Bonhams presents his Scottsdale Auction at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa on January 27, kicking off its sales year with a selection of enticing automotive deals. Many of these will appeal to collectors with a penchant for the rare and esoteric. One such example is this Roadster from Siatathe once up-and-coming automaker whose sports cars are among the collectibles of the so-called “Etceterini” brands of Italy’s past.
Siata is an acronym for Società Italiana Auto Trasformazione Accessori, the Turin-based company founded by Giorgio Ambrosini in 1926 and ceasing production in 1970. Similar to Abarth, Siata developed its business by manufacturing performance parts for Fiat and gained greater prominence after World War II as motorsport came to prominence again in Europe and America. As the displacement of 750cc race cars increased, Siata-modified vehicles gained prominence and the attention of US racers such as Briggs Cunningham and Ernie McAfee. The latter was a Los Angeles-based importer who drove one of the first Siata-enhanced examples in 1953 Carrera Panamericana Run.
Fiat, on the other hand, had developed a 2.0-liter V8 engine for its Otto Vu luxury sports car. While only 49 examples of this model were built, there remained additional Fiat V-8 engines, which were acquired by Siata to power its new 208S Spider, introduced in 1952. Only 33 examples were built by Carrozzeria Rocca Motta in Turin between 1953 and 1955. The car was not only powerful for its time but also exceedingly beautiful.
Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, these perfectly proportioned roadsters defined the iconic look of the rugged sports cars of the era. Equally stunning was the 208 CS, a coupé version of which only 18 were made, 11 with Balbo bodywork and seven by Stabilimenti Farina. Fitted with twin Weber carburettors and tuned by Siata, the 2.0-litre Fiat OHV alloy V8 engine develops more than 125 hp at 6,000 rpm, which is good enough to give the car a top speed of almost 200 km / h to lend.
A four-speed manual transmission, independent suspension, finned aluminum drum brakes and an aluminum body all contributed to the model’s competitive street and track personality. actor Steve McQueen was one of McAfee’s customers who bought a Siata 208S that cost $4,995 new (expensive for its time). McQueen called the car his “little Ferrari”.
Based on existing records, chassis number BS518 was built in 1953 and is number 18 of 33 Motta bodied cars produced. It was sold “new” in 1957 from the backyard of Bill Doheny’s Beverly Hills estate. The oil tycoon and developer was responsible for McAfee’s financing, and the four-year period between the model year and the sale year suggests that McAfee may have used the car for racing or promotional purposes, a not uncommon practice by small-batch brands.
The example’s original owner replaced the original engine with a Chevrolet V-8, a fate at least 15 cars had suffered during that time. The 208S on offer then passed through a number of more sympathetic hands, one of whom procured a correct engine, number BS078. In 2012, Epifani Restorations in Berkeley, California undertook a major restoration that was completed in 2015.
This Siata has received awards at Concours, among others pebble beach, Villa d’Este, Amelia Island and most recently again in 2022 at Pebble Beach where it won the class win. One of the most enduring designs of its time and one of the finest Siata 208S Spiders ever to hit the market is valued at a high-end estimate of $1.8 million.
click here for more photos of this 1953 Siata 208S Spider.