Motoring | Features

1953 Fiat 8V Ghia Supersonic

Imran Malik looks back at the first Fiat designed to go toe-to-toe with Ferraris and Maseratis. The 8V wasn’t just advanced for its time, it was gorgeous too

  • By Imran Malik, wheels
  • Published: 15:49 October 4, 2012
  • Wheels

1953 Fiat 8V
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Designed to take on Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia in the 2.0-litre class of the Italian championship, it certainly did that thanks to a top speed of 190kph. The 8V dominated the GT championship every year until 1959.

I’ve still not gotten over the jaw-droppingly beautiful cars that were on display at the recent Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance. The Lamborghini Miura SV that I wrote about a few issues ago was truly stunning, but while sifting through the countless images taken on my phone, I was reminded of the timeless beauty of the 1953 Fiat 8V Ghia Supersonic. Now, there were some magnificent pieces on show that sunny day in England but this was very probably the prettiest vehicle of the lot.

Back in the day, Fiat was renowned as a high-volume carmaker and it built reliable, low-cost models that were anything but sporty. But in 1950, the company changed its policy and began development of a high performance sportscar. Fiat designer Dante Giacosa, created the glorious 8V (or Otto Vu in
Italian).

For a car to have the pace and handling characteristics that Giacosa wanted, he decided that a tubular chassis would be the way to go. It would be rigid enough for the fully independent suspension in all four corners and drum brakes to be mounted on, so a platform was constructed from welded sheet metal and the coachwork and panelling was welded to that.

The elegant two-seater packed a 105bhp 70-degree 2.0-litre V8 that took up very little space under the long bonnet and was mated to a four-speed gearbox. It was unveiled at the Geneva motor show in 1952 and was showered with praise. Fiat outsourced many 8V bodies to Italian design houses who were awestruck by it and it wasn’t long before Zagato was rendering its own adaptation (it built around 30 competition models) while other versions from Pininfarina and Ghia were also produced. The Ghia 8V became known as the Supersonic because of its rocketship-like styling. No doubt, it was a superb fashion statement. Its streamlined forms, delicate use of chrome and that swept-back roofline made sure it stood out a mile. It captivated petrolheads back in the Fifties and that hasn’t changed today.

Designed to take on Ferrari, Maserati and Lancia in the 2.0-litre class of the Italian championship, it certainly did that thanks to a top speed of 190kph. The 8V dominated the GT championship every year until 1959.

Fiat built 114 8Vs, making them extremely difficult to find and costly to purchase today. Last year, one was sold at an auction in the US for roughly Dh5.0 million. That’s a pretty penny. But so is this car.

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