C21 Roman Chariots

Forgive the rash of smartphone holiday snaps, but a recent stay in Rome provided an opportunity to check out the local motor cars.

Urban Panda – far from extinct on the streets of Rome

Sadly, the biggest impression left on me by scanning the roads of Rome from the Borghese Gardens down to the Colosseum was what I did not see: not one of my beloved Cinquecenti. And, I don’t mean bright, Broom Yellow, Sportings, I mean none of any type or colour; not one! I am not sure what that says about that model – I saw examples of both its replacement (the Seicento) and antecedents (the 126 and the Nuova 500), but of the Cinq, ‘niente’!

Maybe they were all culled in a round of Government-sponsored ‘scrappage’? Continue reading “C21 Roman Chariots”

Maybe There Are Some Reasons For Why Those Echoes Fade

The year is 1993. At the Geneva show Pininfarina presented the Ethos2 concept car, Aston Martin showed the Lagonda and BMW the supermini Z13.

1993 Fiat Downtown: source

Fiat offered the Downtown, a three-seater with two motors driving the rear wheels. It had sodium sulphur batteries and a 118-mile range. When driven at 30 mph, the range increased to 186 miles. This one came from a time when car manufacturers were more willing to Continue reading “Maybe There Are Some Reasons For Why Those Echoes Fade”

Every Day Is Judgement Day.

Continuing our meditation on the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128, some thoughts prompted by encounters with two survivors.

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The two cars pictured were photographed in the last 12 months. As well as being impressively original and looking as if they work for a living, they’re also examples of the last of their breeds.

The Maxi is one of the final ‘Maxi 2’ iteration, introduced to a largely indifferent world in August 1980, just 11 months from the end of production. The bright colour – ‘Snapdragon’ in BL parlance – suits it well. Far too many Maxis were specified in Russet Brown, Damask Red, or hearing-aid beige (formally known as “Champagne”), 1950s colours two decades on, in a time when BLMC’s Austin Morris colour pallet suddenly became positively vibrant. Tellingly, the archetypal Maxi customer avoided Bronze Yellow, Limeflower, or Blaze Red. Continue reading “Every Day Is Judgement Day.”

“To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!”

Oh, dear more actual news at DTW. 

Reduces stress
2019 Fiat 500L: source

Without wanting to drag Brexit into this**, I have to note that Larry Elliot at the Guardian is now visibly wrong about another big thing, the Renault-FCA merger (if it is even a realistic prospect). For your information, Elliot has been at the very least tolerant of the lunacy of Brexit. Now he is suggesting that the mooted, hinted, suggested alliance of FCA and Fiat is even worth considering.

The core of his recent article is that “Frosty relations between France’s Macron and Italy’s Salvini could scupper talks over £29bn merger”. It sounds so knowledgeable but Franco-Italian relations are 800 km beside the point.

Second, it’s not 1976 any more, a time when national leaders could push around large corporations as de Gaulle did with Fiat and Citroen. But the problem is so much more fundamental: the idea of FCA linking to Renault is as insane as suggesting someone should consider marrying a syphilitic zombie. In this instance Renault-Nissan is the “someone” and FCA is the “syphilitic zombie”. While Renault has had its downs and up, the F in FCA has been only able to Continue reading ““To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!””

A Candle Stick Fell Into The River One Day

Seven fat years: from 1993 to 1997 Fiat sold the Coupé Fiat as nobody calls it.  As if that was not enough Fiat also sold the cheaper Barchetta, which had a good ten year year run. Glory days indeed.

For inspiring the possessed
1997 Coupé Fiat

We’ll discuss the Coupé today. If the body slashes down the side of the car get the most attention, and deservedly so, this view shows another form of design discipline in operation.  The whole lot seems to be defined by very few lines: the outline, the dark trapezoids of the of lamps, grille aperture and the front screen and not much else.

How I wish I could Continue reading “A Candle Stick Fell Into The River One Day”

128 vs Maxi Part 4: The Racehorse and the Donkey

We return to our analysis of the 50-year old Austin and Fiat contemporaries with a look at their engines. One was the work of a revered racing engine designer, the other was cobbled together by two capable engineers in the backrooms of Longbridge under the thumb of an unsympathetic boss with his own peculiar agenda.

