High bid of €1,300,000 at 2013 RM Auctions - VILLA ERBA. (did not sell)Sold for $825,000 at 2014 RM Auctions - Hershey.
Chassis #: 3003
Engine #: 3003
The Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino was founded in 1899 and was one of the pioneers of the automobile. They employed several marketing techniques including motorsports, which they used the showcase, test, and improve their product. The developing automatic landscape was in its infancy and the infrastructure for which they traveled was also changing and rapidly growing to accommodate this new form of transportation.
The Fiat 60 HP was introduced by the Italian manufacturer Fiat in 1904 to meet the demand of rich export markets, including the United States. The prior year, the company had imported a total of 267 examples to the American market. These 267 cars represented 18 percent of Europe's total output.
Designed to a high standard of luxury in every detail, it was welcomed by American coachbuilders such as J.M. Quimby of New York and Demarest. The 60 HP was offered with two different wheelbases, normal and long. It was originally equipped with a 4-cylinder engine of 60 HP, which was later replaced with a 6-cylinder engine giving 5 HP more. They featured a new frame made of pressed steel, signaling a gradual shift from the wood frames that were standard to this point. This resulted in a car that was both durable and less prone to flex, as well as being suitable for the competition forays that were becoming the company's increased focus. Their product is now regarded as the first true dual-purpose, premium supercar, equally suited for competition and refined cruising.
Production of the 60 HP lasted through 1906. They carried a staggering price tag of $14,500 for the chassis alone. This particular example, chassis number 3003, was accepted on June 7, 1905, by FIAT's sole American importer, Hollander and Tangeman, of Manhattan. It was the third of only twenty examples of the four-cylinder 60 HP built on the 2,985-millimeter wheelbase chassis (the shorter of the two models), and is the only example known to survive.
From the Turin factory, the car was given the upgraded racing sprockets and a unique clutch that had been unseen in any other FIAT. It was exported as a rolling chassis to Hollander and Tangeman and subsequently dispatched to New Jersey's Quinby and Co. for coachwork. Quinby designer Herbert Strong had recently patented a new aluminum bodywork process that provided superior weight savings. Quinby fitted chassis number 3003 with luxurious five-passenger touring coachwork that featured internally mounted fasteners and brass moldings over its panel intersections, creating a seamless appearance that lacked any discernable rivets or joints. The exterior finish was red paint, the national color reserved for American competitors at the Gordon Bennett Cup. The cost of the coachwork was $4,000, bringing the grand total to over $18,000 and making it one of the world's most expensive car to date.
The original owner of this FIAT was August Anheuser Busch Sr. The car was purchased based on a recommendation from his close friend and fellow potentate, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany, Mr. Busch retained the Fiat until the end of his life i 1934, a year after which it was purchased from his estate by James Melton, the noted tenor, radio personality, and car collector, who kept the car at his Connecticut estate. Six years later, it was sold to Dr. Don Miller, who displayed the car from time-to-time and only drove it on rare occasions. Louis Biondi then purchased the FIAT in 1973 and kept it garaged for the majority of his ownership, following a brief tour after his initial acquisition.
In 2012, after 77 years of minimal use by three collectors residing within 10 square miles of one another, the car was acquired by the current caretaker. At the time, the car was highly original, featuring all of its original Quinby body panels and matching stampings on every important drivetrain component, with the exception of two items, the magneto and the carburetor. Both original items were de-installed at some point in the car's history, but still remain with the vehicle.
There are leather seats, mohair floor mats, brass lighting, and at least 90 percent of the original red paint. The wicker basket of the rear trunk rack is an original factory-supplied item that has been decorated with original FIAT logos.
The car has been given a careful sympathetic freshening, including having the original carburetor and magneto reinstalled.
The car was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance by Sandra Button, the chairwoman of the concours; this was done even the owner had not applied for entry to Pebble Beach. The car was put on display in 2012 at Pebble Beach, where it earned Second Place in the Pre-war Preservation Class and the Meguiar's Award. A month later, the 60 HP was presented at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance and won the Founders Award and the FIVA Most Well Preserved Vehicle Award. It was then displayed in the entrance of the LeMay Museum in Tacoma, Washington. Later, it was shown at the Horseless Carriage Club of Missouri's presentation at the 2014 St. Louis Auto Show, where members of the Busch family visited to takes photographs with their ancestor's car.
By 2014, this historically significant automobile has had just five caretakers over its 109 year history. It is a 2012 Pebble Beach Preservation class runner-up, third of twenty examples built (the sole surviving example), and originally owned by August Anheuser Busch Sr.