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The one-off Cisitalia D48 that was driven by Tazio Nuvolari at the Monaco GP in 1948, owned by Collezione Lopresto.

Founding fathers of passion: Piero Dusio

Piero Dusio deserves to be included among the “Founding Fathers” in the world of great carmakers for having founded the legendary car manufacturing company Cisitalia in 1946, even if the pedigree of the cars he built stopped too soon. However, the company’s early closure did not prevent Dusio’s cars from having a decisive impact on the development and history of automotive design and engineering worldwide. The best-known Cisitalia, the 202 model designed by Pininfarina, was the first car in the world to be permanently exhibited (since 1951) as a piece of art at the famous MoMA museum of contemporary art in New York to demonstrate the harmony of automotive styles in the 50s. Moreover, Dusio was the first to have the brilliant idea of building sports cars that were both fast and elegant so that they could be used as everyday cars: touring cars. The name Cisitalia stands for Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia, C. I. S. ITALIA. Dusio, a big sports fan and fervent lover of Italy, wanted to communicate proud nationalism and a love for competition with his brand.

Piero Dusio, in the middle, together with Piero Taruffi (on the left) and Giovanni Savonuzzi

Not many people know that Dusio was known in post-war Turin for his power and wealth, which could rival even that of the Agnelli family, which owned FIAT. A racing fan and himself an amateur driver, he had such an innovative idea that, many years later, he became the backbone of auto racing by building single-seaters that were all the same, that were inexpensive but still spectacular, to help young drivers grow. However, his ambition to build single-seater cars for F1 “twenty years in advance based on the design criteria of racing cars” drove his company to financial ruin. In 1963, in a symbolic and tragic gesture, his son Carlo declared the definitive closure of the car company by throwing the crankshaft of the Cisitalia Grand Prix into the Po river.

CISITALIA 202

The Cisitalia 202 Berlinetta Gran Sport was presented in 1947. His vision for cars, compared to what Ferrari was doing in Maranello with powerful 12-cylinder engines, was more “English”. He made up for the low horsepower offered by a standard derivative engine, the one from the Fiat 1100 that was already tested on the D46 to be exact, with a car that was light and very aerodynamically effective. The shape of the Cisitalia, conceived by Giuseppe Farina, who was known as Pinin (in the Turin dialect Giuseppe, Giuseppin, Pinin), is in fact the result of a new way of interpreting cars that marked the descent of powerful radiators and wheels covered by fenders that joined the central part of the bodywork. Pinin was the first to define the concept of modernity for this magical means of transport and freedom and the Cisitalia 202 Berlinetta Gran Sport of 1947 was its manifesto. The 202, which was presented at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, immediately won first prize. And that’s not all: at the Mille Miglia,  three small Cisitalias occupy the places of honor: the first of these, driven by Nuvolari, was just over 15 minutes from the winning Alfa 2900 after more than 16 hours of competition! It was nothing.

The magnificent lines of the Cisitalia 202 by Pininfarina, part of the Kaiser Collection.

CISITALIA D46

The name D46 consists of Dusio’s first initial and the year Cisitalia was founded and debuted: 1946. Powered by a four-cylinder 62-horsepower Fiat 1100 engine, the car has the advantage of being light and delivers the expected performance. It’s launch is spectacular, but instead of young drivers, Dusio sent the champions of the time, Nuvolari, Taruffi, Sommer, Chiron, to the track in addition to himself. Nuvolari himself became a testimony to this new way of racing when the steering wheel of his car, a Cisitalia with the racing number 30, came off and he continued on for a couple of laps while waving it around it on the straight and showing it to the audience, reinforcing him as a pre-war Grand Prix legend. Designed by Giacosa and Savonuzzi, the D46 was a revolutionary project for the time. One of the first cars with a tubular trellis frame, it had very low production costs, as it was based on mechanics derived from the Fiat 500 “Topolino” and from the 508B/1100. The bodywork consisted of a simple aluminum sheet, modeled for the prototype by the Motto body shop and Giacosa himself.

On the left, Nuvolari driving without steering wheel the Cisitalia D46 at its debut at the Coppa Brezzi. On the Right, one of the first official drawings of the Cisitalia D46.

CISITALIA 202 Spyder Mille Miglia

The Cisitalia 202 Spyder Mille Miglia was a competition car built to compete in the 1947 Mille Miglia. Designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi, the car had the same trellis frame and engine as the Cisitalia 202 Pininfarina. Powered by a 4-cylinder in-line engine derived from the Fiat 1100, it was capable of delivering more than 75 horsepower and reaching very high speeds for its time (around 108 mph). To be competitive in racing, Dusio asked Savonuzzi to design a very light and aerodynamic body. After studying shapes in the wind tunnel at the Polytechnic University of Turin, the result was a car weighing just 1609 lbs that was very fast, highly aerodynamic, and easy to drive. At the 1947 Mille Miglia, Tazio Nuvolari took second place overall (first in his class). It was a surprising result given the low power of the FIAT-derived engine and the very tough competition he faced in that race. From that day on, the car born from the genius of Savonuzzi and Dusio was nicknamed the “Mille Miglia Nuvolari Spider”. The car driven by Nuvolari that year was unique. It was made by Carrozzeria Garella and characterized by some peculiar details, such as the double windshield and oversized rear fins.

The Cisitalia 202 Mille Miglia Spyder with its unique aerodynamic shape

Image copyright and courtesy of Collection Lopresto, Kaiser Collection, Remi Dargegen, Archivio Sergio Lugo

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