I'm looking at an exhibit catalog from 1951; it's from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and depicts 8 automobiles from what may have been the first exhibition focused on automobile design by an art museum. It was almost certainly the first one featuring actual cars.
Perhaps the most modern and predictive of those cars was the Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport. Designed largely by Giovanni Savonuzzi and introduced in 1947, it was industrialist Piero Dusio's first attempt to market a road car. His initial foray into car production had been the single-seat racing model D46, which despite the humble Fiat origins of its 1100 cc engine, had achieved competition success in the hands of drivers like Nuvolari. Ex-Fiat designer Dante Giacosa had come up with a lightweight, nimble chassis which made up for the modest power. The 202 coupe used the same engine and similar multi-tubular chassis, but the body design, executed in light alloy panels by Pinin Farina, seemed to announce a revolution in automotive form, as innovative and fresh as designs by Felice Anderloni's Superleggera Touring (initially on Alfa Romeo chassis), and those by Raymond Loewy's group for Studebaker.
Curator Arthur Drexler noted the way the car's hood and grille sat below the peaks of the fenders, very unusual in 1947, and also the way the grille seemed a section through the ovoid shape of the fuselage. Perhaps more significantly, it echoed the shape of air intakes which had already appeared on race cars. Today, of course, we notice the seamless integration of fenders and center section into one piece of very expensive handwork. And expensive the Cisitalia was, with a U.S. list price of $6,800, which would have easily bought two Cadillacs in 1949...
…the year the Museum's catalog car was built. The catalog text also takes note of the way the rear fender arc relieves the unadorned flanks, and the way the bottom edges of front and rearmost fender extensions lift a bit from the horizontal base line established between the wheels. This gives the impression of the bodywork as a tight skin which just barely fits over the car's structural and mechanical elements.
It was a theme to be repeated on many subsequent postwar designs, especially Italian ones.
Savonuzzi took the opportunity to refine some of these themes almost immediately, as Dusio requested competition versions of the 202. In the 1947 Mille Miglia, Tazio Nuvolari held the lead over much more powerful cars in an aerodynamic spider featuring pronounced tail fins. After a rainstorm he finished in 2nd place and first in class, ahead of many cars with engines two and three times the size. This success led to numerous orders for the SMM, or Spider Nuvolari, as it was then called.
Overall, about 20 of this design were produced, and at least two CMM coupes featuring even more startling tail fins (remember, it's1947), and a greater inset between the upper and lower bodywork than on the Gran Sport to minimize air resistance. Also notable on the CMM is the boundary layer air control, an airfoil device which appears just above the rear window on the car below. Raymond Loewy would adopt a similar device on his design for a special Lancia Flaminia a dozen years later (see "Avanti Antecedents" in our archives for Feb. 18, 2016).
1947 was a busy year for the Cisitalia crew, which included future stars of the car building firmament like Carlo Abarth. In addition to launching groundbreaking road and racing sports cars, Piero Dusio commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design a Grand Prix single-seater for the race series that would become Formula 1. The resulting Cisitalia Porsche 360 featured driver-selectable four-wheel drive and a supercharged, 1.5 liter flat 12 cylinder engine which had been intended for Auto Union before the war. The car first appeared in 1949, and only one example was built. Development costs for the 360, which included money Dusio paid to obtain Porsche's release from a French prison, bankrupted Cisitalia, and by 1950 the company was in receivership.
Dusio moved to Argentina and later built some Fiat-based cars there, most of them styled in Italy, where production of the 202 ended in 1952 after 170 cars had been built to the original Gran Sport design, including 60 cabriolets. After the bankruptcy reorganization, other cars appeared sporadically in Italy under the Cisitalia name into the 60s, but none had the impact of the original Gran Sport Pinin Farina coupe. It was the first car acquired for MOMA's car collection, which also includes a Willys Jeep, a Volkswagen Beetle, a Series 1 E-type Jaguar, a Smart Car, and a Ferrari Formula 1 racing car from 1990...
Top + 3rd thru 5th from top: Alexandre Georges for Museum of Modern Art
2nd from top: Automobili Cisitalia
6th from top: cisitalia.com
7th from top: Wikimedia
8th from top: Von Reinhard Kaiser, reprinted in Fotocommunity
9th from top: Wikipedia
10th from top: the author, from the Collier Collection at the Revs Institute