Contributor, Chris Elvin returns to our pages to establish whether his Panda really eats shoots and leaves.
In the Spring of 2018, Driven to Write published the article ‘Small Is Beautiful… and Why Modern Cars Are (usually) Better’ describing my experience running a Rover 75 and its eventual replacement by a Fiat Panda TwinAir Turbo. A number of readers were kind enough to comment that they would like to read more about my experiences with the Panda so, now that I have been running it daily for over a year, I thought I would Continue reading “Little Monster”
Driven to Write recalls his earlier forays into motoring.
Starting procedure: Insert key into ignition. Turn key fully clockwise. Lift floor mounted enrichment (choke) lever fully. Engage clutch. Lift spring-loaded, floor mounted starter (mounted behind gear lever next to choke). Hold until engine fires. Ignore the shaking of the engine on its mountings as it settles into life. On no account Continue reading “History in Cars – Ciao Baby”
Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.
It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.
The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”
Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.
There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.
Vittorio Ghidella presided over one of Fiat Auto’s rare periods of growth and prosperity. The 1988 Tipo exemplified his pragmatic approach, but all gains would become subject to the Fiat Charter.
Boom and bust appears to have been as essential a part of the Fiat charter as ill-judged facelifts. Periods of prosperity punctuated by blind panic when the balance sheet nosedived. In 1979, Gianni Agnelli appointed former engineer, Vittorio Ghidella to head the Fiat Auto division. The Turin carmaker was in desperate straits, emerging from the 1970s battered from the legacies of the ’73 fuel crisis and from labour disputes which threatened the future of the business.
Within a decade, the picture would be vastly different. Fiat Auto was profitable, nudging VW to become Europe’s largest carmaker by volume, bouyed by the huge success of the B-segment Uno, the sales resurgence of Lancia and the 1988 introduction of the Tipo, arguably the most significant model programme in Fiat’s history and perhaps its most far-seeing. Continue reading “Eurochild”
Amid reports suggesting Fiat will shortly abandon Italian car production, Driven to Write posits a requiem.
So it has come to this. After almost 120 years of car production, Fiat cars, for so long synonymous with the place of their birth will no longer be produced there. Yesterday, we examined Automotive News’ report outlining FCA’s plans to shift Fiat’s entire production output to low-cost outposts outside of Italy. Instead, Fiat’s domestic plants will be refitted to produce upmarket models as FCA transitions towards high-return product.
There is a certain inevitability to this of course, given both the pattern of FCA’s fortunes and the path the wider motor industry is taking, but regardless of Continue reading “L’Estrema Unzione”
Good old Automotive News reported some juicy gossip regarding Fiat Chrysler Automotive.
The gist of it is that FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks making smaller cars in Italy is a waste of time and money. He is concerned that smaller cars are going to be commoditised and that the real margins lie in making larger cars. Resulting from this set of assumptions, stalwarts of the Fiat range will be axed and anything small and plausibly profitable shifted to outside Europe. The Punto – once a European top-ten car – and the MiTo (never a European top ten car) will be discontinued.
The early promise of Fiat’s X1/38 design theme was quickly extinguished within centro stile Fiat. Was it a loss of confidence or something more seismic?
It was perhaps Fiat’s misfortune that the Ritmo arrived at a point where the design zeitgeist was shifting away from the stark modernism of the early ’70s to a more polished, yet more conservative aesthetic. This shift is vividly illustrated by the transition from Ritmo to the three volume Regata model upon which it was based. Continue reading “Broken Rhythm”
Fiat’s Seventies C-segment style statement is largely a neglected footnote today, but there’s more to the Ritmo than a bunch of robots and some confusion over its name.
Was any decade as truly modern as the 1970s? One retrospectively characterised in a roseate glow of giddy colours and lurid sartorial fashions; of long hair, beards, beads and ABBA songs, what chroniclers choose to ignore was how genuinely, thrillingly new it all appeared at the time and after an interval of four decades, seems even more so now.
In terms of product design, little that occurred in the decade that followed came even close to the impact of the ’70s. Unfortunately this was probably equally true in other areas. Ah Italy. Bastion of culture, impeccable taste; leaders in industrial innovation and design, but fatally prey to political instability. Certainly no product of this land can Continue reading “Ritmo Della Strada”
Fiat didn’t hold an official “Exhibitors Conference” on the first media day at this year’s Geneva Salon, but that didn’t prevent FCA’s CEO pronouncing on the future of Fiat’s European activities.
