1938 Fiat Emerges for Second Time in 64 Years

A little 1938 Fiat sees the light of day again after being stashed away in 1990.

| October 2016

  • High grass had to be cut and stored agricultural equipment moved in order to gain access to a long-shuttered farm building.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • The building was completely full of stuff with no car in sight.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • A buckboard reportedly last used in 1963 had to be rolled out.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • The retrieval crew, taking the 1938 Fiat back to civilization.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • We finally found the pathetic little Fiat stored right up against the shed’s back wall.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • The owner (in the white hat) discussing the little car that sits on the trailer with a flat front tire.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard
  • In 1990 the little Fiat was transported to a new location. It then remained hidden for 24 years.
    Photo by Clell G. Ballard

What interesting object is stored in one of your farm outbuildings? Almost every farm that has been in existence since the mid-20th century has one or more items that the average person would find intriguing. This story is about one of them.

Harry Truman was president in 1951 when a little 1938 Italian Fiat car (commonly called a “topolino,” Italian for “little mouse”) was stashed in an Idaho farm outbuilding. It was permanently stored there by its owner after the tragic death of her husband in a mining accident.

She later married a relative of mine who asked me, back in 1990, to transport the tiny car to a specified location and then bring it back where it was stored. An article in the January 2014 issue of Farm Collector told the story of how that was accomplished, even though the only vehicle I had to haul it with was a small World War II-era Dodge half-ton military truck.

Committing to a new future

After that, the little Fiat was again stored in the outbuilding and basically forgotten. Recently this author took it on himself to inquire about the car. In 24 years, from 1990 to 2014, family situations changed a lot, but the doors of the old farm shed were rarely, if ever, opened. Both the woman who owned the car, and her husband, have passed away. The farm, one of the oldest in our part of western America, is now being operated by their son, a relative of mine. When I contacted him, he agreed that it was kind of sad that the cute little Fiat just the same as didn’t exist, since it was seen only briefly in 1990 and not again since.

He was receptive to the suggestion that I help him get the car out where it could be appreciated. Like before, such an undertaking took quite some doing. Back in 1990, my brother and two college-age sons helped me. At this late date, I had two other sons, now full-grown adults, available to lend a hand.

Since the storage building was located some distance from regular activities of the farm, a major effort was necessary just to get to it. As in most farm operations, equipment of various kinds was placed in unused spaces. Foliage had grown up over a lot of undetermined (and almost impossible to see) stuff that had been piled in front. All of that had to be moved just so the doors could be opened.


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