A Car and It's Family: A Siata Story
A story about special cars and people who curate and care about artful machines. We start with some family history and decades of use, hands on augmentation and enjoyment of Siata 200CS #071. The subject of this article has a long held “a special position” in a family who has cared for and enjoyed it & many other great cars for decades.
In the words of Walter Eisenstark, current curator: “Here’s where we start. It was September of 1959, Julius Eisenstark, my father and a road car man of many interests, went to Queens, a borough of New York City, to order my mother a new Renault Caravelle. An innocent non-self-interested mission if ever there was. Julius liked all cars but those of character had a special spot. A Renault did indeed make sense! There he spotted the SIATA that is our subject. It was at a used car lot. It was LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. It was on that day that impulses were triggered, and he became the fourth owner on September 12, 1959. The car has been in the family ever since.” There have been many other great ones in the family as these photos illustrate, but the Balbo Coupe has lasted longer than all the rest. And so, did Julius ever achieve his original goal on that September day? No, the Renault Carvelle never appeared; pictured left was a purchase as an homage to mom years later!!.
Dr. Julius Eisenstark (1910 – 2000), “Doc” as he was affectionately known to friends and family loved, enjoyed and had hands on all his machines. He, as his heirs, understand and celebrate the machinery and it’s beauty. As the prior page and this photo attests; Eisenstarks, road trips and great cars go well together. Generations of Interested enthusiasts as letters to Julius and Walter right attest Above: 200CS #071 gets a glance from Walter’s son David in front brother Andrew behind at Pebble Beach 1991. David & Andrew both live in Lake Tahoe; David is now in the Gibbston Valley, New Zealand working at his father in law’s vineyard while Andrew, is a Heli skiing guide in Alaska. Both are far from home, but the family trend continues when cars are discussed. David: “I’d sure like to drive the California Mille with Dad in the Siata”. Then there’s the interesting chassis number prefix of the car 200CS vs. the expected 208BS; intrigue abounds, a prototype possibly? Some evidence exists but….best to ask Walter on that point.
Family car photos from a long Eisenstark curatorship and bit of History on Dr. Eisenstark’s new (Summer 1959) Siata: It is documented as 1 of 11 (possibly 9) examples to be bodied by Balbo. It is one of a select group totaling only 18 2 liter coupes; 7 others believed to be bodied by Stablimenti Farina. The subject vehicle has a clear history. CS071 was imported into New York by Tony Pompeo, sometime in mid-1953. First owner, photographer Robert Grier, raced this car at Floyd Bennett Field in August of that year and later ran the Keane Mountain Hill Climb. Ownership then went to Russ Sceli. Documents show that famed racer Rene Dreyfus drove for Russ competing at Thompson, CT in 1955. The next owner, Dr. A. R. Jones of Sudbury, Mass., then took to the track and earned his SCCA racing license with the car. It remained well enjoyed and slightly tattered in its original color. At some point prior to summer 1959 the car was painted red. It was a nicely tidied up CS071 that found its way to a used car lot in Queens, N.Y. in the summer of 1959; there to attract a certain Dr. Julius Eisenstark. Julius (in beret) among 3 Eisenstark generations is pictured lower left at Pebble in 91. Walter is behind and sons David & Andrew to the right. “58 great years” said Richard Klein: 1959 to the incident. A real family car in a real car family: Collectively the Eisenstarks have had a ball with Siata 200CS 071. First Julius then Walter with help from car friends aplenty. Richard & Walter often helped Julius with enhancements including a proper GT interior, heat, audio and more. Hands on use and enhancement are in the mix; repair, rally, exhibit & enjoy. Richard has several Siata tales to tell.
THEN THIS!! June 8, 2017, Walter had some motoring plans and the car was in our shop for service. ARI chief tech Charlie Webb (standing center right aft of the Siata) was waiting to make a left turn, signal on. Oncoming traffic was slow to clear. The Toyota (center above) never even engaged the brakes as it plowed into 071 while it’s owner was distracted by a cell phone. The force of the blow pushed Charlie and Siata into oncoming traffic damaging the Honda above right. Good News: Charlie’s OK. Driving demands concentration – no cell phone please!! A peril of technology & operator error in extreme!
