It’s not widely known that Piero Dusio, a wealthy entrepreneur from Turin with a particular talent for driving, achieved two remarkable feats soon after the end of World War II. Driven solely by his prodigious ingenuity, he created the first-ever car to be displayed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and soon after convinced Ferry Porsche to design the most innovative Formula 1 car to date. How was all this possible? Thanks to the bold ambition of a man who longed to become a manufacturer. A dream that lasted just a few years and went by the name of Cisitalia.
Now this is a name many will recognize. The Cisitalia 202, the small Gran Turismo vehicle powered by a 1,100 cc engine, is still a cherished exhibit at the MoMA. It features an upgraded Fiat engine, but its true claim to fame lies in the fact that this masterpiece was designed by Giovan Battista Farina, better known as Pinin. Yes, that Pinin Farina – the visionary behind the iconic Pininfarina brand.
Less is known about the brand’s history in Formula 1, particularly that remarkable engineering feat that boasts the DNA of the Porsche family. This single-seater masterpiece, which debuted in 1949 and was inspired by Ferdinand Porsche’s innovative Auto Union from the 1930s, featured a 1,500cc flat-12 rear engine, 2-stage superchargers, and four-wheel drive. Despite its impressive design, this authentic work of art failed to achieve the success and recognition it deserved. It is worth noting that Ferdinand Porsche and his brother-in-law Anton Piech were imprisoned in France on allegations of collaborating with Nazi Germany.
Porsche, let’s not forget, had designed the famous Volkswagen Beetle and its military adaptations in the late 1930s. In order to secure the technical expertise of the brilliant Porsche, Dusio paid a hefty ransom to have the prisoners released. In return, he received the project for the single-seater but the money soon began to run out, and sales of the highly competitive Cisitalia 202 did not take off, despite a strong showing in races, including a second-place finish in the 1947 Mille Miglia with Nuvolari behind the wheel.
In 1946, the Cisitalia dream began with the creation of the small D46 single-seater, but just as quickly as it emerged, it came to an end. By 1949, Cisitalia was forced into liquidation, and despite various efforts to save the company, its fate was sealed. However, the Cisitalia name remains well-known among collectors, and the presence of some of its cars in prominent collections is a testament to its enduring legacy.