Updated: Nov 28, 2020
America was crazy for concept cars in the 1950s. There were fins, bubble canopies, turbine engines, wild space-age shapes, and acres of chrome, and that’s just from General Motors. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Italians were putting out futuristic concepts as well, and some independent coachbuilders put American platforms under their rolling sculptures. Some of these coachbuilders even got a contract out of it. This Italian-American exchange produced some of the most interesting and prettiest cars of the decade, including the numerous Ghia-bodied Chrysler specials.
More obscure but no less striking is the Lincoln Indianapolis by Boano. There’s only one of them, and it’s for sale; it will cross the block at RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction.
During the first half of the 1950s, Ghia had a very fruitful relationship with Chrysler. Central to that success was Felice Mario Boano, who ran Ghia before setting off on his own to set up Carrozzeria Boano with his son Gian Paolo in 1954. It was only natural, then, to want to chase more American dollars and entice one of the Big Three again. Legend has it that Gian Paolo had a friend who worked at Ford who offered to serve as a go-between. If, of course, Boano could make an exciting enough car. This is what they came up with.
Using a stock Lincoln chassis, the younger Boano rushed to get a working prototype ready in time for the 1955 Turin International Automobile Show. The four vertical headlights and subtle air opening under the front bumper instead of a traditional grille are certainly striking if you look at the car straight-on, but the fenders are especially outrageous. In front of each door are three chrome exhaust outlets, and behind each one is a large vertical air intake. Both the exhaust and the intake scoops are purely for show, however. The ’50s were all about excess, after all. The true exhaust exits beneath each taillight.
Despite its Italian clothes, the Boanos gave the car an American-as-apple-pie kind of name—Indianapolis. Massive “Indianapolis” script flows back on each front fender, following a large checkered flag. The checkered flag theme continues on the inside with black and white upholstery, and on the dash is another neat touch. There is a center panel that seamlessly covers all the instruments and controls but can be opened to reveal the gauges, switchgear, and radio. The two-tier center console between the bucket seats is oddly cool, too.
The Indianapolis was finished in time for the Turin show and, unsurprisingly, it was a hit. Auto Age even put it on the cover of its November 1955 issue with the caption “Is This the Next Lincoln?” As it turns out, the answer was no. No, it wasn’t. Ford offered Boano a contract, but Boano leveraged that offer to get a job running Fiat’s in-house styling department instead.
As for the Indianapolis itself, it went straight to Ford at the insistence of Henry Ford II. There are rumors that Ford gave the car to actor Errol Flynn, but they’ve never proven to be anything more than that—rumors. What did happen is that the car was damaged at some point while in Boston and remained in New England unrestored and largely forgotten for many years. The car’s long-term owner eventually had it restored to the better-than-new condition in the late 1990s–early 2000s, with the originally non-functional gauges and power steering put in working order. Its concours debut was in 2001 at Pebble Beach, and it won its class. Other concours sightings included Amelia Island and Greenwich, as well as another award-winning Pebble Beach appearance in 2013.
So, how much is this totally unique, totally gorgeous coachbuilt Lincoln worth? Well, that question isn’t as hard to answer as it sounds. The Indianapolis doesn’t carry a presale estimate heading into the RM sale at Monterey, but we’ve seen it change hands before, and the prices have remained remarkably consistent. It sold for $1.375M at Gooding’s Pebble Beach sale in 2006, hammered not sold at a $1.55M high bid at RM’s Art of the Automobile sale in New York in 2013, and then sold for $1.21M at RM’s Andrews Collection sale in Fort Worth four years ago. So it’s safe to call this a low- to mid-$1M car. We’ll find out in Monterey.
Sources: RM Sotheby's, Hagerty, OldConceptCars.com