On several occasions we have pondered the question of whether to consider significant models of cars that have made history as objects of art.
On Wednesday the 28th October, at 6 pm in New York, we will have our first response: Sotheby’s, together with paintings by great modern and contemporary masters, will bring to auction a truly extraordinary lot, composed of three cars that narrate the story of an extraordinarily avant-garde design from the 1950s. We are talking about the three BATs - which recall both in name and in style through with their pronounced tail fins, the car driven by the celebrated American Superhero, despite being born at Bertone in Italy, and built on top of Alfa Romeo 1900 mechanics by the hand of that genius named Franco Scaglione. B.A.T, in fact, means Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica and they were made in sequence in 1953, 1954 and 1955. Their arenas were the European Automobile Exhibitions with particular attention for Turin but, perhaps because of the name, all three were sold to buyers the United States with various destinations, from advertising to competition. Fortune would have it - but in this case that same fortune originates from the innovative magnificence and refined and authentic aerodynamic technology - that they were to remain unblemished and can be reunited and preserved to this day.
We won’t hide the fact that this sale both intrigues and worries us: it intrigues us because it’s hard to predict what price three cars sold together can go for, particularly as this will happen at an auction held in a moment when the world is troubled and full of uncertainty. We are concerned that the serious attempt to keep them together may not be taken seriously by the new owner at the risk of ruining a story that just a single glance conveys to absolute perfection. It is also disturbing that they may be “locked away” in a private collection, never to be seen again.
We will try to understand what the future holds by following the auction and collecting expert thoughts. It’ll only take a few hours to find out their destiny.
Turin Motor Show 1953 Bertone presents the B.A.T. 5 built upon the Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis. B.A.T. stands for “Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica”. The car was an immediate hit.
The large fins and the harmony of Franco Scaglione’s lines make the rear design unique.
Turin Motor Show 1954: B.A.T. 7. After the success of the B.A.T. 5, Scaglione refined the design further, looking for maximum aerodynamic efficiency using extremely clean lines.
The large fins are now curved according to a precise calculation that leads to a natural reunification of the air flows according to the principle of a water drop.
Turin Motor Show 1955: B.A.T. 9. Now the front offers the classic Alfa Romeo grille. The market hoped this was a sign it was about to go on sale. Alas it was never to be.
The softened fins and number plate holder confirmed the idea that the car might have gone into production. Instead, it was sold, like the others, in America, as a one off model.
Sold together in one lot, it’s hard to imagine their fate could be to sit in a garage. This is real art.
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER