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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Roadside Attraction: Rolling Sculpture at North Carolina Museum of Art

The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh has an exceptional exhibit covering cars of the Art Deco  period, and the show closes on Sunday, January 15, 2017, so this would seem to be a good moment to hit the highlights.  The show encompasses cars built in the 1930s and 1940s, and while the curators have identified the prevailing style as Art Deco, there are also examples of Streamline Moderne, as well as a style Raymond Loewy long ago christened "Borax."  We'll get to that in a moment.  First, some distinctive faces which may be familiar to longtime readers of poeschloncars...
This spectacular 1938 Xenia, built for aperitif king and inventor Andre Dubonnet on an Hispano Suiza chassis by Saoutchik to a design by Jean Andreau, was covered in detail in our essay "One of One, a Brief History of Singular Cars" from September 7, 2015.  Among its innovations: sliding doors, compound curved windshield and curved side glazing, and teardrop fenders which (at the rear anyway) flow out of the body sides before merging into the tapered tail.
The Tatra T87 from 1936 to 1950 was the product of Czech engineer Hans Ledwinka, and featured a rear-mounted, air-cooled overhead cam V8, along with aerodynamic bodywork along lines pioneered by Paul Jaray.  The triple headlights, 3-piece wraparound windshield, flush sides and single dorsal fin were very advanced, and betray a confident (and misplaced, for Central Europe in 1936) faith in the ability of technology to solve all problems.  The car, along with Ledwinka's rivalry with Porsche and lawsuit against VW for patent infringement, is covered in our essay "Cars and Ethics: A Word or Two on VW" in the archives from November 27, 2015.
This Delahaye Type 135M* which was bodied by Figoni & Falaschi with spatted wheels in a style inspired by cartoonist Geo Ham seemed, like the Xenia, designed for a jet set that would have to wait awhile for those jets.  Like the Tatra, the exuberance and confidence of the design reminds us of cartoons of a lost future by artists like Bruce McCall.  But that's with the benefit of hindsight. The Delahaye, with its outdated mechanical brakes and pushrod engine, was a poem about the future, while the Tatra, with its alloy engine and overhead cams, was an attempt at a blueprint for it…
The1930 Ruxton is early Deco, with a horizontal striped, very American multicolor paint job attempting to distract us from the very upright, un-aerodynamic bodywork.  Streamline Moderne it's not.

The 1936 Peugeot 402 Darl'mat, designed by Georges Paulin for the coach builder Pourtout, has more of a kinship with the Delahaye.  The two-toning and portholes in graduated sizes lend the design a whimsical air; the metal roof is practical, and Pourtout pioneered the retractable metal roof on the 402.

Over in the States, at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, designer Phil Wright attempted to pull the conservative Pierce Arrow firm into the future with the SIlver Arrow V12, and deleted running boards for flush sides, integrating tubular headlight nacelles and teardrop rear fenders into a budget-busting composition that found only a handful of Depression buyers.

A car similar to the Packard V12 Model 1106 coupe was also shown at the Fair.  Unlike the Silver Arrow, it has separate fender forms.  But the teardrop form of those fenders, echoed in the side window shape, is in the spirit of the times.
Jean Bugatti tried to predict the future for Bugatti with his 1935 Aerolithe; this green phantom is a faithful replica on a Type 57 Bugatti chassis from the period.  The original was lost, as Bugatti's future in Alsace Lorraine involved a German occupation, and no customers for magnesium-bodied twin cam dream cars.  

William Stout tried, like Ledwinka at Tatra, a rear-mounted V8 (here, a Ford) format to maximize interior space. The Stout Scarab anticipated minivans in its efficient, cavernous interior.  But the application of Egyptian themes, overlapping wing motifs, and the bathtub approach to streamlining echoes its own times (the first alloy-bodied Scarab was built in 1932; later cars were steel) and anticipates the next decade.  The unconscious humor of the design shows a naive faith in streamlining that Raymond Loewy labeled "Borax".  Perhaps he thought of this as the style was supposed to be clean, and Borax was a cleaning product...  Only a few Scarabs were built at $5,000 a copy; five survive.

