by Fabio Aro
Milestones in Porsche History – Volume 3
Through a series of events, Porsche signed a contract to work with the Italian company Consorzio Industriale Sportive Italia (Cisitalia) on a quartet of new projects. The first was a small farm implement known as the Type 323. The second was type 370, a small sports car (more to come on that later). The third was developed under the name type 285, a 13 horsepower water turbine. The fourth, would come to be known as the Cisitalia GP car, a grand prix racing car built to the current formula.
In 1949, the formula restricted grand prix cars to 1.5 liters with a supercharger, or 4.5 liters naturally aspirated. Porsche decided that the best route of action would be to install a 1,492cc roots supercharged flat 12 engine in the middle of a chrome-molybdenum alloy tubular framed chassis. Conservative reports at the time put the engines output at 300 horsepower.
The car was an engineering feat in its time. With provisions for an on/off four wheel drive system, a special Porsche-designed synchromesh gearbox, and dual side mounted fuel tanks for enhanced aerodynamics and lower center of gravity, the Type 360 was the most advanced grand prix car of its time. The De Dion tube rear suspension and trailing arm front suspension were visionary, and, in theory, were superior to other designs used at the time. With a top speed of 186 miles per hour, the car certainly was fast enough. For circuits where cars would sustain high speed longer with longer straights, such as Spa in Belgium and Monza in Italy, a streamlined enclosed wheel bodied version was planned with an estimated top speed north of two hundred miles per hour. Unfortunately, with only 16 months to build and develop the car, it proved to be an unsuccessful venture that was plagued by premature failures during events, and tricky handling issues that even Tazio Nuvolari could not sort out. In 1952, the ruleset of grand prix racing was changed to provide up to 2 liters of displacement. Cisitalia rushed to source a 2.0 supercharged engine for the car, but it proved to be even less successful. The car suffered the ignominious fate of relegation to Formula Libre, and eventually retirement. This car now spends its days in the Porsche museum.
The type 370 sports car was also developed jointly with Cisitalia. The car was designed to be a five seat touring automobile with a pressed steel frame, 5 speed gearbox, 2.0 liter air cooled V8 of about 100 horsepower, and a target weight of 1320 pounds, the 370 would have been a terrific drive. Unfortunately, due to intercompany issues, and the fact that Cisitalia preferred sourcing its engines from Fiat, the type 370 was never built. Another great Porsche that never was.
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