Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fiat 8V Berlinetta: Postwar Streamlining

For me, the high point of Italian sports car styling was reached during the early 1950s.  Most famous are the automobiles designed and built by famous coachbuilding firms such as Zagato, Ghia, Pinin Farina and such.  But even Italy's largest automobile mass-producer Fiat got into the act in the form of its 8V version produced 1952-54.  Before World War 2 and for a while after, Fiat was active in racing, especially in events such as the famed Mille Miglia where racing versions of sports cars sped through ordinary streets and roads from Brescia to Brescia over routes that varied over the years that the Mille was run.

The 8V, called by some Web sources a Berlinetta, was an in-house affair, designed and built by Fiat rather than the coachbuilders. Its shape was wind tunnel tested, so to some degree styling considerations had to take second place to aerodynamic efficiency. Nevertheless, I find the design attractive, particularly the original version pictured below.


A factory image showing the initial front end design. Later versions had the grille-mounted headlamps repositioned to the fenders in an early version of "quad" headlights. I suspect this was done because the original configuration might have reduced airflow to the radiator, though it's equally possible that the move improved illumination coverage.

Another factory photo, this showing the profile. Rear fender skirts have been removed.

This is the only photo I could find on the Web showing the rear as well as the wheel housing cover (the bulge was probabaly to provide clearance for the knock-off wheel hub).

The weakest part of the design is the rear quarter panel area.  It strikes me as being a little too bulky looking.  Cures might include a crisper fast-back roof profile, a larger back window, side windows extending a little farther towards the rear (though use of flat glass panes probably prevented that) and perhaps making the rear fender line a trifle higher and more rounded.  But such changes would have added a little weight and might have affected aerodynamic efficiency for a car intended to be raced.  So I really can't complain about the design.

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