Fiat tuning specialist Giorgio Ambrosini founded SIATA -Società Italiana Applicazioni Techniche Auto-Aviatorie - in 1926. After WW2, Siata received substantial financial assistance from Fiat, and became one of the superior independent builders, introducing a succession of coach-built sporting roadsters and coupes. The Bertone-built Siata 300 BC was launched at the 1952 Geneva Salon, aimed at a discerning US sports car clientele. Chassis number ST 403 BC is a fabulous proposition in terms of specification and design cues, and a recent no-expense-spared restoration contributes to make this one of most impressive Siata Sport Spiders to come to the market.
Only the third 300 BC built, chassis ST 403 BC was originally retailed through Otto Linton's Speedcraft Enterprises on June 1, 1952 to Henry Wessells III of Paoli, Pennsylvania. Mr. Wessells was a founding member of the Vintage Sports Car Club of America and the American Alfa Romeo Owner's Club. Wessells campaigned his new SIATA at five events during the 1952 season - at Giant’s Despair, Reading Hillclimb, Convair, Thompson, and Watkins Glen where the car achieved a 2nd-in-class finish in the Queen Catherine Cup race (placing 18th overall; one of six Siatas in a race won by an Osca). And in the hands of James Carson again claimed 2nd-in-class in the Queen Catherine Cup at Watkins Glen. It was entered for the 1957 SCCA Cumberland races by Herbert R Whiting, and then between 1959 and 1962, ST 403 BC was campaigned in SCCA events by Kaye M. Hier, with a best result of 15th overall in the 1960 Queen Catherine Cup at Watkins Glen. From 1962 its third owner, J.D. Ingleheart of White Plains, New York, who entered the car in VSCCA events over the next three decades.
SIATA unveiled the 300 BC Sport Spider at the 1952 Geneva Salon. Styled by Mario Revelli de Beaumont (formerly at Pininfarina) and built by Bertone, the 300 BC was aimed mainly at US sports car buffs fond of lightweight Italian roadsters. The 300 BC was generally fitted post-delivery with either 750cc Crosley (as in this case) or 1100cc Fiat-derived engines, aimed squarely at competition rather than normal road use, and fitted with large diameter, finned, Stanguellini brakes. The little Siata displayed excellent handling and maneuverability, while their Crosley and Fiat engines were tuned to provide excellent performance, given the small capacity, and indeed, more than enough to make the featherweight Siata a potent and competitive performer. It’s very rare too: approximately forty 300 BC Sport Spiders were constructed by Bertone, and 10 by Motto.
“The gorgeous Siata 300 BC is an iconic sports racing car that transports you straight back to the halcyon post-war era, and it’s as effective in historic events - such as the Mille Miglia - today as it was sixty years ago. Then and now, the Siata offers sporting bidders a relative bargain and plenty of on-track potential, at a fraction of the price of the contemporary four-cylinder Ferrari, which it’s almost equal with in performance and heritage terms too.”Johnny Tipler
Leading renovation specialists Automotive Restorations of Stratford, Connecticut undertook a comprehensive refurbishment between 2010 and 2012. Work included repainting the car in its original hue, color-matched from sections of original paint discovered in body gaps. Similarly, enough vinyl upholstery and floor matting survived to enable replicas to be produced for the interior. Painstaking research indicated which racing upgrades to remove, and which components were factory-correct. This included exchanging an incorrect wood-rimmed steering wheel for a correct Bakelite wheel, and removing the racing gauges to return the instrument panel to its original unfettered simplicity. A recognized small-bore race-winning engine, the Braje-equipped Crosley in-line four (engine number 48620) was checked during refurbishment, and a Speedcraft Enterprises badge attached to the block strongly suggests this was the original engine. A new transmission was created, based on the original Fiat 1400E gearbox. Exhaustively documented with invoices and photographs, the two-year refurbishment was completed in 2012 and totalled over $247,000.
The classic car market has become overheated in the past few years, but prices continue to rise for genuine cars with originality, fine condition and provenance. The slight downturn over the Christmas period 2015-16 has turned, and prices are on the rise again. There's a growing appreciation of the “next best”, so if one cannot afford a $3m Ferrari 166MM for example, a more modest Italian marque – some would say way more exclusive, such as Siata - is a very attractive proposition. A year ago, Sotheby’s sold a similar car – with 1100cc Fiat engine – at auction for $258,500. The contemporary Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport could fetch $350,000, indicating the probability of higher values for the Siata.
Its attractive rotund styling, long hood and short tail prompts aficionados to refer to the Siata 300 BC as the miniature Ferrari – the Type 166MM Barchetta – and indeed there is a distinct resemblance to the Touring opus, unsurprising because Siata designer Mario Revelli de Beaumont also worked in other Italian carrozzerie. Fitted with a contemporary Crosley engine, the 300 BC is not only a lusty and reliable performer, its looks are achingly charming and charismatic, calculated to thrill its driver, co-driver and spectators in classic concours or retrospective competition events including Tour Auto.Johnny Tipler, journalist, author, Porsche specialist1952 Siata 300 Documents