This funky Fiat beach car outshone a sea of opulence at The Quail
In an area thick with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches, one of the most popular automobiles at The Quail this year looks more like a boat than a car.
A 1957 Fiat 600 Eden Roc—built on a Fiat 600 Multipla chassis and styled by Pinin Farina—received a steady stream of curious admirers at the posh gathering of beautiful cars and beautiful people at The Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.
“So many people have been coming over to see this thing—all with smiles on their faces,” said Doug Delano, one of two caretakers of the Robert M. Lee Automobile Collection in Sparks, Nevada, where the Fiat resides. “It’s been getting a lot of attention, that’s for sure.”
That’s because the Fiat is unlike anything most people have ever seen. Starting with a ’57 Multipla—an Italian microvan that seats six and is powered by a rear-mounted 633cc four-cylinder engine—Pinin Farina’s namesake design house hacked off the top and slightly widened the body to turn the once ordinary vehicle into a seaside convertible. The rear seating was reconfigured into a U shape, much like you’d see on a pleasure boat, and designers played up the nautical theme with the liberal use of teak wood, inside and out—a tribute to Italy’s gorgeous Riva wooden boats.
“People ask if it floats. No, it doesn’t float, and it doesn’t have a propellor,” Delano says. “But it’s perfect for six friends and cooler.”
Pinin Farina (in this case the design house, but both the business and the man later changed names to Pininfarina) created the Fiat 600 Eden Roc for Gianni Agnelli, Fiat’s principal shareholder, who wanted a fun ride for guests who visited his massive property on the French Riviera. Upon completion, the Eden Roc was unveiled at the 1956 Turin Motor Show.
Among those who were drawn to Pinin Farina’s creation was Henry Ford II, who just had to have one. The Deuce’s version is slightly different from Agnelli’s. For instance, the front seat and the location of the steering wheel are different, and there are no Pinin Farina badges in script on the sides—only the designer’s crossed flags logo. That’s the one in the Lee Collection.
Lee, founder of the equipment supplier Hunting World, was an avid car collector and concours regular who amassed 200 or more cars before his death in 2016.
“Sometimes I’d come home and there would be something new,” says his wife, Anne Brockington Lee. “He had an amazing eye for cars, and the car world was our life.”
Lee was friends with the man himself, Battista “Pinin” Farina, which made the purchase of Henry Ford II’s Fiat 600 Eden Roc even more special. It is one of many smaller vehicles in the Lee Collection, which includes an Isetta, Autobianchi, Topolino, Jolly, Goggomobil, and a Nash Metropolitan.
Another (larger) member of the collection was also on the lawn at The Quail on Friday, a one-off 1937 Horch 853 that won Best of Show at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. As gorgeous as it is, however, the Horch probably received less attention from show-goers than the little beach car that was once owned by the Deuce.
“It’s a real crowd pleaser,” Anne Brockington Lee says of the Fiat. “It’s wonderful.”