The 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt is firmly in the late Streamline Moderne period, with its alloy envelope body designed by Alex Tremulis (later the designer of the Tucker), its fully enclosed wheels, and its retractable metal roof following Georges Paulin's innovations at Pourtout and Peugeot.  Six cars were built as "cars of the future", but there was a war in America's future instead.  After that war, a Thunderbolt appeared in the TV series "Boston Blackie."

*The Delahaye's brief moment of heroic achievement was covered in our essay "Dreyfus and the Million-Franc Delahaye vs. the Third Reich", on Nov. 22, 2015.  

Photo Credit:  All photos but two are by longtime reader George Havelka, who reports that the Xenia's paint job is a knockout for depth and luminosity.  The detail of the Scarab hood ornament is from the website aerodynamicsproject.com, and the rear view is from remarkablecars.com.

Happy New Year to all our readers, and thanks for your over 23,000 visits.  We look forward to reporting on new and old Roadside Attractions in 2017, along with features on the Frazer Nash, the cars of Briggs Cunningham, and some cars we hope will be completely new to you...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Forgotten Classics-----AC Part 2: There Was Life Before the Cobra

At the end of the our feature on the AC Ace Bristol you probably thought we were going to talk about the Shelby AC Cobra which came next.  But before we visit that subject (which has never suffered from a lack of attention) we are going to take a detour down some seldom-trod paths which eventually led to the famous Cobra.  In 1937 AC made a kind of MG for grown-ups called the 16/80.  It featured the then-still-advanced single overhead cam 2 liter six designed for the firm by John Weller at the end of WWI, and elegant proportions in the long hood / flat vertical gas tank / no trunk English tradition.  The 80 horsepower allowed a fairly nippy zero to sixty time of 15 seconds, and if you needed more power supercharging was available, as well as a Wilson pre-selector gearbox as a substitute for the non-synchro 4 speed.  Stateside, one of the grown-ups attracted to the 16/80 was Frank Lloyd Wright*, here shown with Olgivanna at the wheel in their AC which he had painted in his trademark Cherokee red. 

The appearance of the new Ace for the 1954 model year must have seemed like a revolution to the company's traditional clientele, because it replaced solid axles with four-wheel independent suspension, and the upright style of the prewar and early postwar cars with Italian-inspired modernism.  The Aceca, introduced later that year for a mid-1955 production start, added full weather protection and more space for passengers and luggage.  Even in the US, at prices ranging from $4,000 for the base-engined Ace up to around $6,000 for a Bristol-engined Aceca, there was nothing comparable until you got to the more expensive Aston Martin, which also offered handmade aluminum bodies and that distinctive rear hatch.  And the visual impact of the cars' carefully contoured, minimally decorated alloy body forms was such that only one was ever re-bodied in another style.  This was a car sold in Switzerland, and it was bodied by Zagato…

This fastback design, which featured Zagato's trademark "double bubble" roof, shared the purposeful, aggressive look of the original Aceca, which had been designed in-house at AC. Another effect common to the lone Zagato and all the AC production cars on the 90 inch wheelbase was the impression that the aluminum shells had been wrapped tightly around the mechanicals and wheels with no space to spare.  The Zagato had a lower hood than the standard Ace, and the air intake bulge was contrived to clear the carbs on the Bristol engine.  In 1959, AC decided to expand its appeal by releasing a true 4 passenger car called the Greyhound. Wheelbase was increased to 100 inches, and weight went up a bit, to just under 2,200 pounds.

For perspective, that's still about 150 pounds less than the original Mazda Miata.  In order to offer the expected levels of performance, the 2 liter Bristol six was supplemented by a 2.2 liter version and also, late in the run, the 170 hp Ruddspeed Ford.  But the graceful lines of the Aceca lost something in translation to a larger car, and as a result of that, as well as the compromised handling from a new semi-trailing rear suspension, only 83 cars were made. The year before the Greyhound appeared, the LM 5000, made to a John Tojeiro design and entered at Le Mans in 1958, did not suffer from any deficits in speed or in visual impact...

