Photos by Jonathan Sharp
Text by Pete Vack
The display of the three B.A.T. Alfas was held at the Phillips Auction House in Berkeley Square, London and only displayed for four days, November 20-23. Jonathan Sharp attended on a Wednesday afternoon and here is the third of three reports.
While the BAT 9 (aka BAT 9d) will eternally be tied with the story of Gary Kaberle, it failed to attract a lot of attention when introduced at Turin in the spring of 1955. Press coverage had been high with the BAT 7 of 1954, but by the time the third and definitely less dramatic BAT appeared, it was no longer newsworthy, despite being much more roadworthy. It was not until December 1958 that BAT 9 appeared on the cover of Road & Track, no longer news. The Kaberle story is well known, but we’ll recap it here.
Strother MacMinn traced the history of B.A.T. 9d for AQ V33-3, but we still don’t know how or when it arrived in the U.S. At Sebring in 1956, the car was in the spectator parking lot with a “For Sale” sign on it. Chicago car dealer Harry Woodnorth made an offer for the car and split the cost with Tom Barrett, who agreed to drive the car back to Chicago. He did about 100 miles before he cried “Uncle” and hired a transporter. It took two years but Woodnorth finally sold it to an Ed Beseler, who had it painted red. After his death, the car ended up at Chapin Motors, a Dodge/Chrysler/Fiat dealer in Greenville, Michigan, and that’s where Kaberle found it in 1962.
Kaberle, then only 17, was driving to a county fair when he spotted it. In a 2015 interview with Michigan Today, Kaberle recalled that “It kind of looked like a space ship. I didn’t know if it was pretty or ugly. I just knew, ‘This is cool.’” He bought it for $2600, (a huge amount at the time), sold it for about a million dollars in 1991 to help save the life of his wife, who had cancer. After her death, Kaberle went on to create BAT 11dk with the assistance of Bertone Style as a tribute to his wife. The B.A.T. joined a Japanese collection and today is with the Blackhawk.