1984 World Cars (4) Innocenti Tre and Austin Metro

In the fourth of a short series, I will remind readers of what was on sale in 1984, courtesy of the much missed “World Car Guide”.

1984 Innocenti Tre: source
1984 Innocenti Tre: source

 What do the De Tomaso Deauville and the Mini have in common? The answer is a relationship to the Innocenti Tre rooted in the fact De Tomaso developed the car from the Italian Mini. Bertone designed the hatchback body for the Tre (three doors), giving it a little extra over the two-door Mini.  Further adding to the Tre’s mongrel status is that the engine is a

1984 Innocenti Tre: source
1984 Innocenti Tre: source

Daihatsu 3-cylinder engine with a balancer shaft and a five-speed gearbox. In place of the infernal Mini rubber suspension, Innocenti chose coil-spring struts and a transverse leaf-spring with wishbone and damper struts at the rear. It managed 93 mph hour in top. Quite who Innocenti imagined this car might appeal to is hard to say. It’s potentially quite a neat-handling car with tidy styling, possibly being a pre-cursor to the market later occupied by the Lancia Y.

More Innocenti Tre.
More Innocenti Tre.

From Britain, the Metro offers an interesting counter-point to the Tre, retaining the Hydrolastic suspension concept but with 3 doors and the possibility of a Brougham-version, the Vanden Plas. The engine outranks the Tre, with a 1275 cc four-cylinder but falls back with only four-speeds.  If Cadillac’s Cimmaron showed how far that brand had fallen, Austin´s use of the VdP nameplate on a car based on a four-grand city car displayed a British equivalent. Just two decades earlier, VdP cars

1984 Austin Metro Van Den Plas: source
1984 Austin Metro Van Den Plas: source

had Rolls-Royce engines and a certain cachet. The Metro didn’t have a better engine but more features: like power windows, more instruments, cassette player and, of course, wood trim on the door caps and the dashboard. Leather, fog lights and automatic transmission. In 1981 the name could be found embellishing the boot of the Daimler Double Six which sold for £26,000. This sort of thing defines trading on a name. I expect that the VdP versions have a small but passionate following. Can you find one today?   Yes, in Wiltshire.

(Ranwhenparked have some nice photos of the car which I did not feel like copying over. You can see the them here. They also provided the feature list.)

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “1984 World Cars (4) Innocenti Tre and Austin Metro”

  1. I reckon the Innocenti is a real gem – they got the formula right for the home market (pint-size dimensions and a sharp suit of clothes). Definitely one of Bertone’s more underrated efforts. The first photo really highlights the clean lines and tidy detailing.

  2. “Quite who Innocenti imagined this car might appeal to is hard to say.”

    That’s quite a strange question to ask, unless e.g. it was priced was way above the competition.

  3. I too agree that I can quite see the appeal of the Innocenti though, like the Mini itself, its earlier versions looked even nicer. Two asides.

    The last photo of the Tre features a single wiper which, looking at the screen shape, will have been a De Tomaso economy too far.

    And the Wikipedia entry is headed with a picture of an Innocenti with its bonnet up, as if broken down. It causes me to comment (again) on the photos that illustrate Wikipedia. They seem to be policed less diligently than the written content. Anyone seems to be able to put up an atypical photo of something that belongs to their brother, underexposed and complete with aftermarket wheels, a non-standard colour and rust patches, and Wikipedia’s (often commendable) ideals means that no-one can bring themselves to take it down and replace it with something that shows the car as its makers intended.

    1. The problem with Wikipedia is photo ownership/copyright. Until they find a way around that it will remain a weakness, albeit quite an amusing one.

    2. One might think that the marketing departments of proud companies would ensure that their history was well represented on Wikipedia. Though as you say, that wouldn’t be so amusing.

  4. In a fit of stupendously optimistic original thought, that Innocenti went on sale in Canada. Three of us from work went to look at it one lunch-hour and got a test drive. The engine was hilariously rev happy. The dealer disappeared after 6 months. Exit stage left. Probably not the way to compete with Honda and Toyota and Datsun and Mazda, since Fiat was notorious and any Italian car regarded as a complete joke in the quality and reliability stakes. Not without reason, it must be said – the French and Italians and British seemed to be congenitally unable to grasp the fact that driving conditions were far different to their home markets, nor did they apparently care. Second class stuff all around. Customers rsponded accordingly. Only Volvo, MB and BMW made decent vehicles. Golfs were OK, no more, but Passats (Dasher) were total rustbuckets as was the first Audi 80. The Japanese actually made stuff that worked until the tin worm got them, regular cockroaches that brought repeat customers.

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