Tojeiro's design owes something to the Costin-penned Lotus Eleven in aspects like the high tail, Perspex-shrouded headlights and one-piece alloy bonnet, which like the Zagato featured an intake blister to clear the Bristol engine.  The latter unit was nearing the end of its life in competition and production cars, but coaxed the unique LM 5000 to 150 mph on the Mulsanne straight. Weaknesses in the rear of the tubular frame meant that the car retired from the '58 running of the 24 Hours, while the "standard" Ace Bristols did well, finishing 8th and 9th behind a pack of Ferraris including the winner, a lone Aston Martin in 2nd place, and three Porsches.  The following year, a lone Ace Bristol finished in 7th place.

The conventional wisdom cited these race results, along with the commercial failure of the Greyhound, as evidence of AC's last hurrah. When Bristol finally discontinued their engine in 1961, lots of car enthusiasts expected AC and its products to follow their favorite power plant into oblivion.  What happened next proved how wrong the conventional wisdom can be...

*For a discussion of some of Frank Lloyd Wright's other cars and also his showroom design for Max Hoffman, see our essay entitled Max Hoffman: An Eye for Cars and the Studebaker Porsche, from May 1, 2016.

Photo credits:

1 & 2:  hemmings.com
3:  pinterest.com
4:  wikimedia
6 & 7:  acownersclub.co.uk

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Accidents with Bristol Power: AC Ace and Aceca

When I was a grade school kid there were two cars in my neighborhood that I really wanted. One was a brand new black 1959 Citroen DS-19 owned by one of two mysterious sisters who lived across from the Catholic church; they'd traded in an almost equally new-looking black 1934 Chrysler Airflow for it, and that seemed a pretty appropriate move to me.  Around that time, I floated away on a hydropneumatic cloud when a substitute teacher treated me to a ride in her own gray DS.  Perhaps I'd finally turned in a decent book report to deserve this; I can't remember. The other automotive lust magnet was a metallic blue AC Ace Bristol roadster which was almost too pretty to behold.  Now and then I'd spy it parked near the bank; perhaps it was owned by a banker. I didn't have anything to trade for a ride in that car, but I would've given anything except my dog…

The Ace, first shown by AC in 1953 and in production until 1963, was a kind of lucky accident. Race car builder John Tojeiro had been building specials with alloy bodies closely modeled on the Ferrari Barchettas by Touring Superleggera.  AC (for Auto Carriers) had been building (mostly by hand) a traditional-looking saloon powered by their long-stroke overhead cam six, designed by John Weller and dating from 1919… 

One Tojeiro special which caught the eye of AC management was a slightly larger car powered by a Lea-Francis engine, and then a Bristol unit. AC adopted the car as a prototype, and it appeared at the Earls Court show with a transplanted 2 liter AC engine developing all of 85 hp. It's the last black &  white photo below.  Other than the full-height windshield on the Ace, the main change from Touring's Ferrari Barchetta body (top photo below) is the elimination of the stiffening rib formed into the alloy and linking the wheel arches. This line was, however, featured in the early Tojeiro Bristol (#76) and Tojeiro MG (#62).

Tojeiro's cribbed design was soon updated by raising the headlights, imparting the famous "mustache" line (hand-hammered out of aluminum) around the grille, which was now tilted forward at the top edge.   At the same time, AC raised the boot for more space, and angled the lower edge forward.  The happy effect was to give the car its own character, an external sign of the modernity underneath the skin; on launch in 1954 it was the first English production car to feature four-wheel independent suspension.  The car found popularity with English club racers, and the demand for more power led in 1956 to the availability of the 2 liter Bristol six, with its odd cross-pushrod design allowing hemispherical combustion chambers and decent power despite the long stroke. With this engine, the car gained 35 to 45 hp depending on state of tune, and while lighter and faster than any production Bristol model, it was also a lot cheaper.  Disc brakes became optional, and the revitalized car now found success with racers across the pond…

In a move calculated to appeal to Jaguar and even Aston Martin clientele, AC introduced a fastback coupe around the same time.  The resulting Aceca featured a glassy, hinged hatch for access to the luggage area, and Italianate styling which also seemed a reference to early 50s Ferraris, in this case the ones by Vignale.  It was available with both the AC and Bristol engines, and a handful of late ones were made with a Ford six.

