Designed in 1946 by the Italian car designer and coach builder Pinin Farina (who later changed his name to Pininfarina), the two-seater Cisitalia "202" GT was an aesthetic and technical achievement that transformed postwar automobile body design. Building on aerodynamic studies developed for racing cars, the Cisitalia offers one of the most accomplished examples of coachwork (the automobile's body) conceived as a single shell. The hood, body, fenders, and headlights are integral to the continuously flowing surface, rather than added on. Before the Cisitalia, the prevailing approach followed by automobile designers when defining a volume and shaping the shell of an automobile was to treat each part of the body as a separate, distinct elementa box to house the passengers, another for the motor, and headlights as appendages. In the Cisitalia, there are no sharp edges. Swellings and depressions maintain the overall flow and unity, creating a sense of speed.
The name "Cisitalia" derives from "Consorzio Industriale Sportive Italia," a business conglomerate founded in Turin in 1946 and controlled by the wealthy industrialist and sportsman Piero Dusio. Dusio was also an amateur racing car driver, and he commissioned several automobiles from Europe's leading designers. He provided Pinin Farina with the chassis on which the Cisitalia's body was placed. The body was more or less handcrafted, with its aluminum panels shaped over wooden forms. Because of this time-consuming process, only 170 models were produced between 1947 and 1952. When first presented to the public at the Villa d'Este Gold Cup show in Como, Italy, and at the 1947 Paris Automobile Show, the Cisitalia "202" GT was a resounding success.