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On paper a conservative design, the Maxi’s E series engine turns out to be downright odd in its execution. It evolved from a 1300cc prototype with a belt-driven overhead camshaft, one of many experimental designs being developed in the West Works at Longbridge. Long-serving engine designers Eric Bareham and Bill Appleby were handed the task of reworking the inchoate power unit into an engine suitable for BMC’s new mid-range car.

More capacity was needed, so it was bored out to accommodate 3 inch pistons, leaving no space for waterways between bores or any further outward expansion. Issigonis vetoed belt drive for the camshaft in favour of a traditional single-roller chain, on the reasonable grounds that belt technology was new and unproven at the time. Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 4: The Racehorse and the Donkey”

128 vs Maxi Part 3 : Spring Song

We return to our two stars of the spring 1969 season with a look at the different approaches to chassis design adopted at Longbridge and Lingotto.  One car defied convention, the other defined the new orthodoxy.

Image: BMC

Raw facts first:  The Fiat 128 uses MacPherson struts at the front, with coil springs and a transverse anti-roll bar, and a fully independent system at the rear, comprising a transverse leaf spring, struts, and a single wishbone per side. The Austin Maxi has Hydrolastic springing and interconnection, with upper and lower links in a parallelogram arrangement at the front, and fully trailing arms at the rear.

That disregards the detail, which is significant in the understanding of the designers’ mindsets. Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 3 : Spring Song”

128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form

We continue our look at the spring 1969 debutants, contemplating heady matters of gestalt

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The rather Lancia Beta-like profile rendering from the early stages of BMC’s ADO14 project shows considerable promise. Too short in the nose, probably at Issigonis’ prompting, but otherwise elegant in spite of the ‘carry-over’ 1800 doors. So what went wrong along the road to BLMC’s five-door fiasco? Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form”

128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans

A little over 50 years ago, two of Europe’s leading automotive businesses introduced a pair of rather utilitarian cars to the world. One was hugely successful and influential, the other turned out to be a prophet with little honour in its own time.

In bombastic terms, there’s a ‘clash of giants’ story to be told. Issigonis v. Giacosa. BLMC v. Fiat SpA. Maxi v. 128. It’s not quite ‘rumble in the jungle’, but a comparison tells a lot about the way things were done at Lingotto and Longbridge.

In a curious coincidence, the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128 were the last cars developed by their lead designers which reached production, although Issigonis’ input to the Maxi project was sporadic and remote.

In Dante Giacosa’s words, “On 3rd January 1970, the chequered flag signalled my arrival at the finish of my career”. He had reached the age of 65, and resigned in compliance with company rules. Continue reading “128 v. Maxi Part 1 : Last Tango of the Titans”

Classic Road Test: 1979 Fiat Strada 75 CL 3-door

In what looks like a transcription of a period review, renowned motoring correspondent Archie Vicar peruses the interior and exterior of the Fiat Strada 75 CL and offers his opinions.

December 1979 English Driver Monthly

( The article first appeared in English Driver Monthly, a short-lived magazine from the Maxwell stable. Douglas Land Windingmere (sic) took the published photos. Due to cellulose oxidation of the originals, stock images have been used)

Although it has been on sale for a while (since 1978 in Europe), the Strada is new for us at English Driver Monthly and since Fiat UK offered us a test car to show off the revised shock absorbers (or some such) we could not say no to a road test report.

So, it was off to Dijon via Bruges, Brussels and Stuttgart to see if the Strada had it in itself to Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1979 Fiat Strada 75 CL 3-door”

Emeritus Professor of Leucocholy Stumbles On

It’s all over the news: the Puma is back. 

We miss you, little diamond: source

But it’s not. The next car to bear the name won’t be a Puma, but a vehicle called Puma. Supposedly, the reason for re-using the name, in part, rests on the fact the new car is based on the Fiesta just like the old, and frankly much-missed little pocket rocket (1997-2002). And every one liked the Puma so it’s a name with some emotional weight.

The new vehicle is a manner of SUV, a Fiesta raised a bit to make it look like a cross-over. Doesn’t that make you Continue reading “Emeritus Professor of Leucocholy Stumbles On”

Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0 Part 2

Previously DTW featured what was apparently a transcript of a period road test of the Fiat 132 2.0 by the legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar; this is a continuation of the road test.

1979 Fiat 132: autoevolution

This part of the article first appeared in the Skegness Standard. The original photographs were by Dennis du Barry. Due to loss of opacity of the originals, stock photos have been used.

