Actor Tom Hanks has sold his custom 1974 Fiat 126p at auction for $83,500. It’s a notable sum for a 23-horsepower Polish-built microcar, but it’s not even the most interesting part of the story. That would be how the Saving Private Ryan star came to possess the car, which was never officially sold in the U.S. in the first place.
The “Polski” Fiat 126p was built in Cold War Poland under license from Fiat while the country was still under communist rule. A successor to the original Fiat 500, the model was particularly long-lived. Fiat built about 1.4 million of them in Italy from 1972-1991. However, that number pales in comparison with the estimated 3.3 million additional cars from Bielsko-Biała, Poland, where the car was manufactured until 2000.
Cars built in Poland were denoted 126p, and locals nicknamed them “Maluch,” or “small one” in Polish. They were still prevalent in former Eastern Bloc nations like Hungary in 2016 when Hanks visited the country. As an apparent joke he posed next to a few street-parked examples that he came across, posting the subsequent photos to Twitter with the caption “So excited about my new car!!” According to The Drive, a Hanks fan named Monika Jaskólska, a resident of Bielsko-Biała, saw the tweets and made it her mission to get one for him.
Jaskólska ended up raising enough money, along with corporate sponsors, to not only restore a 126p, but build a custom interior for Toma Hanksa, as he’s known as in Polish. Because the Philadelphia actor was known for collecting typewriters, they customized the interior switchgear to resemble keys from a vintage one. Some of the money raised also went to a local pediatric hospital.
The car was given an unveiling ceremony in Poland before it was delivered to Hanks in Los Angeles via cargo jet, just in time for his birthday. In addition to the custom interior, the car features some exclusive badging and a Forrest Gump quote on a plaque affixed to the dashboard, so there’s no confusing it with a regular Polski Fiat.
Now, however, it’s time to move the car on to a new owner. Hanks is donating the full sale amount to Hidden Heroes, which supports military caregivers, the spouses and parents of injured or ill servicemen and servicewomen. Hanks chairs the organization, which was founded by Elizabeth Dole, wife of U.S. Senator and former candidate for president Bob Dole. Dole sustained a life-long injury while deployed to Italy during World War II. The typical Fiat 126 is worth under $10,000, so that’s quite a bit of coin for the worthy cause.
While there are other celebrities with well-known reputations for being motorheads, what we’ve seen of Hanks’ collection is certainly more interesting than your typical Porsche and Dodge Challenger fleet. However, he does seem to be divesting some of his cars. Last year, he sold his Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser and an Airstream trailer as well.