Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111

Today we look at a short-lived and forgotten automotive artefact.

Autobianchi A111 - image via viva-lancia
Autobianchi A111 – image via viva-lancia

The Autobianchi A111 was produced for only three years and is notable for being the largest model they produced – in fact, the A111 was never replaced. From 1972, Fiat-owned Autobianchi’s sole offering would be the supermini-sized A112. The genesis of the A111 appears to have been the 1964 Autobianchi Primula, forerunner to Dante Giacosa’s 1969 masterpiece – the Fiat 128.

a111_section

The A111 also debuted in 1969, and a feeler gauge was required to tell them apart. The 128 measured 385 cm in length with a wheelbase of 244.5 cm, while the A111 was longer overall at 402 cm, but shorter between the wheels at 236 cm. Yet it appears neither car shared much engineering commonality; the Autobianchi retained the Primula’s lower wishbones with a transverse leaf as the upper link. Leaf springs also formed the A111’s rear suspension, whereas the more progressive Fiat employed MacPherson struts, with a transverse leaf at the rear. The Fiat also featured Aurelio Lampredi’s advanced belt-driven OHC 1100 engine while the A111 was powered by the larger-capacity 1438cc engine also fitted to the Fiat 124 Special.

A111rear

The similarities continued outside. Appearance-wise, the A111 was a curious amalgam of 128, 124 and in places, 130 Berlina styling cues. While the A111 straddled both 128 and 124 dimensionally, real-world differences between all three were marginal. The 124 was a mere 22mm longer, 63mm longer in wheelbase, making the logic behind the model even more baffling. That the A111 sold a mere 57,000 units suggests a car conceived primarily to give Autobianchi dealers something to sell.

Image via oldcarmanualproject
Image via oldcarmanualproject

Yet the A111 was not a cynical design. It was plainly intended to be a more upmarket car than a 128, but maybe less so than a 124 Special. Was there a market for such a car? It appears not. Perhaps Fiat had other motives behind its development and ridiculously short lifespan. It’s not a terrifically interesting car, the A111, but its curiously short career, attractive styling and eccentric positioning elevate it to a level slightly above pointless, if falling some way short of fascination. Autobianchi ended up being merged into Lancia and we all know what happened to them.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

2 thoughts on “Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111”

  1. It wasn’t a cynical car at all. Autobianchi seem to have been used as a way of Fiat introducing front wheel drive cars without having to commit their own badge. In a way the A111 had a successor – the FWD Lancia Beta that appeared the year it ceased.

  2. While the Autobianchi Primula was a FWD forerunner to the Fiat 128, did Fiat or specifically Dante Giacosa ever look at earlier 1000-1200cc replacements for the 1953-1969 Fiat 1100?

    Know that Fiat worked on a similar-sized rear-engined RWD project that later became the Simca 1000, though was wondering whether Fiat considered a front-engined RWD model along the lines of a downsized Fiat 124 to directly replace the Fiat 1100?

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