Just when it seemed that Bristol's decision to stop production of its famous old six signaled the end of the party for AC, racer Ken Rudd got the idea to substitute his tuned version of the 2.6 liter Ford Zephyr inline six, now with up to 170 hp.  All of the three dozen roadsters built with the Ruddspeed Ford engine featured handsomely revised styling, with the curved windshield and lower snout shown below.

But while Ken Rudd and the Hurlock brothers at AC deserve credit for the idea of popping a Ford engine into their car in 1962, someone else gets credit for finally making AC famous. In that same year, a Texan working out of a SoCal garage was scheming a Ford transplant  for the same car, but this time with a V8.  That, however, is a story for another chapter…

Photo credits:
Top:  pinterest.com
2nd:  AC Cars, on myntransportblog
3rd:   wikimedia
4rh:   laluneta.com.ar
5th:   AC Cars
6th:   co1000.com
7th:   momentcar.com
8th:   hemmings.com
9th:   wikimedia

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Roadside Attraction: Dolphin Club in San Francisco

One wants to say Dockside Attraction in Old San Francisco, because visiting the Dolphin Club feels a bit like time travel.  Especially once you get through the front door and see the rooms full of wooden boats.  The Dolphin Club, founded in 1877, is not only a rowing and swimming club, but also a place to learn how to build and repair these boats.  The club has 20 wooden Whitehall-style rowboats of the type originally used in New York to taxi goods out to ships in the harbor. Whitehall rowboats (named after the eponymous street in NYC) performed a similar function in old San Francisco, and the club has Jon Bielinski, a master of the boat builder's art, to maintain them. Mr. Bielinski has also built several of the club's Whitehalls, which range from 14 to 22 feet. The oldest boat in his charge was built in 1917.  

Where else can you find someone to show you how to build a wooden boat these days? Especially at the membership rates offered by the Dolphin Club.  I was invited to swim there on a recent Sunday morning by a friend who had joined at the "out of town" annual rate of $119. Locals pay $475, and there's a $111 initiation fee.  There's got to be a catch, right? Well, not exactly a catch, more like a hallowed tradition…

The Dolphin, while it is a swim club, does not have a pool.  Members swim in the same place they do their rowing: San Francisco Bay.  On the day I was there, a lively group of men and women stroked smoothly through the water, some of them going impressive distances, including my friend Alfred, who cranked out half a mile.  The water temperature that day was 56 degrees F. Wetsuits?  Nobody was wearing one.  They aren't prohibited, but a sign indicating that wetsuits are not allowed inside the building conveys the message that bringing a wetsuit for your swim might be considered a failure of tone, like bringing a bottle of Ripple to a wine-tasting event.   

The Dolphin Club is located at 502 Jefferson Street at the Aquatic Park.  The creaky old wooden building smells of salt air and varnish, and if you can wrangle an invitation it's worth a visit just to take in the artifacts and the atmosphere.  It's also not far from the Maritime Museum pictured below, a 1939 WPA project and a stunningly pure example of Streamline Moderne style, which deserves an essay of its own, and will get one soon.   

