Amelia Island

10-11 March 2017

A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith

Previous Next

Lot 122

1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic by Ghia

  • Chassis no. 106 000049
  • Engine no. 104.000 000085
  • Body no. 810

Sold for $1,375,000


Please note that this lot is titled as a 1954. Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

115 bhp, 1,996 cc OHV V-8 engine, four-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel coil-spring independent suspension, and four-wheel Alfin hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • Believed to be the 1954 Geneva Motor Show car
  • Originally delivered to American powerboat racer Lou Fageol
  • Five owners since new; former ownership for four decades
  • Spectacular and highly authentic restoration to original condition
  • One of the very finest of only 15 8V Supersonics built


“THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE YEAR”

Fiat’s most legendary, significant, and storied production model, the 8V was aptly described by Road & Track in 1952 as being “the biggest surprise of the year.” Although the company traces its roots to 1899 and built competition cars both massive and magnificent in the early twentieth century, after WWII the company was known largely for its mass-produced automobiles for the common man, vehicles like the tiny “Topolino” that had put a nation on wheels and become among the most popular in Europe. Therefore, it came as a shock to the automotive world when FIAT suddenly introduced a powerful sports car with an advanced overhead-valve light alloy V-8 engine, Siata-fabricated chassis, and four-wheel independent suspension, which could be and was successfully raced by privateers all over the world.

Like most sophisticated chassis of the time, the 8V lent itself handsomely to custom coachwork, which Fiat encouraged. Carrozzeria Ghia of Torino accounted for approximately 30 to 40 of the 114 8V chassis built, of which the most striking were the 15 bodied to Giovanni Savonuzzi’s stunning Jet Age design, known, simply and appropriately, as the Supersonic.

The Supersonic design had originally been proposed for an Alfa Romeo racing car, which Savonuzzi gave a steeply raked, long windshield; a curved nose that formed a straight-through beltline, ending at small tailfins flaring off lights intended to resemble jet afterburners; and a low, glassy greenhouse. Similar styling on an 8V chassis was subsequently ordered by American designer Paul Farago, and 14 more copies followed, all of which had detail differences but remained largely true to Savonuzzi’s original and dramatic design. They are considered the most sought-after and desirable 8Vs, as they boast the best combination of avant garde design from the Jet Age.

THE SPEED KING: LOU FAGEOL’S 8V SUPERSONIC

According to Tony Adriaensens’ definitive 2005 book on the 8V, chassis number 000049 with engine number 000085 was released from the Fiat factory on Wednesday, 14 July 1953, and received the tenth Supersonic body built (stamped on the body as “810”). According to previous owner Gerald Farber, the car is believed to have been that shown at the 1954 Geneva International Motor Show. It was actually exported to the United States by Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller, amusing for a man who famously dictated that the roof height of his products had to accommodate a gentleman’s hat. For all his conservatism, however, Keller also encouraged his stylists to collaborate with Ghia, spawning numerous collaborations. So, his bringing the 8V to the United States may well have been in that spirit. He subsequently arranged the sale of the 8V to its original owner, Lou “The Speed King” Fageol, a three-time Gold Cup-winning powerboat racer, as well as one of the brothers whose Twin Coach bus company built several interesting twin-engined racing cars.

Mr. Fageol exhibited his staggeringly futuristic new toy at the 7th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, then just a sports car show on the Monterey Peninsula, where the Supersonic was shown in Class D, “European Sports Cars over $10,000.” He then customized the car, including riveting Imperial-style fins on the rear fenders and adding a “continental kit” – both, fortunately, made as “add-ons,” with no cutting of original metal, and both reversed by Mr. Fageol’s son following his father’s passing in 1961.

The Fageol family sold the 8V in 1968 to Ed Hieshetter, who passed the car in 1976 to none other than Paul Lazaros, the former employee of Paul Farago and a well-known 8V enthusiast. In 1979, Mr. Lazaros sold the ex-Fageol 8V Supersonic to Mr. Farber, who put it into proper storage while planning to restore it back to its original condition. Content to take his time and ensure that the work was done properly, he scrupulously researched the car, assembling a book of period photography and documentation that remains with it today. He was also able to locate the original engine, number 000085, replaced earlier in the car’s history with a Chevrolet engine, and reunited it with his correct chassis.

Mr. Farber finally began the long-awaited and well-researched restoration effort in March of 2007, aided by the extensive knowledge of Mr. Lazaros, who allowed his personal car, the unrestored original 8V Supersonic commissioned by Paul Farago, to be studied extensively as a basis. The tail lamps and wheel discs missing from the Farber car were precisely remanufactured using those of the Farago-Lazaros car as patterns. Lazaros Engineering itself handled the majority of the mechanical restoration of the car, including rebuilding the transmission, suspension, and drivetrain, as well as the dashboard switches. Dick Nuss’s Engine Machine Service of Englewood, California, a shop respected for its 8V expertise, rebuilt and upgraded the original Tipo 104 engine, so that the famously fragile engine would last well into the future, with upgraded rods, pistons, bearings, and valve springs.

The body’s dents and dings were smoothed by Scutchfield Metal Shaping of Ray, Michigan, and properly refinished in the car’s unusual, gorgeous original green hue by Brian Joseph’s Classic & Exotic Service, a renowned shop whose upholsterer, Ken Litchfield, contributed leather interior paneling, the proper wool headliner, and Wilton wool carpeting. The seats were properly reupholstered in correct Italian doeskin leather, while the original Borrani wire wheels were restored by Dayton Wire Wheels.

Orin Smith acquired the now-pristine 8V at the completion of its eight-year restoration effort and wasted no time in bringing the stunning beauty to the show field. It received the People’s Choice Award here at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2016 and was judged Most Unique at Classic Sports Sunday at Mar-a-Lago the same year. Consistently well maintained in his private museum when not on the show field, it remains spectacular, fresh, and ready for continued appearances at further national and international concours d’elegance, where it will undoubtedly be warmly welcomed by judges and spectators alike. Alternatively, it is ready for participation in the Mille Miglia Storica, Colorado Grand, or any number of other historic rallies for which such a significant automobile is always eligible.

Then as now, the Supersonic is a showstopper. No other car can come close – even when it’s at rest!

Addendum

Please note that the Elegance at Hershey has kindly extended an invitation for this car to attend their event on June 9-11, 2017. Please refer to an RM Sotheby's representative for additional information.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more