Car manufacturers in the 1950s, especially European car makers, could usually be stereotyped by the types of cars that they made. Volkswagen, for instance, became famous for the small, economical Beetle, Porsche made rear-engined sports cars, and Citroen – well, Citroen just made cars that were different from all others. Fiat was another automaker that was defined by its numerous small sedans, which were instrumental in getting post-WWII Europe back on the road. Upscale European sports cars, such as those from Ferrari and Maserati were, of course, part of the mix, but those types of cars were thought to be the province of small, specialized manufacturers.
You can imagine the surprise then to visitors of the Geneva Motor Show in 1952 when they saw an absolutely stunning aerodynamic Gran Tourismo Coupé featuring a unique art deco grille, ‘spats’ that covered the rear wheel openings, and a 2-liter V8 engine that gave the car a top speed of over 115 mph displayed on the Fiat stand! It was unthinkable that a company famous for small, underpowered sedans could design and build such an exquisite vehicle – but there it was.
The Fiat 8V, so named because Fiat thought Ford held intellectual property rights in the term ‘V8’, was indeed a state of the art GT car. In addition to a compact, high-revving, aluminum V8 engine, the 8V had independent front and rear suspension with huge drum brakes all around, and a 4-speed manual transmission
Only 114 8Vs were made between 1952 and the end of production in 1954, and virtually no two were alike. Fiat bodied only 34 of the cars; the rest were given bodies by the cream of the crop of Italian carrozzerie (body shops) — Ghia, Zagato, Vignale, Pinin Farina, and Balbo. The most famous of these 8Vs may be the space-age Ghia Supersonic, of which only eight were built. Vignale applied his unique design talents to nine 8Vs including the dramatic 1952 Demon Rouge – the Red Demon. Zagato made 30 8Vs labeled the Elaborata Zagato.
Almost all of the 8Vs are still in existence, most in private collections and some in museums. The cars are well-documented and draw significant interest when offered for sale.