Footnote:  The author left his wetsuit fifty miles south with his surfboard, and couldn't persuade himself to experience the joys of water temps in the mid-fifties without it.  Maybe next time

Photo credits:

All photos by the author.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Italian Jobs from the Heartland, Part 2: AMX Vignale and AMX3 Bizzarrini

The saga of Italian-bodied American Motors cars outlived the Nash and Hudson nameplates.  In the middle of the Sixties, stylist Richard Teague proposed a true GT car to generate showroom traffic, and this appeared in 1966 as the AMX show car.  In order to get the car produced in time for the car shows, the body was produced by Vignale.  The somewhat chunky "tunnel roof" fastback proportions and unadorned surfaces were a huge improvement over the Rambler Marlin, a hastily arranged marriage of the trendy fastback theme with a completely unsuitable sedan lower body which had appeared as a response to the Plymouth Barracuda.  The AMX would have been a two-seater had it not been for the "Ramble Seat", a recycled rumble seat from the 1930s, with the hinged backlight swinging up to form a windshield for the rear occupants.  Tightening Federal safety regulations nixed this seating idea, but the car was a hit on the show circuit, and provided the basic shape for the Javelin-based AMX, a true two-seater, which appeared in 1968.  Note the raised surfaces outlining the wheel arches and the way this outline wraps around the tapered tail, forming the upper edge of the combined bumper and tail light units.

AMC produced the AMX 3 prototypes, also styled by Teague, as part of an effort to promote the performance aspect of their cars; this program included success in the Trans Am Series with Mark Donohue.  This period coincided with a vogue for show cars (and even a few production models) featuring a mid-engined layout.  AMC had Giotto Bizzarrini (designer of the Ferrari GTO and the Lamborghini V-12 engine) produce chassis to handle their big 390 inch V8, and body them in steel. The  4-speed transaxle was by OTO Melara.  Testing of the unusually rigid, neutral-handling chassis was by BMW.  The body design featured a strong horizontal crease along the flanks somewhat like Giugiaro's earlier De Tomaso Mangusta, but this crease kicked up over the rear wheels and outlined the car's tail, echoing the earlier AMX show car.  

Though it was often assumed to be a response to Ford's Italian-built De Tomaso Pantera, the AMX -3 was announced one day earlier than that car, on April 1, 1970...

AMC's original order was for 30 cars, but a strike and related financial downturn were cited as reasons for the cancellation after only 5 cars had been built.  Another possible reason was that production costs would have forced AMC to sell the car for $12,000, about $2,000 more than the announced price of the Pantera.

A sixth car was built post-cancellation from leftover spare parts.  The car which might have been the most fully-realized and practical of the Italian-American GT projects still attracts plenty of attention wherever it appears.

Photo Credits

Top & 2nd:  American Motors Corp.
3rd:  carbuildindex.com
4th:  wikimedia
5th:  autoblog.com

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Italian Jobs from the Heartland, Part 1: Italian Bodies for Nash and Hudson

