If you lived through the ’60s and ’70s, then Sunset Boulevard, in Southern California, likely holds some meaning for you. Whether through your own experiences or through the words of Jan and Dean’s famous “Dead Man’s Curve,” cruising Sunset Boulevard conjures images of the California car culture. So what connection, might you ask, could there be between Sunset Boulevard and the famed Italian roads of the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio? Well, that’s an interesting story.
Best laid plans…
During the 1948 Geneva Motor Show, executives from FIAT met to work out the specifications for a new 1400 sedan. FIAT’s commercial director Luigi Gajal de la Chenaye wanted the new sedan to be larger and more luxurious than FIAT’s previous sedan offerings. Many at FIAT felt that the financial future of the company lay with selling cars in America, which they in turn believed meant that these new cars needed to be larger and more luxurious to satisfy American tastes. However, the group also felt that in order to build a larger sedan, FIAT would also need a larger powerplant—something more along the lines of a 2-liter engine. While the group felt strongly that they needed a larger displacement engine, they also believed that it needed to be compact, in order to provide them greater flexibility in various installations and applications. As a result of this meeting, FIAT chief engineer Dante Giacosa was directed to begin working on a V-8 engine—a first for FIAT—that featured a narrow, 70-degree-included vee-angle, with a bore and stroke of 72 x 61.3-mm that yielded 1996-cc of displacement.
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