Sergio Marchionne declared that “for the 500, 500X and Panda it is worth pursuing, I am less in love with the Tipo, despite its sales success. We have to be careful how we distribute large amounts of capital. The Tipo is less encouraged, because that sector of the market is very crowded and not very profitable. It was a part of the market where Fiat traditionally was, but maybe we need to Continue reading “Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say”
Some time back, DTW surveyed the world of cars to produce a definitive top 50 of all time. In this series, we narrow the field to European vehicles and present a run-down of the best Eurocars ever. The ratings are based on a weighted combination of engineering, styling, boot capacity and overall significance.
We will start off by a reminder of why a Seat, a Borgward and a Fiat are remembered as they are.
Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?
It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”
Two of the more storied automotive marques happen to have owned representative headquarter buildings at some point. The respective fates of these edifices has proven somewhat poignant.
High-rise buildings inevitable lend themselves to illustrate human hubris. As the building of a monument to oneself is among the least humble of acts imaginable, skyscrapers typically invite less-than-kind comparisons: From the bible’s Tower of Babel to JG Ballard’s High-Rise, architecture aiming for the skies regularly acts as a metaphor for an aloof state of mind.
The automotive industry, whose core business of selling a commodity finds itself in constant battle with that product’s simultaneous role of a social entity, is even more prone than others to Continue reading “A Tale of Two Towers”
Apart from contributing more than a few inventions of enormous importance and automobiles of superior significance, Fiat have also established themselves as true masters of the counterproductive facelift.
Italy unquestionably is a country of immense creative energy. More to the point, it is one of the hotbeds of automotive design and style, not to mention: taste.
And yet few marques have so comprehensively struggled to give its products a stylistic boost halfway through their respective productions runs as Fiat has. So much so, in fact, that describing any facelift effort as ‘Fiat bad’ acts as a fixed term denominating a particularly ill-advised attempt at refreshing a car’s design.
Fiat tested the waters for their subsequent two-seater offering in 1993 with the Maggiore Scia – a concept car which genuinely deserved the term, ‘little boat’.
With the 1989 demise of the long-running X1/9 model, Fiat, for the first time in decades, lacked a two-seater roadster in its lineup; a state of affairs which wouldn’t have elicited much concern apart from the fact that such vehicles were making something of a popular comeback by then.
There probably isn’t anything left on the keyboard that has not already been written about the FIAT 500, but that’s not going to stop DTW as recent ownership has permitted some real-world insights.
The new-age FIAT 500 is a car I don’t want to like. It’s a cynical fraud for starters, sharing underpinnings with the previous generation FIAT Panda and Ford Ka. I like the Panda, having an especially fond soft spot for the 100HP which was the meaner spiritual successor to the Cinquecento Sporting that I so cherished in my early twenties.
Was it not Grahame Greene who said “If I can’t have the bream I’ll have a salad instead”?
The Fiat 500 has entered a new phase in life. Having initially been very fashionable, it came to be seen as a rather tired old product (not by the many who bought them). Now, ten years on, it has eased its way into a small pantheon of long-lived steady sellers. The Suzuki Jimny has managed this as well, albeit after 20 years (for Autocar). Another example, at the other end of the scale might be Toyota’s Century. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job”
DTW has had a chance to rewind the years and test a 2002 Lybra SW, the Delta’s predecessor. This puts in perspective the step-backward that was the Delta and reveals a car that probably deserves a wider audience. Continue reading “The Cormorant Rethinks”
So, Lancia Delta, what are you like to drive? Driven To Write continues its quest to test every Lancia available.
The Lancia Delta appeared under the banner of spearheading a rebirth at Lancia. The background to the Delta looked like this: a replacement for the Lybra saloon and estate and also a vehicle to cover a market the Bravo didn’t reach. As such, the Delta had to be luxury and estatey-wagony. Thus Lancia based it on the Fiat Bravo but with a longer floor-pan and a half-hatch, half-estate profile. Lancia sold the car with a quite broad engine range.
Dud big Fiat or misunderstood mongrel? Lets get our feet wet, shall we?
We should get a couple of provisos out of the way before I commence. Firstly, the 132 began its lengthy career in 1972, so by 1977, it had already entered its third iteration. Secondly, while I admit it’s probably a little unfair to directly compare Fiat’s big saloon with British Leyland’s cynically conceived Cortina-baiter, some compelling parallels do suggest themselves. Continue reading “Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132”
Reader Stradale kindly sent this photo which summed up some of the week’s subjects.
