A look back at the American-style coach-built Fiat 8V (or “Otto Vu”) a V8 engined sports car from the fifties. Fiat’s take on the 1950s grand tourer: equipped with a high-performance eight-cylinder V-engine, sophisticated independent suspension and a lightweight fibreglass body, it was perfect for competitions.
In 1952, Fiat decided to revive its sporty image by launching a new car at the Geneva Motor Show. Unusually, the prototype was designed for the American market, as typified by the eight cylinder V-configuration engine, but with a relatively modest two-litre displacement that appealed to the European market. Even if the engine’s architecture was all-American, its size was suited to Italian-style sports car racing. The Fiat 8V got its name because at the time of its making, Fiat believed Ford had a copyright on “V8”. With 114 made, the 8V wasn’t a commercial success, but did well in racing.
The first version mounted two twin-barrel carburettors and developed 105 hp, which was soon increased to 115 hp. The classic configuration with longitudinal, front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive was enhanced with four-wheel independent suspension. The 8V was the first Fiat car to adopt this sophisticated technical solution.
But its appearance was what caught the public’s attention at the time: the elegant and streamlined design was by Fabio Luigi Rapi, head of Carrozzerie Speciale Fiat, the “special bodies department” of Fiat’s Lingotto plant in Turin. The result was a car that cut through the air and went like the wind.
In 1954 came the second series, with increased power output that enabled it to reach 190 km/h. A total of 114 units were produced between 1952 and 1954.
In addition to the normal production versions built at Lingotto,numerous chassis were sold to leading Italian coachbuilders who used them to build some of the period’s most iconic cars, with striking names like Supersonic and Demon Rouge.While these one-off versions wowed the crowds at international shows, Fiat 8Vs also impressed private team drivers with its performance in sports car racing events. The last cars produced up to 127 hp thanks to the adoption of three twin-barrel carburettors.
The first Fiat 8Vs entered the Stella Alpina rally in Trentino and the 12 Hours of Pescara. Perhaps the most spectacular result was achieved by Elio Zagato, who raced in the 1954 Coppa Inter Europa, a non-championship Formula One event at Monza, and won the 2000cc class in a Fiat 8V, averaging over 155 km/h, while Franco Martinengo finished ninth in his Fiat 8V behind a host of Alfa Romeos.
Of the 114 cars produced, 34 of the cars had a factory produced bodywork by Fiat’s Reparto Carrozzerie Speciali (“Special Bodies Department”). Some cars had the bodywork done by other Italian coachbuilders. Carozzeria Zagato made 30 that they labelled “Elaborata Zagato”. Ghia and Vignale also made bodyworks. Most were coupés, but some cabriolets were made as well.
*extracts courtesy FCA Heritage