Polish Town Buys Tom Hanks an Old Fiat 126 as a Birthday Present
And the megarich megastar couldn't be happier.
Tom Hanks is one of the most famous actors on the planet, with an estimated net worth of at least $350 million. The Fiat 126 was a tiny, dirt-cheap economy car built by the millions between 1973 and 2000 in Europe. If you're not seeing the connection, then you don't know Hanx like the people of Bielsko-Biala, Poland.
This week, a meticulously restored 1974 Fiat 126p officially joined Tom Hanks' garage after residents of the former manufacturing hub in southern Poland crowdfunded enough money to buy a used model, fix it up, and fly it across the Atlantic Ocean as a birthday present for the two-time Oscar winner. Why, exactly? To understand, you have to appreciate both Hanks' offbeat social media presence and the importance the small car held to Poland during the dark years of communist rule.
Unlike a lot of celebrities, Tom Hanks doesn't use his Twitter account to constantly promote his brand, humble brag about his insane wealth, or pick pointless fights with people. Instead, @tomhanks is devoted to dad-level pictures of random street ephemera, all posted with a pithy caption and his eponymous "Hanx" signature. Single lost gloves in the gutter are a favorite muse, as are broken umbrellas. And for two weeks in 2016, for no apparent reason other than his joy at seeing such a small vehicle, Hanks documented a trip to Budapest, Hungary by posting multiple photos of himself posing next to random street-parked Fiat 126s with variations on the caption: "I'm so excited about my new car!"
Small might also be something of an understatement, as the Fiat 126 is very similar in size to the original Austin Mini. The rear-engined compact car was built in massive numbers in communist Poland under license from Fiat and sold as the Polski Fiat 126p, where its low cost and relative availability made it something of a icon in the closing decades of the twentieth century. The car's diminutive dimensions inspired the nickname "Maluch," which means "toddler" or "little one" in Polish, and it remains a bright spot in the country's postwar history for many Poles—especially those in Bielsko-Biala, where the Fiat 126p factory was located.
So far, we've got a beloved star and a beloved car. And when Bielsko-Biala resident and Hanks fan Monika Jaskolska saw his tweets featuring the pride of her hometown, she decided to raise the money to help get him one. A few weeks and several thousand dollars later, and the campaign had secured Hanks a Fiat 126 of his very own. After more donations and corporate sponsors covered the cost of a restoration and a custom interior, the refreshed car debuted at a splashy ceremony in July.
Being a busy guy, Hanks couldn't make it to Warsaw to receive the car in person, but he recorded a video message happily thanking Jaskolska and everyone who pitched in. He also donated money to the hospital where Jaskolska works. Hanks seems to be genuinely excited about his new bare-bones econobox, which is not something you can say about everyone with a few hundred million in the bank.
He might not be so enthusiastic once he gets in the driver's seat, as the minuscule 594 cc two-cylinder engine put out a whopping 23 horsepower and 29 pound-feet of torque in its original state. Then again, the new typewriter-inspired interior is reportedly matched by a rebuilt powerplant with unspecified upgrades as well. The very special Fiat 126 landed at Los Angeles International Airport in the belly of a LOT Polish Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Thursday and was promptly picked up by Hanks, who is so enthralled with his new set of wheels that he appears to have driven the car into his living room (it's actually the Polish consulate in Los Angeles).
"It's a beautiful car," Hanks said, according to Dziennik Zachodni. "I do not know how many miles it will take on the California roads, but I'm comforted to be able to fix it with a screwdriver and a ladies' trouser belt."
Then again, it seems he may have found a new, larger love, and a little closer to home to boot: His latest "I got a new car" tweet features a positively boat-like 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible.