Auctions and Brokerage
William Wallace Jr., Boston, Massachusetts (acquired new in 1911)W. Nelson Bump, Boston, Massachusetts (acquired from the above circa 1940)Robert Germaine, Fall River, Massachusetts (acquired from the above circa 1959)Manny Dragone, Bridgeport, Connecticut (acquired from the above circa 1989)James Adams, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above circa 1989)Lawrence Smith, Wichita, Kansas (acquired from the above circa 1990)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2002)
Newport Concours d’Elegance, Newport Beach, CaliforniaPebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® 2012 (First in Class)
This wonderful 1911 Fiat Tipo 6 is believed to be one of only 28 examples produced. In the early years of the 20th century, Fiat and other high-end European automobile manufacturers shipped rolling chassis – an assembled frame with engine, transmission, brakes, and wheels – to the US to reduce their tax liabilities. The importing dealer would then arrange to have a body constructed either from a coachbuilder’s catalogue or from a bespoke design to the customer’s specification.
In this instance, William Wallace Jr., the scion of a wealthy New England family, ordered a new Fiat Tipo 6 chassis on a 124" wheelbase through the Hol-Tan Company of New York City. A custom four-seat open touring body – also called a “demi-” or “toy” tonneau – was constructed. The completed car is said to have cost $10,000.
Wallace was a lover of automobiles and racing. He competed in the inaugural Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1904 on Long Island, driving a Fiat and finishing last. He won that year’s Eagle Rock Hill Climb at West Orange, New Jersey, also in a Fiat. By 1910, he had become a member of the Vanderbilt Cup Committee. Wallace entered and drove an American Underslung that year but finished well back in the results. He also drove in numerous Fairmount Park races in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Famed automotive artist Peter Helck is said to have described Wallace as “one of the great American amateur drivers.”
Around 1940, Wallace sold this Fiat to W. Nelson Bump of Boston, who would later become a regional vice president of American Airlines. In 1959, the car came into the possession of noted classic car collector Bob Germaine, who embarked on a lengthy and thorough restoration. After enjoying this big Fiat for 30 years, Mr. Germaine sold it via Manny Dragone to James Adams of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1990, the car was purchased by Lawrence Smith of Wichita, Kansas, who cared for the Fiat until the current owner took possession in 2002.
The current owner is a longtime classic automobile enthusiast and collector who worked as a researcher for the William F. Harrah collection in Reno, Nevada, during its heyday in the 1960s. Since acquiring the Fiat, the vendor has been carefully bringing it back to its original specifications. In 2002, the chassis was repainted by George Gagle of Joplin, Missouri. The 550 cid side-valve engine is described as being in good running condition and retains its original carburetor, magneto, and coil. Also original are the hard-to-find Fiat grease cups and lubricator fittings, and Hartford adjustable friction shocks.
The car’s aluminum over ash body is resplendent in its period colors of medium green with gold and black striping. The brown leather upholstery and black canvas top are in splendid condition. This Fiat Tipo 6 boasts many of its original features and accessories, including its tool kit, a properly working Warner 100 mph combination speedometer/clock, Nonpareil triple-twist bulb horn, brass boa constrictor bulb horn (not a reproduction), and Badger Brass Solarclipse headlamps and carriage lamps – all having the correct date code. A fitting period accessory, albeit not original, is the charming brass hood ornament by Louis Lejeune, which proved to be an irresistible subject for photographers at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, where this Fiat was judged Best in Class. Rare for the period, the huge under-square engine boasts full-pressure lubrication; and with its immense torque and chain drive with 1.9:1 final gearing, this car can cruise comfortably at highway speeds.
Supplied with a spare cylinder-block casting, this Fiat is a rare and magnificent double-side chain-drive master of the highway from the Brass Era – one of the greatest marques of fine early luxury automobiles.