Art of the Automobile

21 November 2013

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Lot 131

1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Exclusive Study by Carrozzeria Boano Torino

  • Chassis no. 58WA10902

$2,000,000 - $2,500,000


  • One of the most important surviving concept designs of the 1950s
  • The 1955 Turin Automobile Salon show car
  • Exquisite, Pebble Beach award-winning restoration


Automotive design, once separated into two schools by the Atlantic Ocean, became a virtually universal language in the 1950s. There was much cross-pollination between continents, as American designers began to travel overseas and European designers turned to the American car companies to provide chassis for their creations. In the early post-war years, the United States was rich with prosperity and vigor, and, combined with continental brio, this resulted in many incredible creations that captured the aura of an age.

Gian Carlo Boano’s styling also captured the spirit of the man. In 1955, Boano was in his early 20s, but he had already been designing cars alongside his father, Felice Mario Boano, for several years, first at Ghia and then later at their own Carrozzeria Boano Turin. Young Boano lived like most 20-somethings all over the world: he enjoyed a good party and a bevy of beautiful women. As he later told preeminent American automotive historian Beverly Rae Kimes, “I always lived with enthusiasm. I was able to fulfill all of my desires.”

That attitude displayed itself in Gian Carlo Boano’s designs, particularly in a certain spaceship presented at the 37th Salone dell’Automobile in Turin in 1955. It had curves in abundance; so many that the eye does not so much settle on the car as move swiftly over it, watching the lines form themselves. It looked like nothing else yet built in the world, which was probably the idea. It was dubbed the Indianapolis, and it would be the hottest of “hot rod Lincolns.”

A friend of the young Boano, Cuccio, had worked with Ford Motor Company and suggested that Carrozzeria Boano Torino produce a car on a Lincoln chassis for Turin. The Boanos were not unaccustomed to working with clients overseas. Ghia, for which both father and son had previously worked, enjoyed great success building one-off show cars for Chrysler. The Boanos hoped to work with Ford in a similar arrangement.

The pedestal on which the sculpture would be built was a stock 1955 Lincoln, which meant that it had a central-beamed chassis that carried a 255-horsepower V-8 engine, from which a sheet metal body was built around.

Gian Carlo Boano’s Futurist design was based upon the idea of an aircraft, with a rounded center section that tapered at each end between pontoon-like outer wings; non-functional exhaust and cooling intakes; and a glassy canopy that recalled streamlined Le Mans racing cars of the 1930s. A traditional grille was removed and replaced by an air opening under the front bumper, which was the largest piece of chrome on the car. Four headlamps stood upright in chromed oval surrounds, while the taillights settled in nearly identical nacelles above jutting chromed exhaust tips. The tail end recalled a jet’s afterburner—a favorite design element of 1950s car designers.

The interior was designed for two, emphasizing the devil-may-care nature of putting a cozy couple in such a vast car, as well as the aircraft inspiration of the design. It was wrapped in fine leather, with a “stepped” console that divided the bucket seats with their black-and-white two-tone pattern. Driver and passenger faced a fascia that seemed to sweep around the entire interior of the car, with a black insert framed by panels of orange, bearing, in proud block letters, “INDIANAPOLIS.” Only when necessary was the center panel opened, revealing a complete bank of instruments.

Young Boano emphasized the car’s curvaceousness by using very little brightwork or unnecessary trim; the most prominent badges on the car were “LINCOLN” and “EXCLUSIVE STUDY BY BOANO TORINO,” which said everything that the coachbuilder wanted to say. Otherwise, the Indianapolis was pure rolling curves, as the design was broken only by the faux exhaust, vents, and a strip of bright chrome across the hood. Even today, it remains virtually impossible to focus on any singular detail of the Indianapolis’s design; the critic’s eye catches a line and is drawn to follow it across the car. It is an engrossing automobile.

When shown at Turin, the Indianapolis achieved the recognition that Boano had sought, including a cover feature in the November 1955 issue of Auto Age magazine, asking “Is this the next Lincoln?” Following the close of the Turin show, the Indianapolis was purchased by Ford, reportedly at the behest of Henry Ford II, and it was shipped to the United States. Gian Carlo Boano later recalled that Carrozzeria Boano Torino was offered a 10-year exclusive contract to design for Ford, but they instead chose to establish a styling center for Fiat instead.

In 2001, the late, revered automotive historian Beverly Rae Kimes wrote the Indianapolis’s definitive biography for Automobile Quarterly, Volume 41, Number 3. In researching the car, Kimes attempted to lend weight to longstanding claims that Henry Ford II had given the Indianapolis to legendary actor Errol Flynn, but only circumstantial proof was found.

The Indianapolis was reportedly later shown in Boston, where it sustained damage to the interior and was later acquired by Felix Duclos, of Manchester. Its history thereafter is well known and continues most prominently with Thomas Kerr, the renowned Packard collector and active Classic Car Club of America member.

Kerr remains the Indianapolis’s longest-term owner, and he was the man responsible for its rebirth. He owned it for three decades, and, during his ownership, he recognized its importance as a one-off piece of design history. Jim Cox Sr. and his son, Jim Jr., of Pennsylvania, took on the challenge of restoration.

The Coxes spent two years restoring the car to an extraordinary, show-quality finish. Glass-like paintwork was applied in the nuclear shade of orange that the Indianapolis had last worn in its show career. The instruments and power steering, which were originally nonfunctional, were built to working order. A powerful overhead-valve V-8 engine, displacing 341-cubic inches and producing over 200 horsepower, sits under the hood, and it is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drum brakes.

With the restoration finally completed, the Indianapolis began a return to the show circuit after nearly 50 years. Forgotten by many, it astonished in its debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2001, where it completed the Tour d’Elegance and won top honors in the Postwar Custom Coachwork Class. It continued to garner awards at the Amelia Island Concours, the Burn Prevention Foundation Concours, and the Bethlehem Concours, as well as receiving the Most Outstanding Lincoln Award at Greenwich in 2003.

After Kerr sold the Indianapolis, it continued to tour East Coast concours. In its present ownership, it made a grand reappearance at the Pebble Beach Concours, again completing the tour and this time winning the Lincoln Trophy. That was a high honor in a year in which the Lincoln was a featured marque, with the finest examples of all eras lining the coast of Monterey.

The Indianapolis is presented today fresh from that victory, accompanied by a collection of documentation that includes copies of photos of it at Turin, programs and photographs from its modern show appearances, and copies of the Auto Age and Automobile Quarterly issues in which it was prominently featured. It remains a breathtaking, concours-ready piece of automotive sculpture, from an era of futuristic design that spanned continents and made history both in Detroit and Turin.

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 9... 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. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... 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

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... 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

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... 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

... 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. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... 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