Only One in the U.S.? 1949 Fiat 1100B Cabriolet

Gray market cars have been coming into the United States for decades, but for different reasons. In the 70s and 80s, the import market was primarily driven by consumers who wanted the forbidden fruit, the high horsepower models that the U.S. forbid. Prior to that, unauthorized imports were a matter of circumstance, from soldiers bringing their automotive passions home with them after a tour overseas, to diplomats who couldn’t take their embassy car home. We don’t know how this 1949 Fiat 1100B cabriolet got here, but it’s listed here on craigslist with a vague reference to being somewhere on the East Coast with no price listed.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Otto M. for the find. It’s clear this Fiat hasn’t been touched in some time, and those certainly could be original Italian license plates. The seller notes that this 1100B could, in fact, be the only one of its kind in the United States, and that is indeed possible – but this doesn’t translate to high levels of desirability. Rare, yes, but there’s likely a limited audience for an unusual Fiat like this. Now, the exception would be if this model translates to having access to some world-class driving events as the seller infers – in fact, he seems confident this 1100B cabriolet is a gateway to “…Mille Miglia type-events around the world.”

The 1100B was built by Fiat’s “Carrozzerie Speciali” (“Special Coachworks”) division, and the seller estimates there’s only 20-30 surviving examples worldwide. That’s going to make it challenging to find replacement parts, which this interior photo would seem to suggest will be a significant aspect of the restoration work. The dashboard is coated in surface rust, which may point to years of outdoor storage with no top. And, speaking of the top, I’m guessing the frame and canvas isn’t going to be easily sourced, either. Still, a coach-built Italian convertible assembled in the Lingotto plant is the kind of car you should think long and hard about saving before letting it sit outside for decades.

So what happened here? The seller posted the ad on the Los Angeles craigslist page but claims the car is somewhere on the East Coast. I suppose there could be a greater saturation of collectors on the West Coast, but the seller doesn’t seem concerned with potential buyer zip codes – he just wants to see the Fiat saved and not turned into a hot rod. This is actually a legitimate concern, as the Fiat Topolino of the same era is routinely chopped up and turned into a wild-looking dragster with fat slicks and an antique nose. This 1100B is much too rare for that treatment, but then again – if it comes to simply being rescued and used, who are we to say how it should be preserved for future generations? What would you do?

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Comments

  1. BlondeUXB Member

    “Gray Market” would not apply to vehicles of this period…

    Like 7
  2. Martin Horrocks

    Seller is a little ambitious on what events you could get entry for, but sounds fairly knowledgeable and realistic, asking for offers and trades.

    The car would not be too difficult to restore if complete and these special body cars are collected. It´s a tourer, not a racer, not my thing, but an interesting find. Rodding it would destroy any intrinsic value which the car currently does have.

    Like 5
    • Mark_Mitchell Member

      Hi Martin, There is a 2 seat version of this car (by Carrozzeria Monviso) that is on the official Mille Miglia list of eligible cars. It is not a stretch to imagine that this car would also be accepted for the touring category if you had the proper connections. There are many less rare cars (such as Fiat Topolinos) approved every year.

      Like 1
  3. Mark_Mitchell Member

    I’m a regular here on Barn Finds and this is my car. I have been collecting low-production cars produced by Italian “Carrozzeria” for decades and have had dozens of them over the years (special bodied cars by Fiat, Abarth, Lancia, Maserati, Moretti, Alfa Romeo, etc.). I bought this car in an honest effort to save it from being turned into another rat rod. It is much too rare for that treatment. I owned one of these many years ago that had already been cannibalized for mechanical parts for a Cisitalia project. It was MUCH worse than this car and was eventually shipped back to Italy and fully restored. I’m pretty confident that this is the only one of these cars in the US – you’d have to travel to Italy to see another. The car is in South Carolina, and I’m in California. I did the quick Craigslist ad just in case someone was looking for a rare coachbuilt Italian car to restore before I have it hauled cross country. I recently had a friend in Georgia offer to bring the car to his shop so it can be assessed and shown to potential buyers, so I’ll probably do this in the next few days. The price is open to offers and will be reasonable. I just want to make sure this car gets saved.

