The birth of the Fiat 8V

By 1952 Fiat had been seriously considering building a luxury car and had even gone as far as constructing a V8 engine to power it but the management finally decided that it was not the right route for them to go down so the project was shelved. However they still had a pretty decent V8 engine design. What to do with it?

Build a sports car was the answer. This was never going to be a volume seller particularly against established competition from companies like Alfa Romeo and Ferrari but it could raise the company's profile somewhat. Their ultimate creation was, in many ways actually superior to those of their illustrious competitors.

The alloy engine was quite small compared to other V8s of the day at two litres but with a construction featuring two valves per cylinder and a power output of 110 brake horsepower it was adequate to push this lightweight car up to around 118 mph. There was a double skinned body; the inner skin was welded to the chassis to provide rigidity whilst the outer skin gave the car it's shape. Initially the bodies were created 'in-house' but later models were farmed out to other design houses such as Ghia, Zagato and Vignale who turned out both cabriolets and coupes.

Ghia eventually created the 8V Supersonic; a limited run with 'space age' bodywork aimed at the American market. Only eight of these were manufactured and their beauty and rarity put their values now into the £1 million plus bracket.

Sales wise the car was not a success, with just 114 or so sold by the time that production ended in 1954. On the race track however it was a different story. 8Vs won every Italian 2 litre championship between 1954 and 1959; as well as wins at the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. This was no doubt helped by the car's smooth cornering and excellent road grip. All good publicity for the company.

Why though was it called the 8V (usually known as 'Otto Vu') and not the V8? Fiat mistakenly thought that Henry Ford had already copyrighted the V8 name and so they didn't want to get involved in a costly legal battle. Whatever you want to call the 8V it was the first and last occasion that Fiat put an eight cylinder engine into one of their cars.

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