1949 Gatso 1500 Barchetta
The following car was sold at Christies 2007 Retromobile auction, the following is an excerpt of their lot description:
Marque history by Christies
Maurice Gatsonides is a name now synonymous with speed. He won his first race before he was twenty years old, and here displayed a trait that would continue: studying the rules to maximise his advantage. Motor businesses both before and after the War's rude interruption served mainly to support his thirst for competition (in which he developed an esteemed reputation), and it was this that led him to construct cars himself, the first of which was the affectionately-named 'Kwik'.
Throughout the Occupation, his ideas had been coalescing, and an early clay model was even covertly tested in Holland's only wind tunnel. When liberation came, Gatsonides was able to establish a business repairing the few cars that remained in private hands, and re-commissioning the many that had fallen foul of the hostilities. This gave him the basis to add metal to his designs, and the Aero Coupe 4000, with its glass dome and Mercury V8, and aerodynamics inspired by pre-war Auto Union sportscars, took the 1948 Geneva Auto Salon by storm.
The 200-or-so orders from the US were impossible to fulfil, but the company received a small number of roadster versions as well as for more conventional closed coupes. These small numbers were not enough to sustain production, however, and, with Gatsonides' focus on sport rather than business (justifying it with the belief that the publicity would benefit the business), customers to his garage gradually dried up, depriving him of the means to continue. It is perhaps typical that he was away competing in the 1950 LiÃ¨ge-Rome-LiÃ¨ge rally when the Gatso company was declared bankrupt.
Specific history of this car by Christies
Specific history of this car by Christies
During this time, with a permanent eye on the track, Gatso had built one sports car intended from the outset for competition - 'Flatty'. Prettier than the other models, it was built upon a shortened FIAT chassis and powered by FIAT's 1,500cc straight six with a raised compression ratio and twin Weber carburettors, giving around 55bhp at 5,500rpm. Tests in the autumn of 1949 showed great promise, and Gatsonides even set a one-hour speed record for the 1.5 litre class at his home track of Zandvoort (where the crowds coined the nickname). The car was campaigned several times, but was hindered on more than one occasion by such material failure as the centre of the wheels failing.
It was kept by Gatsonides as his personal car for some time, but when receivership beckoned his many efforts could not prevent the car from being sold, and it passed out of his view, not unmissed.
The trail then falls cold until the current owner, looking for a Maserati, answered an advert in the summer of 1974. He was told that there was also a one-off hand-built car for sale, but thought nothing of it until reading an article a few days later which mentioned Gatsonides' desire to be reacquainted with the car. 1,200 guilders later, what was left of the little roadster had become his, and he set about restoring her to her former glory.
The chassis was ground clean and primed, but here work ceased for some time. Gatsonides was first reunited with the stripped car at the opening of the Gatso Gallery in the Dutch National Motor Museum in 1983, but the restoration was slow, hindered in no small part by the search for the correct items to use on this one-of-a-kind. It was the constructor himself who spurred it on with his desire to compete as an octogenarian in the Mille Miglia Storica in 1991. Unfortunately the car was not ready for the May deadline, but at last the two were reunited properly in the July.
'Flatty' remained the centre of the proud restorer's collection until shortly before his death, when it passed to the current owner in 1997.
Being based upon a FIAT meant that certain parts were not as difficult to find as others, and the owner's purchase of a 1500 saloon has meant that maintenance can be carried out as and when necessary. Today it presents extraordinarily well, cosmetically as well as mechanically. Any car that was hidden from view for so long and that took some sixteen years to restore would be counted as special. The fact that this car is unique, and the creation of one of Holland's (and rallying's) most enduring personalities makes it undeniably more so.
"Flatty" is quite simply the head-turning, show-stopping, dainty embodiment of the dogged spirit and determination that is the foundation of all motorsport. The fact that this, Gatsonides' personal favourite, the lithe, curvy, quick little sportscar, that is the only example of the Gatso marque to remain makes it a car effervescent in personality.