Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Vignale
Carlos Alberto Alissina, La Plata, Argentina (acquired via Autoar SAIC circa 1955)Ernesto Benavidez, Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos, Argentina (acquired by 1971)Orlando Cairo, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Michael Graham, Palm Beach, Florida (acquired from the above in 2003)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Amelia Island, Florida, March 2016Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, Greenwich, Connecticut, June 2016 (Best in Class)Lime Rock Historic Festival 34, Lakeville, Connecticut, September 2016 (First in Class)
In the 1920s, Cisitalia founder Piero Dusio was the star of Torino’s famed Juventus soccer team. But due to a career-ending knee injury, he soon found himself working at a Swiss textile firm. A talented salesman, he reportedly sold more in a week than his branch had done in a year, and he was made the head of sales for all of Italy. Also a gifted racing driver, he finished first in class at the 1937 Mille Miglia driving a Siata, and an impressive fourth overall in 1938, driving an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. By that time, he had created Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia (Cisitalia), a conglomerate with interests in the textile, hospitality, sporting, and banking industries.
Postwar, Dusio dreamed of building his own automobile, luring Fiat engineers Dante Giacosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi to design the D46 Monoposto, thought to be the first race car utilizing a full space-frame chassis. Next, at the 1947 Mille Miglia, Cisitalia debuted the 202 SMM sports-racing car. Tazio Nuvolari drove one of the most legendary races ever, leading Biondetti’s mighty Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 for most of the race before rain compromised his electrical system; he finished second.
Cisitalia next created an advanced road car based on the space-frame design of the race cars. Debuting in 1947, the 202 SC Coupe was immediately hailed as a masterpiece and was famously featured at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1951. A design icon, the 202 SC Coupe remains in MoMA’s permanent collection to this day. Cabriolet variants were even rarer than the coupes, with marque authority Nino Balestra putting the number at about 60 produced.
Like many Cisitalias, this remarkable example was discovered in Argentina, where Dusio eventually moved his operation. Passing through several Argentine owners, it was discovered in a garage in Gualeguaychú, just north of Buenos Aires, and imported to the US by Orlando Cairo and Michael Graham of Florida in 2003.
The consignor purchased the car in 2005, turning to the highly regarded Automotive Restorations Inc. of Stratford, Connecticut, to complete an exacting, no-expense-spared restoration. Incredibly, the shop happened to have several other Cistialia 202s in for service and restoration, enabling an even more heavily researched restoration than previously thought possible. During disassembly, Kent Bain, the shop’s proprietor, found numerous signs indicating that the car was a Vignale-bodied example, supporting the accompanying Vignale badges. Mr. Bain reports he was impressed by the fact that this Cisitalia retained its rare original data plate, which also displayed the engine number stamped on the block.
During further investigation, the team reported the Cistialia’s original color was found in several covered areas. They also discovered what they were confident was the original leather, remaining on a fold underneath one of the seats, and these colors were matched and applied during restoration; samples have been retained for verification. Mr. Bain also found no evidence of any bumper holes or brackets when the car was stripped, so he believes this example was one of a few built without bumpers from the factory, corroborating a statement from a previous owner. This presentation, along with its parking-light-integrated headlights, elevates its already pure form and recalls the original concept drawing.
The photo-documented restoration was finished in 2016, with every aspect of the car restored or rebuilt. Mr. Bain relates that the engine is the optional MM specification with twin Weber carburetors. Fitted with a counterbalanced billet crankshaft and tuned, it dyno-tested at 63 hp, just a few under the claimed figure for the Mille Miglia Spyders.
The content of this restoration is truly exceptional in many unseen areas. The invoices confirm the effort to build in strength and durability without compromising the original appearance. The highest-quality components available were used, including engine internals, suspension, brake system, and other driveline items.
Upon its completion, the Cisitalia was shown to great admiration at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. It also was shown in the 2016 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Class in the Italian Sports/ GT Category, and at Lime Rock Historic Festival 34, where it was awarded another first in class.
Despite being recognized as one of the most influential postwar sports-car designs, the rarity of the Cistialia 202 means it is a missing link in many important collections. Its early build date and fastidious mechanical preparation make it an ideal candidate for the Mille Miglia. It is offered with a sales brochure, jack, spare, knock-off hammer, invoices, and photos documenting the restoration. Of the few Cistialia 202 SC Cabriolets in existence, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful or meticulously restored example.