If you look even half-heartedly, the revised Fiat 132 strikes one as obviously very much a car for the average driver, despite it all. My decision to visit Nancy as part of a thorough high-mileage road test of the car was justified by the ways the car’s good and not so good points were brought to the fore. These included the very Italian style, both inside and out.

One example of this is that when we were trying to Continue reading “Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0 Part 2”

Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0

In what appears to be a transcript of a period review, legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar offers some thoughts about the Fiat 132.

1979 Fiat 132 : source

The article first appeared in the Peterborough Herald and Post, 8 December 1979. The original photograph was by Douglas Land-Wibblemere (sic). Due to poor storage conditions, stock photos have been used.

It is a sign, perhaps, of Fiat’s confidence in its engineering nous that the 132 is still on sale, a good seven years after its first appearance at Peterborough Fiat dealers. With the demise of the largely excellent 130, the honour goes to the 132 to take the crown as the flagship of Fiat’s range. To help the 132 undertake this considerable challenge, for the 130 was largely excellent, the 132 has undergone a selection of updates to keep it up to snuff in these increasingly competitive times.

Among the welcome alterations to the Fiat 132 are attractive new plastic bumpers, a revised dashboard and improved seat trims (Austin, take note). The steering ratio has been adjusted and lent the support of servo-assistance. These mods are in addition to a re-styled exterior (a few years ago) and thickened rubber mats for models in the upper range.

In usual Fiat style, the 173 inch car has a commendable selection of engines and almost none are available:  a 1.6 litre petrol, a 2.0 litre petrol (I drove the twin-carb 2000 with revised rubber mats), a 2.0 petrol with fuel injection and a 2.5 litre diesel which Fiat UK refuse to let out on loan to anyone except the chap from the Express. It’s that slow but in London you’d never Continue reading “Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0”

Geneva 2019 Reflections – Pio Would Have Loved This

For one DTW reporter, there was only one star of the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. We take stock of Fiat’s Concept Centoventi.

Image: fiatpress.com

Still in mild shock at the most dramatic ECotY announcement in years, my Geneva companions and I took our customary evening promenade round the halls of Palexpo. The FCA stand promised little. We knew they had no new cars, but at least they turned up, unlike some, and Alfa and Fiat had heavily concealed concept cars to show the following morning.

Later in the evening we talked of what is to become of Fiat. Three of us, we have all had various Fiats in our lives and enjoyed the experience. Now the company seemed to be ever more marginalised in the increasingly Jeep-centric world of FCA in the Manley Era.

The FCA Press Conference was therefore a must-see. New introductions were thin on the ground. Alfa Romeo had the Tonale SUV concept, but no mention was made of the GTV. Jeep showed petrol-hybrid Renegades and Compasses, but they will not Continue reading “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Pio Would Have Loved This”

O Wander Into My Dreams

Bob asked a question on Friday. The question is why the Fiat 130 V6 motor was not used in the Lancia Thema instead of the 90 degree PRV6.

1972 Fiat 130 saloon

I will quote the comment in full: “What were the limitations of the 60-degree Fiat 130 V6 that prevented it from being mounted in FWD applications like the Thema / Croma (and Gamma) compared to the 90-degree PRV V6, let alone from receiving further development like later versions of the related Fiat 128 SOHC 4-cylinder engines?”

Let us take as our text the wise word of Wikipedia as a starting point. The Fiat 130 engine had its roots in the what is called the “128 type A” motor, which seems to have been designed at about the same time.

That 128 engine was an in-line four with an iron block and aluminium cylinder hear with an SOHC; the camshaft was belt driven. (So – is that assertion true, that in in-line four can Continue reading “O Wander Into My Dreams”

Little Monster

Contributor, Chris Elvin returns to our pages to establish whether his Panda really eats shoots and leaves. 

(c) motoringbox

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”

History in Cars – Ciao Baby

Driven to Write recalls his earlier forays into motoring.

Owing to the poor quality of the originals, stock photos have been used. (c) autoevolution

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”

Surf’s Up

Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.

Image: (c) Auto-Didakt

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”

Only Then Can The Quietude Commence

DTW’s keen eye for a bad detail espied this mechanically adequate A-pilllar recently.

Title title tile

While some Chryslers left the showrooms wearing Lancia badges in recent years, Fiat also had a chance to Continue reading “Only Then Can The Quietude Commence”

Missing the Point

Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.

