The last Cisitalia … The first Abarth…the ex-Squadra Carlo Abarth.
Estimate:$3,500,000 - $5,000,000
Raced at Targa Florio, Mille Miglia and Palermo-Monte Pellegrino winner 80hp, 1100cc overhead cam 4-cylinder aluminum engine, 4-speed manual aluminum transmission. 4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes, Aluminum body designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi, coachwork crafted by Carrozzeria Rocco Motto, Fully Independent Torsion Bar Suspension
The Making of a Legendary Racecar
In the days immediately after the Second World War, a group came together in Italy that has been, before or after, unmatched in automobile history. Drivers, engineers, designers, industrialists, they were a dream team such as the world has never known. Their names are legend: Tazio Nuvolari, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, Karl Rabe, Carlo Abarth, Rudolf Hruska, Ferry Porsche, Louise Piëch, journalist Corrado Millanta, Giovanni Savonuzzi, Piero Taruffi, Count Giovanni Lurani, and Piero Dusio.
The catalyst for this gathering was Tazio Nuvolari. Popularly known as “The Flying Mantuan”, he was sometimes called by those awestruck by his car control skills, “Figlio del Diavolo”, the Devil’s Brother.
Abarth and Hruska offered their services to Nuvolari and in turn involved Ferry Porsche and Karl Rabe at the Porsche design bureau in Gmünd. Porsche offered to create a new, innovative mid-engined GP car with a 1.5 liter supercharged flat twelve. Millanta introduced them to industrialist Piero Dusio who had made a fortune during the war providing the Italian army with shoes.
Dusio had started Cisitalia (Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia) after the war to build a Fiat 1100-based single seater, the D46 designed by Dante Giacosa, as the basis to renew racing in Italy. He immediately seized upon the idea proposed by Abarth, Hruska, and Porsche for a modern car that would humble the resurrected Alfa Romeo 158s, Maseratis, Delahayes, and Talbot-Lagos.
Although the Cisitalia GP was stillborn, and bankrupted Dusio, the project brought Ferry Porsche and Karl Rabe to Italy where they observed the success of the Cisitalia sports cars.Built around a lightweight triangulated tubing frame using modified Fiat 1100 engines, transmissions, and axles, the independent front suspension Cisitalia 204 Spyders were immediately competitive and found a willing market even at prices that approached $5,000 in the lire of the day.
As Karl Ludvigsen describes in his monumental Porsche history “Excellence Was Expected”, “The merits of Dusio’s idea – that of using simple, inexpensive parts to make a two-seater sports car that could be sold at a very high price and at considerable profit – were not lost on Ferry Porsche and Karl Rabe … when they went home they had more than the 360 [Cisitalia GP project] on their minds.”
And thus was born the idea of the Volkswagen-based Porsche design project 356. In pursuit of his grand prix dream Dusio named Abarth sporting director responsible not only for the GP project but also for racing the Fiat-based Cisitalias. When Dusio’s reach exceeded his grasp with the parallel development of the Porsche-designed GP car and the 202 series of sports cars it became prudent for him to accept an offer from Juan Peron to emigrate to Argentina.
Carlo Abarth nimbly regrouped, accepting four Cisitalia 204 A Spyder Corsa race cars, two of them not completely assembled, and the race team’s equipment and machinery as severance. Squadra Piero Dusio became Squadra Carlo Abarth. The 204 A was designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi with spare botticella style Spyder Corsa coachwork crafted by Carrozzeria Rocco Motto adaptable to both formula competition and, with fenders and lights added, as sports cars.
One of those four two-seat Cisitalia 204 A Spyder Corsas, the basis of Abarth & Co. Srl, is the example offered here. Cisitalia chassis number 4, it is the last Cisitalia built in Italy. Assigned chassis number 8 by Abarth in the sequence of 204 As built, it is the first Abarth, documented by the original Certificate of Origin retained by a museum in Italy.
Most importantly, it is documented as driven by the legend Tazio Nuvolari on at least two occasions in 1950, in the April 2 Targa Florio where he was sidelined by transmission failure and then a week later in the April 10 Palermo-Monte Pellegrino hillclimb where Nuvolari brought it home first in the 1100cc class. It was the final race of Nuvolari’s overwhelmingly diverse and successful career.
The Racing Legend Nuvolari
Tazio Nuvolari was an Italian motorcycle and racecar driver infamous on the track and legendary for his multiple championships. German engineer and founder of the luxury brand, Ferdinand Porsche, called Nuvolari “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.” He was born in 1892 and died in 1953.
He began racing in 1920 at the age of 27. In 1925, he captured the 350cc European Championship. From then until the end of 1930, he competed in both motorcycle and automobile racing. In 1932 took home two wins and a second place in the three European Championship Grand Prix, winning him the title. He won four other Grand Prix races including a second Targo Florio and the Monaco Grand Prix. After his Alfa Romeo partnership ended when they left Grand Prix racing, he stayed on with Scuderia Ferrari and then left the team in 1933 for Maserati. At the end of 1934 he returned to Ferrari when Italian Prime Minister Mussolini convinced the company to take him back. He then raced in the Swiss Grand Prix and continued racing until Grand Prix racing was put on hiatus by World War II.