This week we discussed the Fiat Punto, quondam class-leader among superminis. The Lancia Kappa came up for more scrutiny (I have to test drive one). Driven to Write also applied its bifocals to rear bumpers – these cars have those. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: Jam and Marmalade”
Rumours of the Punto’s demise might well be exaggerated, but a successor could finally be in sight.
It’s somewhat mortifying when you realise that someone you innocently assumed was deceased remains defiantly above ground. Take the Fiat Punto for example. I had blithely assumed it was already pushing up daisies, but quite the contrary. In its current iteration, with us now since 2005, the Punto’s age is underlined by the realisation that its genesis dates back to Fiat’s post-millennial dalliance with General Motors, sharing an Opel-developed understructure from the contemporary Corsa model. I say contemporary, but it seems the current Corsa and Adam still use a variant of this platform, and they remain, if not exactly class-leading, at least broadly competitive. Continue reading “Spirito di Punto”
As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…
In 1963, Oscar Montabone was recalled from Chrysler-controlled Simca to manage Fiat’s Automobile Technical Office. His primary task was to develop Project 124, a putative 1100 replacement in direct competition with Dante Giacosa’s Project 123, which was not so much a defined car as a series of studies with various front engine/front wheel drive and rear engine/rear drive configurations based around a 1157cc three cylinder opposed-valve ohc engine. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On”
While it’s comparatively easy to dismiss it as something of a parts bin special, the 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé amounted to a good deal more than the sum of its parts.
By the latter stages of the 1960’s, Fiat management realised the necessity of providing more than just basic transportation for the Italian market. With living standards on the rise, the demand for more upmarket cars grew – at least within the bounds of what Italy’s stringent taxation regime would allow.
With Dante Giacosa’s engineers at work on a series of new models to cover the compact to mid-classes – (124 and 125-series’) in addition to a new flagship to replace the dated 2300-series, Fiat’s offerings to Italy’s middle classes reflected this push upmarket, even if the egalitarian Giacosa didn’t necessarily Continue reading “Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé”
A seemingly harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.
A stroll around my local retail car park in suburban Cork is a dispiriting experience at any time, even when the rain isn’t horizontal. Filled with the usual drear parade of monochrome conveyances, there is little for the eye to linger upon, or indeed from which the uninfluential auto-blogger can spin an article. However, earlier in the week, I was stopped in my tracks by, of all things, a 2017-registered Fiat Tipo Sedan – the first I’ve witnessed in the wild. Continue reading “Reverting to Type”
Three brochures for the same car demonstrate Fiat’s marketing skills – or lack thereof.
Fiat’s 1970’s brochures were often stark affairs. Studio shots, no background and just the facts. With an economy hatchback like a 127 or suchlike, there was a certain amount of logic in this approach, but for what many dubbed a mini-Ferrari, it risked underselling what was at the time a fairly unique proposition. Continue reading “Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych”
In the second of a short series, I will remind readers of what was on sale in 1984, courtesy of the much missed “World Car Guide”.
In 1984 Bertone offered a cabriolet version of the Ritmo, with its own badge on the grille. By 1984 Fiat had restyled the Ritmo slightly: the air intake on the bonnet vanished in a tidying frenzy. The car had a roll-hoop to add rigidity, probably a necessity for a vehicle as fundamentally light as the Ritmo. Another Ritmo cabrio option existed: the Pink Panther, also put together by Bertone. Continue reading “World Cars 1984 (2) : Bertone Ritmo Cabriolet”
Richard’s recent examination of a brochure for a 1998 Fiat Multipla inevitably drew diverging opinions in the comments about the vehicle’s styling.
My own position has always been that, with their first attempt, Fiat’s chefs mixed together too many challenging ingredients to make the resultant dish palatable. The facelift, on the other hand, skewed too far the other way, removing much of the flavour by imposing a bland face on an otherwise interesting body. Continue reading “Fiat Multipla: Time to Belt Up”
I picked this brochure up at the Birmingham Motorshow in 1997 or 1998.
The graphic design goes with the fun theme of the car’s design. You could even call it populist and it is soaked in the carefree feeling of that period. Even today the exterior and interior aesthetics are fresh and novel. What must not be forgotten is the ingenuity of its flexible framework architecture which was usefully cheap, meaning Fiat broke even at 40,030 units a year.