In 1949, the hottest car you could buy in America was the Jaguar XK120.  American GIs were back from Europe, and some who had spent time in England came back with stories about odd little two-passenger cars called "sports cars."  First they bought the spindly little MG-TC, then the TD that replaced it in 1950.  Those who could afford it put their names on a waiting list for the Jag. The long wait for that car signified room in the marketplace for a competitor. George Mason, chairman of Nash-Kelivinator, thought so.  By chance in '49 he met Donald Healey on the Queen Elizabeth, returning from the States after an unsuccessful attempt to buy Cadillac engines to fit into his Healey Silverstone club racer.  Healey was also planning a larger, more luxurious machine, and meeting Mason convinced him they could work out a deal with mutual benefits.  For Healey, the British government's export drive required that any expanded production must be exported. Mason had an off-the-shelf engine available at Nash, but lacked a compact, lightweight chassis for it.  So Healey offered the G-Type roadster he was planning.  For the home market the car appeared with an Alvis engine, but for the American market it received a Nash grille with hood scoop over the Ambassador six. With alloy Panelcraft body on a 102 inch wheelbase, the Nash-Healey appeared as a '51 model in summer of 1950.  The price of $3,800 was around $400 more than an XK120.
The new car did well in racing from the beginning, with a 4th place finish at Le Mans in 1950, 6th overall in '51, and 3rd overall in '52, ahead of all the Ferraris and bested only by the new Mercedes 300SL.  Also in 1952, a heavier but more stylish roadster bodied in steel by Pinin Farina replaced the Panelcraft version after 104 of those had been built.  A 4.1 liter engine replaced the 3.8, but the extra weight of the new car meant it wasn't as fast.
It sold a bit better than the '51 model, but not as well as the Jag XK120.  At $4,700 it was over $2k more expensive than that car, a cost penalty reflecting shipping costs for a chassis which voyaged from Healey's English workshops to Italy and then back to the Nash factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Customers in the higher price range expected more comfort, and so in 1953 a Le Mans coupe on a 108 inch wheelbase joined the roadster, offering more space along with roll-up windows.  Around the same time, Jaguar offered the same features on its XK120 coupe and drop head convertible.
By 1954, the coupe was the only offering, and featured wraparound backlight and angled roof pillar resembling the big Nashes as well as the Rambler.  Owing to slow sales, the '54 was only produced for three months, and 90 were sold at around $5,100.  Over in England, the Healey works was consumed with the new Austin-Healey start-up and preparing A-H race cars, and the production total for the Nash-Healey worked out to 507 cars.  When a baker's dozen race cars are added, the tally comes to 520.  
Meanwhile in Detroit, Hudson was attempting to generate showroom traffic by offering an Italian-bodied GT based on the compact '53 Jet, a solid but stodgy effort whose tooling costs and slow sales eventually sank the company.  The goal was to capture some of the attention that Chrysler had with its Ghia-bodied show cars, and Superleggera Touring of Milan built Hudson stylist Frank Spring's design in aluminum on a 105 inch Jet chassis.  The overall look was a collision of Italian sleek with Flash Gordon goofy, including doors which extended into the roof, and odd rocket-tube tail lights...
The car appeared in January 1954, just after Hudson merged with better-funded Nash to form American Motors.  The uncertainty about Hudson's future, along with the $4,800 price tag and the foolish decision not to offer the big Hornet engine which was then dominating stock car racing, meant that only 26 of the cars emerged from Touring's workshops in Milan.
AMC management cancelled the program after those 26 cars were sold.  With the exception of a prototype Nash sedan from '55, the only other AMC car to appear with Italian bodywork during this era was the Farina-styled and bodied Rambler Palm Beach in 1957.  This coupe featured covered headlights and a jet intake-inspired grille design derived from the Farina designed PF200 Lancias from the early 50s.  

For awhile, then, it seemed like the Italian connection to the Wisconsin car manufacturer had been broken.  But the future held other surprises, as we will discover in our next post.

Footnote:  For those interested in exploring other American sports cars bodied in Italy during this era, the following links may be of interest.  For Chrysler Ghias:


For the Pinin Farina jet motif:


And Italian-bodied Corvettes from the 50s and early 60s:


Photo Credits:
Top:  Nash-Kelvinator, wikimedia
2nd:  bringatrailer.com
3rd:   Nash-Kelvinator
4th:  nashhealeyowners.com
5th:  hemmings.com
6th:  americansportscars.com
7th:  uniquecarsandparts.com

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Etceterini Files, Part 10: Siata 208S & Fiat 8V

In 1967, when Fiat introduced its Fiat Dino with a V6 engine shared with Ferrari, even car enthusiasts had forgotten an earlier 2 liter Fiat, the 8V from 1952-'54.  If for some reason you had one of these earlier cars tucked away in your garage, you might have found it hard to sell.  Parts of all kinds were hard to find, and the car's obscurity insured low resale value.  Now examples in scruffy condition trade in the high six figures.  How did this happen?  The story starts when engineer Dante Giacosa designed a 70 degree, 2 liter aluminum V8 engine for a stillborn luxury sedan, then obtained permission from the ruling Agnelli family to produce a sports car to showcase this new engine.  The car was called 8V ("Otto Vu") because Fiat mistakenly believed that Ford had copyrighted "V8".  The chassis design made clever use of the four-wheel independent suspension from a Jeep-like Fiat military vehicle at a time when most cars had live rear axles.  The car appeared at the 1952 Geneva show, with a body design by Fabio Luigi Rapi which would've looked advanced in the late Thirties, but not by the early Fifties.  The narrow chassis, Art Deco grille design and blistered rear fender skirts evoked prewar streamliners by Paul Jaray for Adler, and by Superleggera Touring for Alfa and BMW.

