalia 202 SMM (Spyder Mille Miglia) was derived directly from the coupé. After Nuvolari epic effort, subsequent competition spiders were known as 202 SMM Nuvolaris. Savonuzzi’s design, was submitted to Battista Pinin Farina as an initial concept for the new coupé 202 Gran Sport and inspired the master to create one of the most significant examples of body styling in automotive history. Cisitalia provided Pinin Farina with the chassis on which the Cisitalia's body was placed. The body was more or less handcrafted, with its aluminum panels shaped over wooden forms. Its shapes are the finishing point of all the previous research: the hood, body, fenders, and headlights are integral to the continuously flowing surface, rather than added on, creating a general sense of beaty and speed. Unveiled in 1947 at the exhibition of Coachbuilders at the Milan Triennale and Paris Motor Show, it won the Coppa d’Oro prize at the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance. The Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport was defined as “a rolling sculpture” in 1951 when it was chosen, along with seven other cars, for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). The 202 is the progenitor of all modern sports cars stands as a timeless bridge between pre- and post-war sports car design. Its lines had a strong impact on the aesthetics of car design at the time, breaking with tradition and introducing new concepts in style. Coupé versions of the 202 were the first produced. A cabriolet followed. The 202 were built around low-cost Fiat components including a redesigning chassis and a 1089cc four-cylinder engine delivering 66 horsepower. The first Gran Sport model has only two seats and is the first car in history to have the brand name even in the back. The first development, the 202 Berlinetta - or B - can instead accommodate four people (three in front and one, bad, behind) and is distinguished by its more massive grille and chrome bumpers. The 1951 202 C has the the trunk accessible from outside and the rear window wider. The early 202 grill was aluminum and had 23 individual teeth shaped like a "D" with the curved part facing forward, and a narrow surround. The later 202 had a chrome plated grill with 18 thicker teeth and a thicker surround. The twin windscreen was later replaced with a one-piece curved windscreen. The 202 body production by Pinin Farina soon shifted over to Stabilimenti Farina and, to a lesser extent, Vignale. Both built the 202 to Battista Pinin Farina's original design, although there are some differences. It was expensive, and only 170 were produced between 1947 and 1952, 153 coupes and 17 cabriolets.
About the convertible version of the 202: Pinin Farina built only one 202 Cabriolet, before production of the remaining cabriolets shifted over to Stabilimenti Farina and, to a lesser extent, Vignale and, for some examples, Castagna. The Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet, with its flowing lines and rich set up, had quickly become fashionable and appreciated by people like Evita Peron, Henry Ford II or Roberto Rossellini, who bought one. In the words of Nino Balestra, car historian and proud owner of a 202 Cabriolet for almost 40 years: "In my opinion, however, the beauty of the cabriolet, which we will define as the first series, with the split windshield, the linear bumpers in body color, the grille with 23 thin blades, remains unsurpassed. I would even say that it holds the age better than the coupe. In front of the coupe we remain enchanted. It is a perfect design even if looking at the back end you can see that several decades have passed. The cabriolet is timeless. If you use it normally, it goes almost unnoticed. It is a polished monolith, with no additions, without anything to disturb the purity of the line. Immortal. Look at it carefully and think that while his story is being written, this car is practically seventy years old. Amazing!"
The Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet, with chassis no. 089SC is a 1948 car. Like all the first models, it has a grill with 23 “blades”, split windshield and thin bumpers. Typical of the model are also the rare large, chrome-plated original wheel covers on white-band tires. In the cockpit, in front of the two large instruments, the light three-spoke steering wheel on the right. In the center of the dashboard, an Autovox valve-type car radio of the time, with knobs in the same color as those of the car. The car is one of the few built by the Stabilimenti Farina (although a temporary Vignale badge appears in the photo during the restoration). The car is still registered with the original black plates, Turin. The Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet, with chassis no. 089SC was registered in December 1948 in the name of Luigi Della Chiesa, earl, racing driver and team manager, who was its owner until 1950. The gentle appearance of this cabriolet in white livery should not mislead: Luigi Della Chiesa bought the car for his wife Paola, one of the very rare female racing drivers that we remember in the racing world of the time. Paola Della Chiesa Bargetto used this car in races with noteworthy results; on May 15, 1949, she ranked 16th in the 1100 cc sport category at the Como-Lieto Colle, where, engaged in a curve, a photo depicts the white cabriolet and its driver, protected only by an elegant scarf. The car has a different bumper from the original one and that is currently fitted; it is known that various tricks were used in the race to balance the set-up according to the needs, including moving or increasing weights; one possibility was to temporarily mount a more massive bumper at the front to reduce understeer. The sources report another result attributed to the couple formed by the countess and the white cabriolet: two months later, on July 31, 1949, Paola Della Chiesa ranked 8th in the 1100 cc sport category at the Coppa della Toscana. The Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet, with chassis no. 089SC was not registered until the early months of 1950, when it received the Torino plates that is still carrying; the photos during the race show on the white car, provisional Prova plates, also from Torino. The car, after some changes of ownership and a period of oblivion, came into the hands of the current owner Nino Balestra, famous historian and Cisitalia’s expert. It was found in very bad condition, in 1976. Following a judicial seizure, the car had been left in abandoned conditions for years. Moreover, in an uncertain period, it had undergone several changes, made to "modernize" its appearance, with questionable results. Balestra, after careful planning, put in place a restoration that lasted three years and that was carried out in the traditional way, we could say "philological". The restoration was feasible, thanks to the possibilities offered by a period, which is too far away in time, in which Balestra was able to make use of the collaboration of skilled specialized craftsmen and sheet-metal workers and to still find inventory spare parts. What was unrecoverable was rebuilt piece by piece, like the famous front grille. In the end the result rewarded the efforts and Balestra drove his Cisitalia with pleasure and pride for 40 years. The Cisitalia 202 Cabriolet, with chassis no. 089SC is a very popular car for enthusiasts; its presence at the Concorso di Eleganza di Cortina d'Ampezzo in 1979, was almost a second debut. Exposed in the mid-1980s to the Museo dell’Automobile di Torino, it was later exhibited for a long time in the Museo Bonfanti-VIMAR in Romano d’Ezzelino. It carried the racing drivers in the parade, before the Formula 1 Gran Premio d’Italia, in Monza, in 1994 and 1995. In 2002 it was the protagonist of the exhibition: “Roma 1948-1959. Art, chronicle and culture from neorealism to dolce vita”, set up at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. Often appeared in photo shoots and journals on the model, including articles written by the same owner and books, such as "Cisitalia, A story of courage and passion" in which Balestra devotes several pages to the restoration of this car and to the life together, between parades in the Formula 1 Grand Prix and walks in the highlands.