Hemmings Motor Blog recently showed a picture of a 1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic that sold for $1,705,000 at the Gooding auction. If you have never heard of the Supersonic, it was a limited production version of Fiat’s 8V, a 2.0 liter V8 powered two-seater originally designed by Dante Giacosa. The design was later modified by Ghia and called the “Supersonic.” The car that sold at auction developed a respectable-for-the-time 110 hp with the aid of two carburetors. But don’t expect to see very many of these driving in your home town. According to Concept Carz, only forty “supersonic” additions were produced.
What originally caught my attention was not the auction price but the similarity between it and the Volvo P1800. Which came first? Or who copied whom?
The Fiat 8V was produced from 1952-54. The Supersonic design first appeared “on a Conrero-tuned Alfa Romeo 1900, which was entered in the 1953 Mille Miglia. Designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi, it was crafted in metal by Ghia, which built eight examples on the 8V Fiat chassis” (link). There is some ambiguity regarding how many were produced, but the design was first seen in 1953.
Volvo also came out with a roadster in the 1950’s. In fact, the P1900 was Volvo’s response to the Chevrolet Corvette. It was produced from 1956-57 but was a flop. Build quality was so poor that the new president of Volvo canceled the rest of the cars planned to be built after his first drive (Wikipedia). Total production was a dismal 68. However, Volvo got it right the second time with the P1800 (1961-73). At the time, Volvo claimed that the car had been designed by Italian firm Frua, a subsidiary of Ghia. They probably wanted to build on the design success of the Supersonic. But in 2009 the company finally acknowledged that it had been an in-house design by Helmer Petterson in 1957.
So, there you have it. It would seem that the Volvo P1800 was a copy of the legendary Italian Supersonic. At least that’s my take on it.