Monterey Auction Preview: 1948 Fiat-Cisitalia Mystery Racer
I’m not saying that well documented cars are boring. Far from it—I love a 906 or GTO with a racing victory under her belt as much as the next sportscar nerd, but there’s something about the sheer mystery of this little racing car that stirs the soul and imagination. This 1948 Fiat-Cisitalia(?) racing car is coming available at the upcoming Mecum at Monterey auction and is sure to make some unfussy buyer very pleased indeed.
The Fiat 1100 has powered so many great little racing machines, and with the very rare Cisitalia head, it’s undoubtedly even better. It’s the Cisitalia head that has likely been the source of the head-scratching on this car. So the automotive archeology begins. The Fiat 1100 was a popular engine choice in the 50s. It is fitted with era appropriate Fiat truck brakes that have been modified to lighten them consistent with the technology of the era. The cockpit, from the gauges—one giant Jaeger tachometer surrounded by smaller Sacma pieces—to wooden steering wheel are period correct. Even minor details like the brake reservoir and wiring is all perfectly appropriate for a car of this age. It all gives every indication that the car was constructed in-period and is not a recent garage-built “barn find”.
For all this lovely period craftsmanship, there’s no in-period race history. It seems unlikely that anyone would go through the trouble of welding up this custom chassis and lightening the brakes and then not race it. That seems to be the case with this machine though. There’s no apparent record of the car before it surfaced at a Florida dealer’s lot in the 1990s. The Cisitalia head seems to have always been a source of confusion though as it had at various times been assigned a Cisitalia chassis number, and described in auction catalogs as a “Cisitalia D204”, although Cisitalia never produced a car under this name.
For me though, I’m less concerned with the car’s provenance and record books than I am with how much fun it looks to drive. It looks like the 1100 Fiat engine would surely push a lightweight such as this to a speed and acceleration well into the giddy zone. The stance would make any American hot rodder envious. The Bandini-inspired cycle fenders and headlamps tucked behind the grille might even afford you the opportunity to street it. The cockpit for two makes it a wonderful rally entrant—if the lack of history will get you past the scrutineers. The straight pipes are sure to provide a lovely concert hall for the tuned engine. Even better, it is certainly going to sell for considerably less than a documented Cisitalia would.
Complete details (what there are of them) are available on Mecum’s lot detail page.