Automania

Pininfarina (Battista "Pinin" Farina). Cisitalia 202 GT Car. 1946

Aluminum body, glass, rubber, and other materials, 49 x 57 5/8 x 158" (124.5 x 146.4 x 401.3 cm). Gift of the manufacturer

Paul Galloway: The Cisitalia 202 is the result of a long history of automotive racing in Italy. The 202 was the first and only time Cisitalia actually made a car intended for the public. This is a very rare car, only about 170 of them were produced and only a handful of these survive.

As you approach the Cisitalia 202, many things will jump out at you—its incredible red color, its sinuous curvy shape. If you look at the body itself, you'll notice that it's almost one continuous skin. There's very few joints, very few lines between one panel and the next. And that's because the car employs something called a monocoque skin or unified skin. But the body is actually produced on top of ready-made chassis and engine that come from everyday production cars.

The 202 was produced one at a time in a shop. You would have a tradesman who would create the panels and the forms by hammering out a sheet of metal over a wooden form. And that's all the more remarkable when you think that this is one continuous piece of metal, that entire thing was sculpted as a form.

The big downside to this handmade construction is that it's extremely slow. A 202 took months to make. So they're very expensive to make and very expensive for somebody to buy. So, in economic terms, the 202 is a failure, because it wasn't successful enough to launch the company into regular passenger cars. But from a historical and aesthetic standpoint, it's an enormous success and one that is cited by designers even today as a great inspiration.

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