If you want to get around your country estate or your private beach in style, then there’s no better way to do it than the yacht inspired 1956 Fiat Eden Roc.Most automobiles of particular note will have a colorful story of how they came to be. The Fiat Eden Roc is certainly no exception. Its conception dates to the mid-1950s, when the legendary Gianni Agnelli envisioned a stylish transporter to move his guests from his Nice estate’s main house down to the shore.
The stylists and craftsmen at Pinin Farina quickly set about creating the unique vehicle atop a stretched and widened Fiat Multipla chassis. Upon completion, Agnelli’s Eden Roc was debuted at the 1956 Paris Motor Show and came to the attention of Union Oil Chairman William Doheny. In conjunction with his purchase of Superfast 1, also shown in Paris that year, Mr. Doheny ordered a copy of the charming Eden Roc to use at his Lake Arrowhead compound.
Pininfarina’s records show that it built two such cars; rumors of a third example, purportedly built for Henry Ford II, so far remain speculative. With its forward-control driving position, open-air coachwork, lack of doors, and low-set windshield, the Eden Roc exudes whimsy from every angle. Perhaps its most distinctive feature is the wraparound rear seat built of curved teakwood slats. This wonderfully nautical design element is complemented outside by a continuous, encircling beltline and bumpers fashioned from mahogany.The Doheny Eden Roc dutifully provided transportation for the family to and from the village at Lake Arrowhead, and the village parking permits from the 1950s are still affixed to the windshield. The little Fiat was kept in service alongside numerous, higher-performance Pinin Farina creations until the mid-1980s, when it was placed in storage. In 2008, a Doheny family member acquired the Fiat from the main estate and, finding the car in remarkably solid condition, embarked on a full show-quality restoration.
With the Agnelli Eden Roc tucked in a large private collection, the survival of both examples defies all odds. The Doheny Eden Roc has been displayed at numerous concours and local car meets since its reemergence in 2010, always to an appreciative and inquisitive audience. Given its pedigree, this beguiling Fiat would be a highlight of any collection.
And if the photos here are not enough, make sure you check out this video from USA Today taking the car for a ride.