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WHAT WOULD $5300 BUY AN AUTO ENTHUSIAST IN 1953?

IN ITALIAN sports cars, $5300 would buy a 1953 Bertone-bodied 208 S Siata, as in Societa Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessorri. And, as R&T wrote in November, 1953, a “Sensational New Italian Sports Car.”

1953 Siata 208 S Spyder. This and other images from R&T, November 1953.

This Italian carmaker’s name reflects its establishment in 1926 as an accessory and tuning shop for Fiat automobiles, their heritage stretching back even further to 1899. From 1948 through 1975, Siata also produced complete automobiles, typically Fiat-powered (though one model had a Crosley engine option).

The most desirable of Siatas are the 35 examples of the 208 S powered by Fiat’s Otto Vu, a diminutive 70-degree V-8 displacing 1996 cc and producing 105 hp at 5800 rpm. The Spyder’s curb weight was only 1960 lb. and it snarled its way to 60 mph from a standing start (tested with two aboard in those days) in 12.4 seconds.

The 0-60 time might have been a tick quicker with a slightly taller second gear.

R&T noted, “… a zero to 60 time of 12.4 secs. is amazing for a 2 litre car. An impromptu brush with a 303 cu. in. American car was mortifying to the driver of the behemoth, who got a head start and was really trying.”

RT was also impressed by the Siata’s handling: “We entered sweeping curves at absolutely impossible speeds—speeds at which we knew the car would either slide off the road or spin-out. Yet the Siata swept around with no sign of strain, slip or even squeal.”

“The cockpit is roomy,” R&T reported, “the seats are very comfortable and well placed controls make the car easy to drive. The brake and accelerator pedals are designed to facilitate competition driving using the heel and toe technique for downshifts coming into a corner. The curved glass windshield proved very effective and the simple top can be raised with one hand by either the driver or passenger, while seated in the car.”

Morgan drivers would be British Racing Green with envy.

“Summed up, the Siata Spyder lived up to every expectation and much more. The price [$5300] is not high for a custom bodied sports car.”

In fact, in that same November 1953 R&T, two other fascinating cars were offered for sale. For example, $4800 would buy a significant bit of automotive history: a 1931 4 1/2-Litre Black Label Bentley, originally driven by no less than Tim Birkin, one of the fabled Bentley Boys. This particular Blower Bentley had been featured in the July 1953 issue of R&T.

Or, if an enthusiast had $7500 to spend, there was a Ferrari 212 “In Perfect Tune and in Showroom Condition.” This appears to be a sister car of the 212 Export Barchetta that I drove back in 1996.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator puts the 1953 Siata’s $5300 price in perspective. This amount is equivalent to $48,836.25 in today’s dollar.

And a Siata 508 S Spyder these days is worth rather more—more than half a million. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

One comment on “WHAT WOULD $5300 BUY AN AUTO ENTHUSIAST IN 1953?

  1. Gordon Craig
    February 23, 2018

    I’ve seen a number of these over the years at Sonoma Raceway Historics/SVRA sanctioned competing in the top 15 for under 2L post war sports cars to 1960, certainly hold their own, cheers, gordon

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2018 by in Classic Bits and tagged , , , .
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