1949 Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport Berlinetta

Coachwork by Vignale

Just a handful of Cisitalias were built (production records suggest 170) but their reputation as the world’s first GT car far outweighs their lack of commercial success. This late production example was sold new to Montevideo in Uruguay but its early life remains a mystery. Its Vignale coachwork is very similar in appearance to Pinin Farina's more common design on the same chassis, one of which featured in Automobiles as Sculpture, an exhibition staged by the Museum of Modern Art in New York which later acquired an example for permanent display.

Chassis no. 141 SC appeared at Christie's Geneva auction on 18th May 1998, the catalogue noting: 'This is a Vignale example, which the vendor purchased in 1981. It had been repatriated to Italy, from Uruguay, where it appears to have been sold new to a client in Montevideo. In 1961, it went to La Paloma and still has the corresponding registration documents. Presently dismantled, but complete, it should be a rewarding restoration project.' 

Classic & Sports Car magazine noticed the car and featured it in their Lost & Found section the following month, commenting: 'At Christie's Geneva auction (p.198) the last lot, a scruffy unrestored Cisitalia, inspired feverish bidding among enthusiasts keen to take on this restoration challenge. This 202B had spent most of its life in South America and, although the body was dented and scratched and the windows smashed, the interior and instrumentation were complete.'

The present owner, a well-known and universally respected Italian collector and historian, takes up the story: 'I bought the Cisitalia at Christie's 1998 Geneva auction. Once I had carried out customs formalities at the Swiss-Italian border (the relevant paperwork is obviously available), the Cisitalia was transported to Segrate, to ORMA Srl, the restoration company of Fabio Calligaris and Claudio Roncoroni, to whom I entrusted the job.

'The overhaul of chassis and metalwork was carried out by Bruno Spada in Carmagnola, owner of one of the Torinese firms specializing in building prototypes for the design centres in the area. Bruno Spada passed away a decade or so ago but his employees continued work for their 'historic' clients.

'The electrical system and instruments were overhauled by Franco Rodighiero; the interior was executed by Enrico Ferraresi with seven of the 100 metres of special corduroy which I had specially made by Visconti di Modrone on the basis of a sample of original fabric found under one of the seats. The late Ingegner Bianchi Anderloni was of the opinion this firm probably supplied Vignale back in 1949, as they were the only ones supplying most of Italy's coachbuilders.

'ORMA did the paintwork and rebuilt the mechanics, including reassembly. The restoration was finished in February 2000, just in time for me to show the car at Bagatelle, where it won its class. It was the Pinin Farina year, and according to the official photographer the Cisitalia had already been selected as Best of Show when a French journalist pointed out that as Vignale had built this example, the prize should go to a Pinin Farina bodied car and so a Ferrari 250 MM received the award instead...

'In 2006 I took the car to Villa d'Este, but it lost out to a Ferrari 400 Superamerica Spyder which won Best of Show and, last and least, in February 2001 it featured on the cover of Ruoteclassiche.'

The resounding success of the Cisitalia 202 in the Mille Miglia and other early post-war races, as well as its seminal contribution to the success of post-war Italian coachbuilders and design, have firmly established the reputation of both marque and model. One of a select group of Cisitalia 202s built, with refined bodywork and sparkling performance from its light weight, skillfully designed and developed chassis and twin-carburettor Cisitalia engine, this beautifully presented berlinetta is both an historically important automobile and a sophisticated entry for the most enjoyable and important events.