For many eyes, the car above is, irredeemably, depending on their country, a VAZ or a Lada or a Zhiguli, a vehicle that citizens of the former Soviet Bloc view with a frustrating mixture of contempt and affection. To me it is (and in this example, correctly) a Fiat 124, the first car that I had free, unaccompanied access to the open roads in, with all that allowed, so anything that follows might have to be filtered by the reader to allow for the rosy glow of nostalgia, although actually it’s a frustrating mixture of contempt and affection. Continue reading “The Fellow Traveller”
Uruguay is the second smallest state in South-America. Being right next door to Brazil, it’s natural enough one can buy Fiats there.
There are two South American specials (if I can be so Eurocentric) in the Uruguayan range. One is the Uno and the other is the Palio Adventure. Looking at the Uno we find a vehicle that evokes the Panda but isn’t a Panda. Fiat Brazil came up with this one and Fiat Centro Stile developed the appearance. Note the asymmetric grille. It’s Type 327 for Fiat anoraks. The underpinnings are from the Fiat Palio, making it something of a middle point between the Panda and Palio. Continue reading “Theme: Sudamerica – Fiat in Uruguay”
Another thinly disguised excuse to write about a car that I like and used to own (yes, another one). This is my singular experience of going Italian, and very gratifying it was too. And, reliable.
I remember falling in love with the FIAT Cinquecento Sporting at first sight (and read, it was an article in Car – by Andrew Frankel, I think – entitled “Eeenie Weenie, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Hotted Up Machinie”, or something very similar). The little FIAT had everything I liked at the time. Continue reading “The Late Film: Mistaken Identity”
The badge is placed on the upper surface of the boot. It probably really ought to sit on a vertical surface so people can read it with less trouble. You can get all the glorious details on the car here. I notice it’s a fairly light car (just over 1000 kg) so I suppose the 1.4 litre engine is able to haul it about. The other thing I noticed is what looks like Continue reading “White Convertible Thing, Not Sure What it Was…”
Driven To Write comes face to face with the car that (arguably) sank FIAT.
Three or four themes entwine here. We’ve had a Fiat Tempra on sale and here is its semi-successor. We’ve been doing colour and this car is white. This car lacks chamfers on the lamps. And finally, we’ve discussed in a tangential way the demise of the three door car. This is a three door Fiat Stilo. The first one of these I saw in the metal lurked in a corner of Cambridge in 2001. Isn’t odd that I still remember that with such burning intensity? Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 2001-2007 Fiat Stilo”
Remember the Chrysler K-car? It helped save Chrysler until the next crisis. The Fiat Tipo played a similar role, at least in underpinning a lot of models. Here’s one of them.
Another Fiat, a 125 behind glass, made me stop at the location. When I stopped looking at that I wandered further. In the otherwise empty lot nearby this Tempra crouched. Looks good from afar, but it’s far from good. Although the body had galvanising, rust is biting the doors and the handles are seized. It’s not for sale anymore and evidently wasn’t worth taking to the dealer’s new location 10 km away. Continue reading “Something Rotten For Sunday”
We can add this vehicle to the DTW collection of ashtray rarities.
There are not so many of these cars hanging around and good one costs around €17,000 these days. The styling, by Paolo Martin at Pininfarina, is something of a legend. He also handled the interior, sprucing up the design based on the 130 saloon. And in turn Fiat carried these improvements back to the saloon (which already had a very fine interior). Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1972 Fiat 130 Coupe”
From 1967 to 1972 Fiat sold the 125 and, according to Wikipedia, it combined saloon car space with sports car performance.
This formula could also be found in the 1966 BMW 1602/2002 and 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia. What might distinguish the 125 from these might be that it offered these characteristics in a cheaper package than Alfa or BMW. It certainly had more doors than the 2002 and it had more space than the Alfa Romeo. Continue reading “1967-1972 Fiat 125”
The Fiat Panda as described by one Russell Bulgin.
Not so very, very long ago I presented an excellent gallery of Fiat Pandas as seen on location somewhere in sunny Italy – (thanks to Sean for helping out with the technicalities on that). Since then, I found the article Russell Bulgin wrote about the Panda in 1989. I had been thinking of this article in June.