Plans changed, damage assessed, Insurer Hagerty on board and work starts in mid-July. Some good news, basic chassis platform & suspension points unaltered. Step one: all apart then scans of body for fixture creation to make needed parts; can’t call Siata anymore.
A KEY COMPONENT Recreating a refined shape is a demanding. A buck for panel beater Steve Hall to form to is a major tool. Thankfully our friends at 4 Corners LLC, in Millerton, NY are available. Following body rough straightening to restore shape & symmetry they scan 071 LR and RF. Michael Schwartz kindly lent his Siata pictured above to confirm our 071 readings. Thank You Michael!!
Dateline early fall 2017: it is about 10 weeks post impact. We are moving forward apace when Walter calls to let is know it is going to Amelia Island Concurs in March 2018. A great venue to fully erase this Siata’ s sore and highlight the need for non-distracted driving. 0171 is apart, finish off, rough straightening is done with key suspension damage corrected.
DAYS LATER, technology self corrects:
The advances that created the smart phone causing this mess also allow the ease of pattern creation via computer driven wood form creation. Here the wooden form sits just aft of the damage area. Next step is alloy skin sectional fabrication. Time to put 071 right!!
PROGRESS: Steve’s moving along well; roughed out rear body section panels rest on the buck secured with Cleco clamps awaiting welds to stitch it all together. Upper right: Charlie checks that rare and irreplaceable Fiat 8V engine while undertaking restoration of a clever and complex hidden headlamp detail.
Deadlines loom as the rear body moves from test fit to done and the damaged nose takes final form. Below, in the final analysis, most of the original LF nose was restorable.
Italian coachbuilders always splash some black chassis enamel on interior areas and underbody. We followed suit after extensive metalwork in all areas before final prime went on
Back to Blue. It’s mid-January, 2018 and Siata 200CS 071 nears final prime coatings. All interior and structural areas are restored and painted, engine and suspension are restored where needed and installed as Ryan Anderson does a final color check with a test sample now cured several weeks. Result: original color is spot on! Left: Ryan fits the once mangled grill surround to good effect (upper right here’s the start point!).
Early February 2018: Siata 200CS #071 is all wrapped up and poised to go back to blue. Hours later the paint is on, the body looks superb and the hard working team is gratified to see the damage put right and the car back in it’s original and very attractive color. We have test fit all the key items prior to painting, installed drivetrain and suspension such that assembly should go smoothly. We are keenly aware: one month remains until Siata 071’s Amelia Island “Back to Blue” debut.
Paints need time to bake then cure so nearly a full week elapses before 071 is both painted, and polished to perfection. As the body rests, fixtures and fittings get much needed attention to be ready for fitting. Time to assemble: The fuel tank goes in then the rear glass gets installed in that once very distorted opening. Then taillamps next… more to follow!
March will soon be marching in: It is mid February as the car starts to come together. Below; Charlie has those very sophisticated disappearing headlamps aligned and working well. A key part of this car’s history is the more elegant proper GT interior Julius had crafted in period and it is to be retained as it is clearly part of an enthusiasts appreciation. A few repairs and a new headliner complete the task.
February’s coming to a close …and progress is plentiful. The dash is all bug done and back go blue, Julius’ proper GT interior is taking shape as Charlie works out door window details upper right. The grille really took a whack and getting this back to OEM perfect has been a challenge that is nearly met and Ryan (left) and Brian (right) final fit the restored in copper and ready for chrome surround.
FEBUARY IS COMING TO A CLOSE!: We have not taken a test ride or tuned and are all relieved when Charlie takes to the road: below. Meanwhile we take the copper plated, fitted and fettled grill surround to the plater and wait while the chrome goes on. We have only a few short but we’re encouraged to see Siata 071 coming together nicely! sections to
March 2nd DONE: Tested and ready for its Amelia debut. Julius proper GT car interior is refitted and all else is just as Siata built 200 CS #071. The blue of the car mirrors the blue of the Siata badge well and the color really suits the car. Most importantly, all of that damage from an unfortunate accident and distracted driving is corrected!!