F.I.A.T. (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) was established in 1899 in Turin, Italy. Giovanni Agnelli became managing director of F.I.A.T. in 1902. Agnelli explored the possibility of opening a manufacturing plant in America, as a means of reducing shipping and export costs. In 1909, the American F.I.A.T. Automobile Company was introduced with its new plant located near the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York.
By this point in history, there were plenty of automobile manufacturers, engine suppliers, and coachbuilders. Henry Ford was putting the world on wheels with his Model T, and there was no shortage of elegant and luxurious automakers, such as Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Peerless, and Cadillac. Fiat was determined to create an American-built luxury car of their own. For 1913, their large vehicles ranged from $4,000 to $6,100. The 'entry' models were the Type 53, 54, and 55 powered by a four-cylinder engine. The Type 56 - ranging in price from $5,000 to $6,400, was powered by a six-cylinder engine. Production of the US exclusive model began in 1912 and lasted until 1916. Bodystyles included Touring, Phaeton, Landaulet, and Limousine and rested on a 135-inch wheelbase. Upfront was a large, 8.6-liter, L-head straight six developing 45 horsepower. Power was sent to the rear 27-inch artillery-spoke wooden wheels via a torque tube. The vehicles were kept in the driver's control via an internally expanding mechanical drum brakes plus an externally contracting parking brake. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2012