<b>1956 Fina Sport Convertible</b><br />Chassis no. 7543<br />Engine no. 8S7543
Lot 39
1956 Fina Sport Convertible
Coachwork by Vignale
US$ 750,000 - 950,000
£ 590,000 - 750,000

Lot Details
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1956 Fina Sport Convertible
Coachwork by Vignale

Chassis no. 7543
Engine no. 8S7543

331ci. OHV Cadillac V8 Engine
Approximately 250bhp at 4,000rpm
4-Speed Cadillac Hydramatic Transmission
Independent Front Suspension - Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Drum Brakes

*Sole surviving restored example of its marque
*Built for Concours, freshly restored and ready to be shown
*Winner of the Philadelphia Autorama Concours d'Elegance 1956
*Fascinating heritage of one of America's more colorful engineers


PERRY FINA

"An exclusive car ... handcrafted with exquisite care... to please the man of discriminating taste"

This was Perry Fina's tag line when he announced his new Fina Sport in 1956, the culmination of years of knowledge of engineering, design and their clientele. Born in New York in the late nineteenth century, Perry arrived on the world at the right time for someone of his instincts. He got to see the nascent automobile industry and through his teens and twenties was quickly absorbed by it. Fina learnt with apprenticeships at FIAT and Isotta Fraschini, before returning home to practice those skills.

By the 1930s he had set up business, with his son Joe in Manhattan on 54th Street, and immediately gained a reputation for ingenuity and 'breathing on' cars to make them go better through a variety of techniques. Using the contacts he had established in Europe he was able to obtain a license to import and sell Allard cars, and naturally those that he touched had a habit of going rather better than others, today one of these cars can be seen in the Simeone Foundation in Philadelphia. He was known for creating specialized mechanical accessories, patenting his own muffler system for example. One client was the noted driver and author Karl Ludvigsen, who's MG TC was fitted with a Fina muffler, with which at the turn of a key it would run straight-through. He and Joe, were also known for campaigning their 1948 Nardi-Denese, which had originally been Alfa powered and used on the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio, but they reconfigured with Cadillac power and campaigned in at North Eastern venues such as Watkins Glen.

Along the way, he clearly harbored the desire to place his own name on the front of an automobile and this dream became a reality in 1956 with the appropriately titled Fina Sport. Perry drew on the resources and contacts he had to create the wild, individual and sporting automobile evidenced on these pages. When asked, he would state that his motivation as being that "Many of our foreign car customers with expensive Ferraris, Mercedes and other high quality cars would consult with us on the safety of a long trip; always fearing a break-down in some forsaken place a long way from home where service and parts would be impossible to obtain. It was this that started my son and I on a venture of building an American sports car with foreign influence and handling characteristics. Having had considerable experience in racing, we constructed a chassis with excellent handling qualities, along with all American components, including Cadillac or Chrysler engines."

The first Fina Sport was built as a coupe, its power came from a Cadillac motor reworked by the Finas to give 300bhp. For its design, he could proudly proclaim, "We made arrangements with the Vignale Company of Torino Italy, for our coachwork and they do such an excellent job for us that our Fina Sport, with its elegant interior appointments and all leather work, is the most beautiful sports family car in America."

It debuted at the 1954 World Motor Sports Show at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Finas confidence in its potential was immediately rewarded with a Grand Prix award in the Custom Sports Car class. The follow up to this was a convertible version, which two years later, when ready it was shown in Philadelphia at the Autorama, where it was lauded with the Concours d'Elegance prize.

It is not entirely clear why the cars never made it into a more full blown production sequence, there was certainly promotion and a marketing push, but as far as anyone is aware just three automobiles were produced, a coupe and two convertibles. The price tag of $14,000 is often cited as the reason.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

This Fina Sport convertible is the only visible example of Fina's legacy today and the only one to have been totally restored to show condition and accurately represent what Perry was trying to achieve when he built his own car. Its survival is testament to the current owner, a passionate enthusiast for automobiles of all eras and genus, who stumbled across it in a small ad a number of years ago. Sharing the same fascinating that Fina had for the car, he elected to buy it with the goal of putting the car back 'on the map'.

On acquiring '7543', the car takes its name from the Cadillac powerplant that it has always used, he began researching this fascinating tale. That quickly connected him to a man in Connecticut who had acquired much of the ephemera relating to the Fina story directly from Joe Fina, including the very trophy that it had won in New York, this 4ft high monolisc accompanies the car today as does the Philadelphia which was won by this car.

With an exacting eye for the car's period details various period images of these cars were reviewed, together with a number of Vignale bodies and interiors, ensuring that even the few aspects which had migrated over time were accurately replaced. All told, the restoration has taken more than 2 years, and 1,000s of man hours.

From stem to stern, this is a striking a fascinating automobile, rewarding in its every detail. At the nose, above its complicated chrome nose piece is an exquisite Fina Sport badge, highlighted with enamel; the hood is engineered so that the chrome spears either side of this are not compromised when it is raised, yet the lines continue when lowered; to the side of the body are further spears predating those on another Italian car, the 1980s Testarossa; throughout the design is the Fina's chosen elongated 'V' logo, which is dual purpose as it echoes the Cadillac 1950s V of its powerplant. Intriguingly, a full convertible top is present, which when raised gives much the illusion of the car being a two-seater rather than the more commodious cabin it has. At the car's rear, the Continental tire set up folds down entirely to reveal a large trunk, again with carefully engineered fender that aligns when stowed. The interior is beautifully rendered, with sumptuous leather seating for four. The dash is the pinnacle of simplicity, being painted finish and with Italian instrumentation, perhaps one of its more interesting details is a central tube hole, which has alluded countless experts as to its specific purpose, the owner settling for the possibility that it might have been used to stow a bottle of wine – in the more accepting style of the period!

Restoration of the Fina Sport was completed in 2018, just in time for the annual Elegance at Hershey Concours d'Elegance. In the lead up to its debut, further research with the aid of noted car aficionado and Concours judge Paul Sable enabled the owner and members of the Fina family to be reunited with the car, a memorable occasion for all concerned.

With the exception of the recent showing, the Fina Sport is yet to be shown at any of the major regional or international concours, but it is ripe and ready to do so. It will without question be a head turner and is sure to wow the judges and spectators alike with its looks and the tale of the remarkable man behind it, Perry Fina.
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