Art of the Automobile

21 November 2013

Previous Next

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.

Alain Squindo

Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alexander Weaver

+1 310 559 4575
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

Annette Abaci

+49 (0) 40 441 95 737

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Barney Ruprecht graduated from Boston University in 2013 with a degree in Hospitality Administration. In ... read more

Dan Warrener

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

David Swig

+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 lifelong automobile enthusiast and g... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

+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

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Sotheby's in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and re... read more

Ian Kelleher

+1 310 559 4575
New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

+1 818 703 2816
Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Sotheby's in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in ... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 917 213 5672
Ontario, Canada

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

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a restoration shop as a teenag... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 260 927 9797
Indiana, United States

Kurt Forry joins Auctions America with more than a decade of experience on the North American auction scene and a well-rounded knowled... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby's, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Gra... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

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

Peter Wallman

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

+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

+31 653 84 19 60

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a car specialist. A... read more