For Autocar, Russell Bulgin wrote a series called the Bulgin Files (why the Bulgin Files?). The sub-header explained “Our angry young man is into his fourth week of driving bargain-basement superminis and now he auditions a Starlet and two Italian sisters, Fiat’s Uno and Panda.” Continue reading “Fiat Panda, As Seen in 1989”
This photo-series is the work of Mick who kindly sent me the images. The name of the car is almost as long as the production run. From 1974 to…
…1983. Making this example one of the last made. The estate versions carried on for another year. It’s a series 3 Fiat 131 Supermirafiori with a 2.0 litre twin-cam engine, hence the T/C label tucked on the side at the rear. Ten years: that’s a long time in car design and the ten years from 1974 to 1983 were a tumultuous time in the wider world.
Further to our discussions, here is the Fiat 500 by Diesel. This is less convincing than the Gucci edition. It smacks even more of aftermarket.
And the advert here is in rather poor taste. Here is a little more on the car if you can find the strength. What would I want from a proper special edition tied in to a big-league company? The wheels should not be available on the rest of the range. The seats ought to be unique to the car even if that just means new head-restraints. I’d like fitted, branded luggage. There must be firms able to run up such a thing for a few hundred euros. I imagine the people at Diesel know how to create small runs of textile products, right?
Up until now I thought Gucci had limited their dalliance with the car industry to American brands such as Cadillac.
At the other end of the scale and on the other side of the Atlantic, Gucci also graced Fiat with their magic touch. According to Gucci “The car’s silhouette is outlined by Gucci’s signature green-red-green stripe, which runs along the entire perimeter and links the exterior to the interior. The stripe also appears inside on the seats, on the gear shift, the key-cover, the carpets, and in an innovative finish on the seatbelts. The interior space of the 500 by Gucci is stylish yet functional down to every last detail: chic embroidery, exclusive materials, glossy and satinContinue reading “Special Editions: 2011 Fiat 500 By Gucci”
“Dignified Italian” is how Autocar described the 130 saloon in 1972. Having had a chance to sit inside one of these cars recently, I can confirm that this actually undersells what is a remarkably lavish saloon.
Fiat intended the 130 to take on cars from the higher echelons of the mainstream luxury marques. Presumably this meant the middle and higher level Mercedes saloons such as the W-110 (which would have been in production when the 130 began development). As it happened the year before launch, Mercedes produced the W-114 and went on to sell nearly 2 million examples between 1968 and 1976. In about the same time, Fiat sold just 15,000 of their 130 saloons. The received wisdom is that the 130 was a failure – one of many also-rans in the executive class from this time. Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1972 Fiat 130 Berlina”
Missing the Marea? Still smitten by the Stilo? Sergio’s got something for you.
Is Sergio Marchionne still shaking flak out of his bulk-knit cardigan? His demeanour on the first media day may have suggested otherwise, and FCA’s workrate can’t be faulted, notwithstanding more than a little help from their Japanese and Turkish friends. The recently launched, Turkish-built Tipo saloon, was joined at Geneva by a five door hatchback and a useful looking estate car. The saloon and hatch could be dead ringers for the – wholly unrelated – Qoros 3, even down to the chrome doorhandles. Some also saw echoes of the Brava and Marea. Can it really be twenty years since these hire fleet heroes first appeared?
I stood in the north west corner of Palexpo’s Hall 5 which has been the traditional home of Lancia for many years, and my fears were confirmed. Turin’s second most successful carmaker had left the building – hold on, wasn’t that Alvis? Did I walk through the empty house, tears in my eyes? Not really. Continue reading “Geneva Bites -The Abarth Garage”
A little while back we ran an article about car sales in Ireland in January. We asked Fiat Automobiles Ireland to respond.
In the spirit of balance, we considered it a good idea to see what Fiat had to say about the market position and general outlook for their products. Here is what Gerry Clarke, Country Director, FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Ireland Ltd had to say:
“There are a number of points to consider regarding FIAT in Ireland. FIAT is strongest in segments that are traditionally very small in Ireland. We’re segment leaders across Europe with 500 and Panda but for a number of reasons Irish buyers tend to prefer larger cars and especially three-box saloons, an example of which we currently do not offer in RHD! Our B-segment car is now nearing the end of its product cycle and with the end of Bravo production we’re now missing altogether from C-segment and these still segments represent the majority of sales in Ireland.”Continue reading “Fiat Ireland: Their Point of View”