Italian body, American heart
Meet the gorgeous Ford-powered Italian drop-top
No, the car in the picture is not a Ferrari. I know that it looks very similar, but it doesn’t have a prancing horse on it. It’s actually a Ford. Or more precisely, it’s the one-off Siata-Ford 208S Cabriolet Speciale.
Credit: RM Sotheby's
The story of this car goes back to 1952 when Jimmy Mulgrew, a Ford dealer in Ohio, wanted to make a unique sports car for promotional purposes. And if the car was going to be a sports car, it needed to behave like one. So he got some help from Dick Irish, who won 12 Hours of Sebring that year. At first, they wanted to take a Ford “Police Special”, but Ford refused to give them one…probably not wanting to get in trouble for giving police cars to civilians.
1951 Ford 2 Door Sedan on which the Siata-Ford 208 was based. Credit: The Jalopy Journal
Later, Mulgrew and Irish decided to order a custom chassis from Italy. They bought a 1951 Ford sedan, stripped the major parts off of it, and sent them to an Italian company called Siata. This company turned to be appropriate for the job, since Siata stands for Società Italiana Auto Transformazioni Accessori, which translates into 'Italian Car Transformation Accessories Company'. Siata agreed to do the job, but they kept the original V8.
Credit: RM Sotheby's
The result was the 208S Cabriolet Speciale; a car that was a combination of a great American engine and amazing Italian chassis and coachwork. Mulgrew was satisfied with it since the Siata great performance and handling were accompanied by the sound of a V8 engine-a combination that most car enthusiasts love. Its top speed was 199 km/h (124 mph) and could accelerate 0-100 km/h in 12.4 seconds.
Sadly, Mulgrew didn't keep the car for long. He sold it in 1955, and the 208S changed many owners before it was rediscovered in an abandoned barn in 1988. Right after it was found, the restoration started. But that wasn’t the end. The car was later restored twice: once in Germany in 2005 (to have a professionally-made aluminum body), and later in California for some mechanical repairs. That’s when the Siata-Ford 208S got back its original shine. In 2017, it was sold at an auction for $190.000.
But, what about Siata? Well, they were pleased with the 208S that they made their own versions of it, which were based on Fiat Tipo 104.
The bodies were coachbuilt by Stabilimenti Farina and they had a 2.0-litre 125hp V8 engine. The non-Ford version of 208S got a lot of attention and even Steve McQueen owned one. He even referred to it as his 'little Ferrari'.
Ex-Steve McQueen Siata. Credit: HuhMagazine
Today, a Siata 208S in a perfect condition would cost you over $1 million. For a car that looks like a child of a Ferrari 225 and AC Cobra, I'd say the price is justified.
What do you think?