Nuvolari tamed Ferdinand Porsche’s diabolical Auto Union grand prix cars. In 1935 he brought one of Alfa Romeo’s outdated front-engined Tipo B (P3) GP cars home ahead of the Auto Unions and Mercedes-Benzes at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. In the days after the war Nuvolari, racked by tuberculosis and facing the imminent end of his racing career, sought a successor to the surviving pre-war Maseratis available to him in Grands Prix for one last, glorious campaign.
Upon his return to racing after the war, and at age 54, he finished first in class. This was in 1950 and would later be known as the racing icon’s last race. Nuvolari achieved over 90 grand prix victories in his car during his long racing career from 1924 to 1950 making him one of the most significant and celebrated pre-war drivers in history. Nuvolari was infamous on the track as an early proponent, or founder, according to Enzo Ferrari, of the four wheel drift technique. He raced and won with incredible cars from Buggati, Alfa Romeo, Auto Union, Maserati and the Cisitalia-Abarth. The car in which he drove his last race, the 1950 Cisitalia-Abarth 204A Spider Sport, is a significant piece of racing history and has never been offered at auction before- until now.
Cisitalia - Abarth - NuvolariManifestation of Legends
It continued to be raced by Squadra Carlo Abarth including in the Mille Miglia April 23 driven by Libero Bazzini (dnf), in hillclimbs and in the Gran Premio di Pergusa where Luigi Valenzano brought it home first in class. It was sold in 1953 to Ernesto Ferri in Italy who returned in 1954 to the Targa Florio but again fared no better than Nuvolari and failed to finish. Three races in Italy followed, 5th in the Coppa Gallenga, 6th in the Circuito di Caserta and 8th in the Trullo d’oro Bari.
It followed in Dusio’s footsteps in 1954 when it was sold to Jorge Saggese in Argentina where the then nearly six year old 204 A Spyder Corsa acquitted itself well through 1956. In 1958 it was sold to Oscar Victorio Silich who continued to campaign it actively in Argentina until in 1966 it was sold to the Asociación Argentina de Automóviles Sport where it continued to be employed in the association’s competition driving school.
It was acquired in 1978 by its immediately preceding owner, Dr. Sergio A. Lugo, who began a careful, long term restoration and thorough research of its history.
Through its long and active racing career, Cisitalia-Abarth 204 A chassis 04/08 survived remarkably complete and intact and retained several features unique to the Cisitalia-Abarth driven by Tazio Nuvolari in the Targa Florio and Palermo-Monte Pellegrino hillclimb. These include a special dead pedal footrest tailored to Nuvolari’s stature, the cork rim steering wheel which he specified, long distance 90 litre fuel tank for the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia, a folding windshield unique among the 204 As to only Nuvolari’s car and, most significantly, the modified front fenders with inner panels that minimized the road dust and dirt to which Nuvolari’s tuberculosis ravaged lungs were exposed. Its engine, number 014, is the same as noted on its original Certificate of Origin.
Documentation include notarized copies of the original Automobile Club Brescia 1950 Mille Miglia certificate, the original Abarth & Co. Certificato d’Origine and Certificato do Approvazione. It has been inspected by and issued an identity card from the Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens (FIVA). Documentation also includes Dr. Lugo’s extensive research into its history and records of its restoration. Recipient of the “Premio Speciale” of the historic Mille Miglia for the most historically important vehicle to participate in 2012 out of 372 of the most decorated and collectable vintage sport cars in the world. A more comprehensive competition history also accompanies the car in its extensive documentation package.
Of the seven 204 As built, this is by far the most original and, because of its association with “The Flying Mantuan” Tazio Nuvolari, the most important. Thus it is restored with its original unique features identified with Tazio Nuvolari’s races in the Targa Florio and Palermo-Monte Pellegrino hillclimb, his final victory.
With history in the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, and many other significant events as well as being the last car that Tazio Nuvolari drove to victory, it will be a welcome entrant in the most important and desirable events around the world. Its handling and speed, demonstrated in an almost unprecedented seven year competition career on two continents, gives ample assurance it will excite its driver, passenger, other participants, and spectators.
Beyond its invaluable racing pedigree and history, this incredible piece of world automotive history has only participated in a select few events since restoration. This leaves the opportunity for the new owner to campaign for the first time one of the most historically important race cars of the world. The vehicle is eligible for most all of the exclusive and prestigious vintage racing events around the globe like Goodwood, Monaco Historic Grand Prix, Nürburgring, Laguna Seca and even the young, local vintage racing event here in Austin, TX at the Circuit of the Americas.
This is an exceptional opportunity to celebrate the most serendipitous gathering of post-war racing and automobile personalities, a car with splendid appearance, impeccable history and tailored to the requirements of “The Flying Mantuan”, Tazio Nuvolari, by a master of Italian speed, Carlo Abarth. Likely one of the most historically important sport racing cars currently on US soil, this may be the only opportunity to acquire this icon at auction.
Motostalgia Grand Prix Weekend Line Auction InformationLOCATIONAustin Convention Center / Ballroom500 E Cesar Chavez StAustin, TX 78701PREVIEW14 November / 10am - 6pm15 November / 10am - 6pm16 November / 10am - 4pmGALA15 November / 6pm - 10pmFEATURED AUCTION16 November / 4pm - 10pm