By 1901, a year after its birth, the first car from the Italian mark was redesigned with a front-mounted four-cylinder engine, and in the following year, that same engine was updated with a pressurised lubrication system.
According to records from the time, the 12HP model was one of Fiat’s most popular cars in England. By the time the car got to England, it had benefited from innovations such as friction dampers, multi-plate clutch systems, automatic carburation and overhead valves.
Fiat was determined not to stand still. In 1906 the transmission was fitted with a completely closed Cardan shaft, while the engine was further updated with a compressed air starter.
In the following year, its rudimentary block of individual cylinders were replaced with a mono-block construction, at the same time as combining the clutch and gearbox assembly with the engine—the first true powertrain unit.
This Fiat 12/15HP was first registered in Portugal in 1911 by Carlos Joaquim Tavares, a professor of Medicine, and it was given the registration number S-350.
Years later, in 1958, it was discovered by João de Lacerda in very poor condition, sitting in the garages of the Portuguese Automobile Society, at Rua da Escola Politécnica, Lisbon. Restoration began soon after the car was given to the museum by Carlos Machado, an engineer by profession and the owner of the car at that time, Carlos Joaquim Tavares.
Even though it was in poor condition, the car had its original interior and presented itself as a unique restoration challenge.
According to known records, there are only three more of this magnificent Fiat remaining in the world. One is in the city of Sydney, Australia, and the other two are in the USA, in Salisbury and Newton.
The one in Museu do Caramulo was restored with the help of Engineer José Jorge Canelas and it has been going strong since 1960—even participating in some national trials.
As is befitting for one of the most innovative cars of its time, and being the first-ever car to be produced by Fiat, King Humberto of Italy was received in it by João de Lacerda in 1962.
The car was later registered at the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, under the number 798 on June 3, 1964.