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  Cisitalia-Abarth 204A Motto Spider
 

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1949 - 1950
Numbers built:5
Designed by:Motto
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 21, 2013
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Click here to download printer friendly versionActing as Porsche's official representative in Italy, Austrian-born Carlo Abarth joined the fledgling Cisitalia company early in 1947. This was the result of agreement between Cisitalia founder Piero Dusio and the Porsche family to develop a revolutionary Grand Prix car following Porsche designs. Unfortunately, the project proved too ambitious and despite numerous successes, Cisitalia went bankrupt nearly two years later. As compensation for his services, Abarth received several racing cars in various states of completion when the assets were liquidated.

Among them were two complete examples and a third that was still under construction of the Cisitalia 204A model, which Abarth had helped develop. The type had made its debut in May of 1948 and was the first Cisitalia that showed the Porsche influence. It used an all new steel tubular chassis with the twin-trailing arm and transverse torsion bar front suspension that was so typical of all Porsche-developed cars of the era. Consisting of a live axle with a transverse leaf spring, the rear-end was more conventional. Compared to the existing and already very successful 202 chassis, the Cisitalia 204A was considerably lighter.

What was carried over from the existing Cisitalia line-up was the Fiat-sourced four-cylinder engine. The production-based unit displaced 1,089 cc and featured a single, laterally mounted camshaft that actuated the valves through push-rods. Equipped with Carlo Abarth's tuning kit that included twin Weber carburettors, the performance of the diminutive engine was nevertheless impressive. Running on exotic fuel with 50% alcohol, it could produce as much as 80 bhp. It was mated to a four-speed manual gearbox, which was also of Fiat origins.

To make the most of the very light chassis, aerodynamicist Giovanni Savonuzzi was tasked to design a very efficient body. He was helped by the Porsche-style front end, which allowed for a considerably lower nose. Savonuzzi penned a tightly wrapped body that more closely resembled Cisitalia's single seaters than the 202 sports racer it was due to replace. On the original design, the 204A still featured an all-enveloping nose but this was later replaced by cycle fenders. The bodies were built by Rocco Motto, who specialised in lightweight constructions.

As a Cisitalia 204A, the car was raced only a handful of times. It immediately proved faster than the existing Cisitalia racers, which had handsomely won their class and finished second in the Mille Miglia the year before. Highlight of these few outings was the Giorgio and Alberto Nuvolari Cup in June of 1948 where Adolfo Macchieraldo and Felice Bonetto finished first and second in the new Cisitalia. Sadly the company was already in decline at this time and the development halted during the second part of the year. Fortunately, the cars were given a new lease of life as Cisitalia-Abarths in 1949.

Abarth had also managed to attract some of the best engineers and drivers from the now defunct Cisitalia. As a result the newly formed 'Squadra Carlo Abarth' hit the ground running. Piero Taruffi finished a strong season as Italian Formula 2 sports car champion and Guido Scagliarini won the title in the under 1100 cc class. Now sporting the famous 'scorpion' badge, the cars were raced again in 1950 when the legendary Tazio Nuvolari scored the final victory of his long career in the Palermo-Monte Pellegrino hill climb at the age of 57.

During the season, the open racers were gradually replaced by a fixed-head machine. Confusingly still known as the 204A, it boasted a new platform chassis and a coupe body designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Vignale. It is believed that a total of five 204As were built, including the two cars produced in 1948. They serve the distinction of being the last Cisitalias, the first Abarths and the last car raced to victory by the great Tazio Nuvolari.

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  Article Image gallery (26) Chassis (1) Specifications