This Classic Siata Is Deceptively Smaller And Faster Than You Think
Photography Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 has been commonly referred to as a “Daytona” after its three-in-a-row, first, second, and third place dominance at the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona. Here’s the catch, the 365 GTB/4 was never officially called the “Daytona” by Ferrari. The nickname was the result of media coverage from the car’s racing success.
Barchetta is another unofficial tag to many of Ferrari’s late ’40s – early ’50s race cars. The term is so synonymous with a number of Maranello cars that it’s hard to separate the two. The word barchetta, literally meaning “small” or “little boat,” apparently came from La Gazzetta Dello Sport—an Italian magazine. Editor Giovanni Canestrini coined the term when referring to the minimalistic, driver-focused Ferrari 166MM at the 1948 Turin Auto Show.
Ever since, the barchetta name has been used for various open top, bumperless, no-frills, sports cars and racers alike. Which brings me to this 1953 Siata 300 BC Barchetta. Several Siata models resembled barchetta Ferraris so closely, the then-up-and-coming Steve McQueen rebadged his Siata 208S with a prancing horse shield, referring to it as a “Baby Ferrari”—Sorry, Fiat 500 Abarth owners, McQueen did it long before you.
Penned by Mario Revelli de Beaumont, the 300 BC was bodied by Bertone in typical barchetta style: lightweight aluminum panels shaped over a tube frame. To keep weight at a minimum, no bumpers were fitted, and the only glass is the partially-framed windscreen. The canvas roof provides the rest of the plastic windows!
Thanks to its lightweight design, the 300 BC didn’t need much to make it scoot. Under the hood is a Fiat-derived dual Weber carb-fed OHV four-cylinder capable of 50-some-odd horsepower. These miniscule roadsters were aimed to compete with the four-cylinder Ferraris of the era, albeit at a fraction of the price.
Despite the 300 SC making a popular and capable performer, the small Siata outfit produced just 40 of the Bertone-bodied models—this example being the 38th. Early on, chassis ST 438 BC competed in hillclimbs and, of all things, ice races—its upgraded higher-compression pistons and camshaft lending aid to its racing success.
This example is interesting for one amazing detail: it’s had a single owner for the last 60 years. Strictly acting as weekend racer, this particular car wasn’t registered for road use until 1989—though, it didn’t see much driving other than the occasional spin-around-the-block to keep the fluids circulated. Other than new carpet, refurbished seats, and a fresh coat of factory paint, the car has never been restored. The fuel system and tank have been refurbished, but the rest of the drivetrain remains original.
Though not chump-change, this Siata Barchetta is still a bargain compared to its Ferrari competitors of similar vintage. Claimed accident-free, despite its risky racing history, it’ll be offered this weekend at Amelia Island. If you’re looking for something fun to drive and unintimidatingly tiny, a classic Siata may be up your alley.
– The 38th of approximately 40 Bertone-bodied examples
– Single ownership for 60 years
– Campaigned in hillclimbs and ice races in period
– Never fully restored, and presented in largely original condition
~51 horsepower,, 1,089 cc Fiat OHV inline four-cylinder engine with dual Weber carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, front independent suspension with leaf springs, rear live axle with leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 78.5 in.
Chassis no.: ST 438 BC
Engine no.: ST 438 BC