Soon enough, Zagato decided to offer an extensively remodeled version of this "standard" Otto Vu, and produced a light alloy Elaborata which offered a cleaner grille, glassier greenhouse, and on at least one example, the signature twin-hump roof.

By 1954 Zagato had also produced several of its own design for the Otto Vu, with tighter flanks, curved side glass and the overall impression that the alloy body panels could not be wrapped more tightly around the chassis and mechanicals.  The "double bubble" roof remained an option which appears on the red example below, but not on the otherwise similar green one.  These cars did well in road racing, despite the somewhat fragile nature of the new engine.

Ghia got into the act as well, when Giovanni Savonuzzi designed his Supersonic coupe, the first of which was fitted to an Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis.  The Alfa attracted attention, but the body was wrecked in the 1953 Mille Miglia.  So Ghia turned to Fiat as a chassis supplier, and built eight more Supersonics on the 8V.  The Supersonic style, with its low, tight greenhouse, rocket-like brow linking the front and rear wheels, and nascent tail fins emerging from an indented line spiraling around the circular tail lights, was repeated on 2 or 3 Jaguar XK120 chassis and on one Aston Martin. None of these cars featured the plexiglass roof which had appeared on that first Supersonic.*

There was also at least one Otto Vu by Pinin Farina. This coupe lacked the futuristic exuberance of the Ghia Supersonic, instead borrowing the tunnel roof with fins from the rear of PF's one-off Ingrid Bergman Ferrari*, while at the front presaged PF's Ferrari 250GT SWB by a few years.  Overall, the sober, elegant PF Otto Vu resembled nothing so much as a scaled-down Ferrari, which may have been the point...

Vignale bodied several Fiat 8Vs in a variety of styles by Giovanni Michelotti, including the rather wild 1954 coupe below, with a paint scheme seemingly inspired by Fiat's Turbino jet car*, which appeared the same year.

By 1957 this car had been remodeled by Vignale with a revised nose and tail, and a look more related to the Ferraris of that era.

By 1957 this car had been remodeled by Vignale with a revised nose and tail, and a look more related to the Ferraris of that era.  Fiat built 114 examples of the Otto Vu, and the specialist firm Siata built an additional 35 cars using the same chassis and engine design. These were known as the 208S; Rocco Motto built the open spider version shown below...

The coupe body style shown below was provided by Stablimenti Farina as well as Balbo; the concealed headlights and hunkered-down profile are unlike the Zagato Fiats.  Like the Zagato cars, some of these 208 S coupes went racing.  As with the Fiat 8V, high prices ($5,300 and up) doomed the sales effort.  Fiat, working with Ghia, would have better luck with its 2300 inline 6 in the early Sixties, and with the 1967 release of the  Fiat Dino.  But those cars are another story, for another day. 

*Footnotes:  The first Ghia Supersonic is pictured in our essay for May 9, 2016 entitled "Lovely Rita: Cadillac Ghia." Fiat's Turbino jet car is shown in our post for May 21, 2016 entitled "Jet Cars, Part 1: Real & Not So Real."  Finally, a visit to the archives for September 7, 2015 will reward readers with a discussion of the Ingrid Bergman Ferrari in "One of One: A Brief History of Singular Cars."

Photo credits:

Top two:  wikimedia
3rd:  wheelsage.org
4th & 5th:  wikimedia
6th:  wikimedia
7th:  hemmings.com
8th & 9th:  carstyling.ru
10th:  wikimedia
11th:  conceptcarz.com