The Fiat 525 SS, of which only a few dozen were made, is rightly considered to be one of the most beautiful pre-war Italian cars. Consequently, it’s always been a very successful concours contender.
Post-World War One, optimism and light heartedness pervaded the West. As new styles and trends appeared in arts and design, Art Nouveau evolved into Art Deco and spread to the emerging world of cars. The elegant six-cylinder 525 from 1928 is an example of this trend. The new high-end Fiat was created to meet diverse market demands with several different body styles; a sumptuous saloon, a torpedo (both with seven seats) and a compact, sporty version known as the 525 S.
In the summer of 1929, Fiat signed up three 525s to compete in the Coppa delle Alpi, one of the era’s most important races. The cars, which were to be driven by Nazzaro, Salamano and Pastore, were made even lighter and more powerful. A new ‘double-S’ – for Supercompressed Sport – designation hinted at a higher compression ratio. The contemporary media declared that the 525 SS had clocked an impressive average of 50km/h-plus on the Pordoi and Giovo mountain passes.
The lightweight chassis and increased power attracted the attention of designer Mario Revelli di Beaumont, lauded by many as the first freelance automotive designer and trailblazer of a profession that would spread only after World War Two. Having joined Fiat at the beginning of 1929 as a consultant in the Special Bodies department, Revelli was struck by the two-tone paint job of an Auburn Speedster he saw at the Paris Motor Show. He drew inspiration from it to develop the 525 SS’s new bodywork. The car was appreciated by Fiat’s top management, who promptly ordered the production of several prototypes.
Complementing the special lightened bodywork was an increased compression ratio of 5.9:1 and higher peak rpm. As a result, the 3739cc straight-six was bumped up from 68.5hp at 3200rpm to 88.5hp to 3350rpm, allowing for a 120km/h top speed. The braking system was also significantly enhanced for greater control in races.
The cars took a well deserved victory at the 1930 Coppa delle Alpi, achieving significantly increased average speeds. At almost all stages of the race they averaged over 90km/h, marking a resounding success for both 525 SS and Fiat. The drivers had followed the team order to “make sure you are the first one they see along the entire course” to the letter.
Due to its seductive lines, lighter body and major power and braking improvements, sales of this luxurious sports car – advertised as “the dominator of speed” – were impressive, and as the decades passed the 525 SS went on to win numerous concours d’elegance. Prestigious American magazine Automotive Quarterly even named it “one of the five most beautiful cars of all time”. This example, one of the few surviving cars, belongs to the FCA Heritage collection. It is usually on show in the Centro Storico Fiat and often travels to important international events.