1953 Siata 208S Spider

  • Brand: Siata
  • Car Code: 250883

1953 Siata 208S Spider Coachwork by Motto

The Società Italiana Auto Trasformazione Accessori, or SIATA, was established in Turin by Giorgio Ambrosini in 1926. Initially a manufacturer of speed equipment for FIATs – dual carburetor manifolds, high compression cylinder heads, overhead valve conversions, superchargers, gearsets and even complete gearboxes – Siata enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with FIAT. The enhanced performance of Siata-equipped FIATs brought competition success and encouraged sales without FIAT's direct involvement.

Following World War II, Siata leveraged its success to resume construction of FIAT-based sports cars. With the FIAT-SIATA 750 Sport Competizione, Giorgio Ambrosini's son Renato won the 750cc Italian Championship in 1948 and 1949. A series of SIATA 300BC Spiders were built for the U.S. market powered by Crosley's potent little 750cc single overhead camshaft engine. Larger cars followed, which brought Siata to the attention of American enthusiasts like Tony Pompeo, Briggs Cunningham, John Perona, Ernie McAfee and 'The King of Cool' Steve McQueen.

Having been involved in FIAT's Otto Vu project from the outset, and when the company ceased production after 49 cars were built, Siata naturally had access to the overrun of planned V8 power units. This led them to produce their own models: the 2 liter, or 208S. It was undeniably the best-looking car to wear the Siata badge by then (arguably ever), wearing incredibly beautiful coachwork penned by the styling house of Motto. Motto would go on to style other iconic automobiles, such as the Porsche Abarth Carrera.

Tuned by Siata to make 125 horsepower or more, the Siata 208S, in both Coupe and Spider, achieved exceptional performance and a degree of aesthetic presence that is unprecedented in the early Fifties. Their design – leaning forward in a pose that recalls the photographs of early racing cars and taken by cameras with focal plane shutters – is aggressive, potent, sleek and elegant. In the finest tradition of great coachbuilding and sports car design, the appearance of the Siata 208S was matched by its performance. An early owner characterized the Siata 208s as "a dream to drive...What I liked most about it was styling, handling and its ability to go like a rocket on demand."

Expectedly, the fabulous looks and sporting performance came at a price. Here in the States that meant a sticker of just under $5,000; a hefty number in the mid-1950s, but a natural fit for the California culture of design and performance and revered warm climate. The legendary Los Angeles Hot Rodder, turned dealer, Ernie McAfee ensured Siata's popularity on the West Coast; importing the lion's share of them helped by the backing of the wealthy Doheny family.

McAfee's period advertising proclaimed, "Equal these items in any Car and you have a SIATA V8 - 2 Liter V8 Engine, 4 Wheel Independent Suspension, 78 Spoke Borrani Racing Wheels, Genuine 120hp with 120mph, Fantastic Brakes, Michelin Tires, 1900 lbs. Weight. $4995 Complete." McAfee garnered this information from first-hand experience, having bravely campaigned one of the first examples on the Carrera Panamericana in 1953.

Siata's long and successful history, its experience tuning and developing Fiat-based performance cars, the excellence of the Rudolf Hruska-led design team, the performance and refinement of the Fiat Otto Vu V8, and the simple, refined beauty of the coachwork (provided by Italy's finest and most creative carrozzerias) designate the Siata 208S as one of the most appreciated, sought after, and desirable high-performance spiders of the period. They are rarely seen today, and infrequently available to collectors.

Descriptions and pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1953
Country of origin Italy