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						Siata 200 Cs4
One-of-One SIATA-Chrysler 200CS

Chrysler V8-powered SIATA 200CS

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Hemmings

As the owner of one of New York’s hottest nightclubs in the 1950s, John Perona probably had plenty of money and taste when it came to exclusive automobiles. But for this particular vehicle, Perona wanted something more than just a fast and exclusive car — he wanted the fastest sports car on the street. But given the infancy of the American sports car at the time, and Perona’s Italian roots, his finished sports car was an entirely European affair — except for the dual-carb Chrysler Hemi V8 that is.

Going back a few years, John Perona was actually born Enrione Giovanni Perona in Chiaverano, a province of Turin, Italy. Perona immigrated to the United States and opened a speakeasy in Manhattan called El Morocco. The popularity of Perona’s club only increased when prohibition ended, and it soon became one of the most exclusive establishments in New York City, attracting politicians, entertainers and other fashionable clientele. By the 1950s, Perona was one of the most recognizable figures in the city, and his nightclub had been seen in various films and TV shows.

Given the duality of Perona’s success story, it’s not surprising that he chose to invest in a custom Italian sports car with an American heart. Perona went to SIATA (Società Italiana Auto Trasformazioni Accessori) in Turin to have the car built, and by 1952, a full rolling chassis was completed with a dual-carb Chrysler V8 engine. The ladder-style chassis featured a de Dion tube rear suspension with rear torsion bars and a quick-change differential. The transmission was moved further to the rear with an additional driveshaft to improve weight distribution, and a hydraulic throwout bearing linkage was designed to handle the indirect path to the bellhousing.

Before it was even completed with its bodywork, the revolutionary chassis spent a year touring shows internationally, and was also featured in the September 1952 issue of Road & Track. There, it was touted that an anonymous U.S. buyer owned the chassis, of which 12 copies would be made with Chrysler or Cadillac engines. The car became known as the 200CS, designating Chrysler-SIATA (sometimes used vise-versa), but it would end up being the only one built of its kind given the astronomical price tag connected to the big-cubic-inch chassis.

Regardless, Perona’s 200CS chassis was sent to Nuccio Bertone upon the completion of its show tour, where it received a stylish aluminum body with low-cut doors, pop-up headlights and a frameless wrap-around windscreen. The SIATA’s looks could go toe-to-toe with any European exotic, and the Chrysler Fire Power V8 under the hood ensured that the car met no equal on Manhattan’s boulevards, just as Perona intended.

The SIATA’s story picks up again several years later, when the car’s long-time custodian Court Whitlock was able to purchase the car out of a garage in Indiana. Whitlock had been obsessed with this particular car ever since he saw the chassis in the 1952 issue of Road & Track, and quickly seized the opportunity to purchase the car he had dreamed about for decades.

Since the car had left Italy all those years ago, the engine had been replaced with a 392 ci Chrysler Hemi with a single carburetor, and the SIATA “truck box” transmission had been replaced by a Borg-Warner T10. During the restoration, the car was repainted in GM Spectra Red, and the Jaguar instruments and Les Leston steering wheel were replaced with correct Italian items. Since its restoration, the car has been seen and raced at prestigious events such as Pebble Beach, Monterey Historic races, Nassau Vintage Speed Week, Walter Mitty Challenge and more.

Given its intriguing origins, storied past and stunning unique looks, the SIATA-Chrysler 200CS is a muscle-bound roadster without equal that challenges our preconceived notions of American V8-powered sports cars. Find the SIATA here on Hemmings, where the seller asks $1,500,000 firm for this one-of-one automobile.

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Italian Mopar SIATA