Before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the dinosaur and Velcro, before Z rated tires, roofs, airbags and the annoyance of windshields came a wondrous piece of automotive pioneering – the 1905 Fiat 60HP. A legendary predecessor to today’s luxo-performance sedans, the Fiat 60HP was the open-aired ride for the industrial elite of the era.
When people use the phrase "automotive history" to describe classic vehicles, little do they understand how lacking in context many of these discussions really are. The 108 year old Fiat 60 HP on the other hand, is where historical context begins. Due to go on the auction block May 25th at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este near George Clooney’s Italian Lake Como residence, "Chassis #3003," which has for the past century lived most of its life within a few miles of its original owner, is expected to fetch around the €$1.4 million euro mark (US$1,820,000).
The rare Fiat, initially built for infamous German beer person, August Anheuser Busch, is only one of 20 examples ever made. Partnering with American luxury coach-builder Quinby of New Jersey, this #2 example was brought to America with the assistance of importers Hollander & Tangeman. Using a newly developed coach-building technique, Quinby secured the aluminum body to the frame. Brass moldings were then used to hide seams and silver soldering brought in to hide any secure points from within the cabin.
Founded in 1899 in Torino, Italy, FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili) promoted the 60HP as a true 5-passenger "touring car." In these very early days of automotive evolution the 60HP was considered one of the best examples of ground breaking, envelope pushing automotive design – on wooden wheels. Up close the plush, old-world interior more resembles a gentleman’s club décor than performance racing seat arrangement. However, where safety was of no concern relative to social status, these leather bucket seats did the trick in ensuring comfort and pomp were of critical priority.
Seat belts? No need for such persons of wealth and exuberant spirit. Doors? Never! Windshields, clearly unnecessary. After a jaunty day of game hunting and cavorting with the lads one need not be encumbered by the excess of lateral-safety devices or miss out on the experience of 1900 era bugs in the teeth.
For the time this thing was expensive; think Bentley money, sans roof, twin-turbos, AC, etc. Costing out at US$20,000 in 1905 the 60HP supercar was designed specifically for the stinking rich industrial types of the day. Tires resembling pool toys are supported by wooden 12-spoked Santa red rims. Stylistically, the Fiat is part Santa Sleigh, part Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and part horseless carriage, hence the over the top convertible treatment.
Featuring an aluminum-clad body the Fiat was light years ahead on many engineering and design levels. To support the big 10.6 liter engine, a steel chassis incorporating a 5/8th inch scuttle and bellypan of aluminum was used. Further pushing the performance argument, the 4-cylinder 60HP engine, transmission, gear set and steel-nickle axles all carried genetic attributes from Fiat’s racing familia. The big sleigh was so mechanically impressive that Fiat’s real world racers would continue to use the same innards up until 1912.
To up the ante, the Concorso d'Eleganza 60HP is reported to be totally original. Paint, brasswork, the aged worn tufted leather upholstery, and mechanicals, are all authentic. Skeptics need not worry as Fiat made sure to stamp and number every part.
Although there is no information on top speed or performance figures it is estimated the car could easily break 60 mph (100 km/h) without spilling ones Coors Light. Should such a concept as emergency braking enter into the conversation Fiat ensured that dual driveshaft brakes would provide adequate stopping power. New world information such as skidpad figures, acceleration, and co-efficient of drag statistics are simply not available, however, stories regarding actual seat time and the car’s performance appear to validate most all legendary claims.
Matching numbers in conjunction with the cars exemplified one of a kind stature, make the find even that much more collectible. The 60HP goes on the block May 25th.
Source: RM Auctions