Off radar

The Rarest Brands in the Top 100 Collections

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s, Wheelsage

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. 

1946. Dusio invented an open Formula one design with his small Cisitalia D46 powered by a Fiat 1,100cc engine used by great champions like Nuvolari

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. 

1947. Pininfarina’s masterpiece: the Cisitalia 202 that the famous MoMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, exhibited in 1951 as art in motion

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.

The racing version of the Cisitalia 202, the SMM, which was driven by Nuvolari to second overall at the 1947 Mille Miglia

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. 

The futuristic version of the Cisitalia 202, two of which were built in 1947 by Carrozzeria Vignale of Turin

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.

The beautiful cabriolet version of the Cisitalia 202, also by Pinin Farina. Note the characteristic blue used frequently by the maestro of Turin design
1949. The Cisitalia 360 Formula 1 designed by Ferry and Ferdinand Porsche. A car of the future compared to the models of the time, even had 4-wheel drive, but abandoned because of the financial difficulties of the company
A transparency of the 360 showing the 1,500cc flat-12 engine and 2-stage superchargers. The rear engine was also a novelty for Formula 1