    Like 24
    • Solosolo Member

      Nice to know Mark. Let’s hope it turns out the way you want it and it doesn’t get rodded.
      Ken Tilly UK

      Like 4
    • James

      So why not state the price you would accept. You know what that figure is, so why the games?

      Like 4
      • Mark_Mitchell Member

        There are no games. I’m very easy to work with and am looking for a fair offer. There is no fixed asking price as there are no others in the US to use for comparison. If you have interest, I’m happy to discuss a price that you would be comfortable paying.

        Like 4
  4. rex m

    One is more than enough.

    Like 1
  5. Mike 4CV guy

    Fiat’s “Carrozzerie Speciali” also built the Topolino woody station wagons, and affixed a little enamel badge on the cowl side–same as this 1100B. The chassis and running gear are ordinary Fiat 1100 parts, and 1100s were the Chevrolets of Italy in that time period, so mechanical bits won’t be difficult to source. And as long as the body panels are reasonably intact, a good body worker and straighten out and smooth things. Finished it’ll look a bit like a late 30s LaSalle in miniature…

    Like 3
  6. matt

    Nice car !
    I am too old to chase this, but it does look possible to restore. Maybe Leno will buy it.

    matt

    Like 2
  7. Daniel Wright

    Not all cars have to be screamingly fast. Windows down, back roads, Sinatra on a transistor radio hanging under the dash….

    Like 4
  8. Derek

    They are Italian reg. plates; VI is Vicenza.

    Like 3
  9. Russ Ashley

    I’d love to have this car but due to my age (80 this year) I have promised myself that I will never buy another project. Hummm, I have a son who lives in Savannah, Georgia which is just across the river from South Carolina, and he owns a body shop. This car is in SC and he would be willing to ship it to someone in GA to show it. Also, my son restored the body and paint on one of the Martini racing team cars and he could handle the restoration of this car for me. I’d better stop thinking about this because when he finished with my 57 Chevy truck (which I have since sold) I promised him I’d never ask him to do any more restoration work for me.

    Like 5
  10. chrlsful

    nuttin round to bring it back. Assiume it’d B more mod than rest0.

    This guy’s full of it or 1) a Bi-Coastal Diplomat (“is on Right Coast I’m on Left”);
    2) pimpin his ride as a “classic to beat them all in Concourse de la Elegance”, unhun…
    I like the lill bugger (in the done pic). 30’s us of a family car any1?

    • Mark_Mitchell Member

      I had to re-read your comment several times to try and understand your meaning. This is my car, and I can assure you that I’m not “full of it” or a “Bi-Coastal Diplomat”! I’m also not pimpin’ my ride as a classic. Please read my comments posted above (4th from the top). I am trying to save this extremely rare coachbuilt car from oblivion, and hoping to get it into the right hands.

      Like 7
      • Solosolo Member

        I re-read his comments several times but still couldn’t make head or tail out of them so gave up trying to understand what he was getting at.

        Like 5
    • MikeH

      What ever you’re smoking—-STOP!!

      Like 3
  11. MarkC

    I love cars like this! Grew up with father owning things like Renault
    Daupines, 62 Fiat 1100, tr3, etc. Reminds me of a Morris Minor convertible I owned for 18 years. If you opened both doors the car would fold in the middle.

    Like 2
  12. Kenn

    Nice looking 40’s car. Hope someone takes this on. I would guess the instruments would be difficult to restore/reproduce/find somewhere.

    Like 1
    • Joe Elliott

      I can’t place them off the top of my head, but the instrument cluster has got to be a parts bin item.

  13. HARM R SMIT

    Like a good red this car with the proper restoration will only get better with time. Yes for me!

  14. t-bone bob

    Car is located in Augusta, GA

  15. V12MECH

    I’ll translate, overseas buyer will offer more than any u.s. based mutt.

    Like 2
  16. Mark Mitchell Member

    Sold – and staying in the US.

    Like 2

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