Etceterini, Etceterini, Etceterini …

It Wasn’t Just Ferraris You Know?

Moretti 2

Last year, in Southern Germany, I came across an ‘Oldtimer Rally’ and I put a small gallery of photos up in December. There was a nice variety of cars, but what stood out for me was this little Moretti 750. Moretti was just one of a good number of small Italian manufacturers including Abarth, Stanguellini, Nardi and OSCA who produced small sports and racing cars in the post War period, and whose products are known, with affection and respect, as Etceterini.

There is no absolute definition of what makes an Etceterino, but it doesn’t mean any car not made by a major Italian manufacturer, so Fiat 500s rebodied as beach cars, fun as they are, are not Etceterini.

The days of starting a car manufacturing business in a lock-up are sadly past. In the UK we had, most successfully, Lotus, together with other credible low volume manufacturers such as Elva and Ginetta. There were also others who cobbled up fibreglass bodies of varying degrees of style and quality and popped them over an old Ford Prefect chassis, possibly incorporating the Ballamy suspension conversion which turned a front beam axle into swing axles, with a bit of extra power coaxed out of a wheezing sidevalve.

Moretti

Those latter makers were hobbled both by their imagination and the mundane nature of the basic mechanicals available off the shelf in the UK. Many of them might originally have been inspired by the Italian industry. Resourceful though the back street UK makes could be, as a whole they take second place to the Italian industry. Many of their products are little jewels, Morettis were often described as baby Ferraris for instance, looking odd only when two fit and healthy late 20th Century adults are squeezed into the seats.

Moretti 3

Moretti was no flash in the pan enterprise. It existed from 1925 to 1989, in its time producing motorcycles, microcars, sports cars, racing cars, delivery vans, estates and taxis. This is the sort of adaptability that caused Italian industry to thrive. The post war sports cars were produced entirely by Moretti, including the engines, such as a 748cc twin cam but, in the end, commercial realities meant that from the mid 50s they based their cars on mainly Fiat parts and engines, like most other makers.

Not a Dino. Not an Etceterino. Moretti Fiat 850.
Not a Dino. Not an Etceterino. Moretti Fiat 850 – source motorstown.com

There is a lot more about these cars on a recommended site http://www.etceterini.com

9 thoughts on “Etceterini, Etceterini, Etceterini …”

  1. The borrowing of themes from more substantial cars is reminiscent of the Japanese retro cars from the 1990s. It might also be that the similarities are clearer to us now than they were then. Were Etceterini relatively expensive? The conditions that made it possible to manufacture these were special to Italy. They had numerous craftsmen and cheap labour. The cheap labour also helped Italian industry from addressing productivity via mechanisation. Only Germany and Japan managed to combine extensive automation with high quality and good wages. One reason Italy is where it is can be traced to these agreeable small sportsters. Was the British equivalent to be found among Bristol, Alvis, Jensen, Lea Francis, AC, TVR and Gordon-Keeble?

  2. The point about cheap but skilled labour being plentiful in post War Italy is valid, But maybe there’s a touch of bella figura there too. British makers would want the car to perform well, but looks were often secondary. If a bit of folded metal did the job, fine. Or at best a nice piece of moulded fibreglass. I don’t think Italians shared that pragmatism.

  3. Of the English makers you mention above Richard, their home made designs seemed invariably slightly clumsy, if we disregard TVR’s later creations. Only when the reached out to Europe, generally Italy though Switzerland in the case of Alvis, did they come up with more elegant creations. It seems the English were (are?) hard pressed to do Elegance. Humber, for example, could be described as handsome, but not elegant. Even the Bentley R Type Continental, undeniably elegant and ultimately home designed, needed the active inspiration of the French coachbuilding industry to get going. This reverts to an point I was making in an earlier post that there was an inherent British middle-class snobbishness towards Lyons era Jaguars, based on them being just too bloody good looking for their own good. Reverting to small manufacturers only Chapman realised early on that a good looking car sold better than a clunky one.

    Of all the Etceterini makers, Moretti deserve more scrutiny. Although no Fiat, they weren’t a back street manufacturer, and they produced a wide range of cars. If the 750 is any guide, they were possibly a victim of their own high standards. Sadly their last product was a tarted up Uno Turbo.

  4. The tendency of British cars to look clunky raises questions about British aesthetics. It’s not clearly consistent. In classical architecture I detect no weakness; sartorially there is plenty of evidence for an awareness of style as well as function. British furniture at its best was superlative. Does the matter hinge on Britain’s unease with modernism and the fact engineering was the avenue in to design for many in the 20th century? The same was true for Italy and France and Germany. I suspect style was for silly aristocrats and the middle class engineers wanted to avoid that association.
    I shall ask Mr Google to throw more light on Moretti. Up to know I thought it was a nice beer.

  5. Relevantly, Moretti is quite nice beer, but I like it all the more because of the label. Not style over content, but style abetting content maybe.

    Possibly food and drink is a clue to English styling. Although we have now embraced decent gastronomy in the UK (for a price), one of the canards bandied in my youth went along the lines of ‘foreign cooking uses all these fancy creams and spices – we don’t need that because our basic ingredients are so good’. I think that Roaste Beefe off Ye Olde Englande type thinking applied to Ye Fyne Engineeringe off Ye Olde Englande too. It was so damn good, it didn’t need your fancy poncey embellishment.

    So much of the UK industry lived in this odd little hubristic bubble, the result of starting the Industrial Revolution and ‘winning’ a couple of wars, I guess. It genuinely couldn’t see how much better things were often done elsewhere or, if it could, it used cod patriotism and protectionist taxation, to foist its dull products off onto the public.

  6. This I put down to the bane of English (if not British) thinking, pragmatism. And if pragmatism was put aside it was done at great expense. What Britain is not good is mid-level, everymany quality. The Americans have the same failing. In Ireland we have a related mentality, which is “that´ll do”. It´s epitomised by our tendency until recent years to install neon strip lights in kitchens and hang all the lights from the ceiling, as if every room was a workshop. I had an exchange with a person from the Dublin city council about the design of the street signs. He simply didn´t understand the idea that just throwing letters down was not good enough. His view was that my criticism was to do with something subjective and therefore unimportant. This, sir, is why Germany works well and looks good while Ireland stumbles on, with excellence left to individuals. The next time I deal with one of these people I will use the term “professional” to explain the difference between “that´ll do” and getting it right.
    Moretti has a label showing a chap in a hat, right? Yes, it is a super label. I don´t remember when I last tried it though. Must be some years back now.
    I do seem to have a bit of a on-going thing about England which I need to resolve some day. I am conflicted. My criticism is offered in the hope that by changing its attitude, Britain could be a happier place than I think it is. I don´t like the idea of 65 million people being so grumpy when the power to make Britain lovely (I use the word deliberately) is within Britons´grasp.

  7. As an Englishman, I find it easier to be negative about our character than positive. Being positive makes me sound like a Daily Mail reader. We are a nation of procrastinators, only read Eoin’s XJ40 article for proof. But our strength is probably resourcefulness at the 11th hour. Rescuing, if not victory, then adequacy from the jaws of defeat. Damn, I’m still sounding negative,.

    Yes, Moretti, a man with a hat, moustache and foaming glass.

  8. A German described the British as being good at fixing problems but much less at avoiding them. Problem avoidance can seem nitpicky and fussy. “Ah, but that shouldn´t happen” is the kind of thinking gets you into trouble.

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