Image credit: (c) allaguida

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.

It comes as something of a surprise that Fiat UK saw fit to Continue reading “Missing the Point”

Eurochild

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.

Don’t worry, it’s galvanised! 1988 Tipo perilously close to water. Image credit: stubs.centreblog

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”

L’Estrema Unzione

Amid reports suggesting Fiat will shortly abandon Italian car production, Driven to Write posits a requiem.

Fiat’s Mirafiori car plant. Image credit: kollectium

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”

Under The Moon’s Burning Glare

Good old Automotive News reported some juicy gossip regarding Fiat Chrysler Automotive. 

2002 Fiat Stilo, decent seller with with 3 doors: Parkers.co.uk

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.

With the production lines thus freed up it will be possible to Continue reading “Under The Moon’s Burning Glare”

Broken Rhythm

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?

Still want that Regata? An unattributed styling proposal for a three volume Ritmo. Image credit: (c) Pinterest

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”

Ritmo Della Strada

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.

Style statement. Image credit: cargurus

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”

Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say

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.

Source: R Parazitas

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”

DTW’s Top Twenty-Two Great European Cars – Part 1

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.  

Borgward P100: reddit

We will start off by a reminder of why a Seat, a Borgward and a Fiat are remembered as they are.

The dubious honour of trailing at number 22 in this list belongs to the 1991 Seat Toledo. That was the one that set the standard the others never quite lived up to. To find out more about the Toledo and the others you have to Continue reading “DTW’s Top Twenty-Two Great European Cars – Part 1”

The Muse of Melpomene

Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?

Image credit: car-info

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”

A Tale of Two Towers

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.  

2b0239bc140235adf3dca702bb4a4bb0-lancia
photo (c) pinterest.com

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”

Fiat Nox (I)

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.

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Ritmo, post surgery, photo (c) YouTube.com

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.

So, in order to Continue reading “Fiat Nox (I)”

Anniversary Waltz 2017: Sweet Smell of Success

Our final retrospective waltz in this series lands in 1957.

Bert Lancaster as JJ Hundseker and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco from the 1957 Alexander McKendrick release, Sweet Smell of Success. Image: video city

1957’s Sweet Smell of Success was an unusual film for its era, made by a director better known for lighthearted comedies, casting its two leads against type and portraying a seedy, rapacious twilight world behind the gloss of celebrity culture. In that respect, it was a very modern film, but it was one the public were not quite ready to accept. Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017: Sweet Smell of Success”

A Concept for Sunday – Boating for Beginners.

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’.

Fiat-Maggiore Scia concept. Image: fiatbarchetta

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.

This was largely a result of Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – Boating for Beginners.”

Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge

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.

FIAT 500 1.2L Lounge in Pasodoble Red
So familiar, it’s invisible

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.

I think I am also biased by Continue reading “Pointless Road Test – FIAT 500 1.2l Lounge”

A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job

Was it not Grahame Greene who said “If I can’t have the bream I’ll have a salad instead”? 

2017 Fiat 500 Anniversario

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 CenturyContinue reading “A Photo for Sunday: The Italian Paint Job”

The Cormorant Rethinks

Much was made by Lancia of the Delta’s symbolism: change and continuity at the same time. Before it came the Lybra. Read on to see what that was like.

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”

Swimming in the Bight

So, Lancia Delta, what are you like to drive? Driven To Write continues its quest to test every Lancia available. 

2008 Lancia Delta 1.6 Oro

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.

One could Continue reading “Swimming in the Bight”

Torinese Marina – 1977 Fiat 132

Dud big Fiat or misunderstood mongrel? Lets get our feet wet, shall we?

All images taken from original Fiat sales material.

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”

A Photo for Sunday: Jam and Marmalade

Reader Stradale kindly sent this photo which summed up some of the week’s subjects.

1993 Fiat Punto and 1995 Lancia Y in Milan

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”

Spirito di Punto

Rumours of the Punto’s demise might well be exaggerated, but a successor could finally be in sight.

The 2017 Fiat Punto. “Dynamic, attractive and timeless”, say Fiat. I think they simply mean old. Image: autotoday.it

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”

Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On

As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…

1963 124 prototype. Note the Simca 1300 grille. Image: Automobilia

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”

Fiat al Fredo – 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé

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.

1967 Fiat Dino Coupe. Image: Wheelsage

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”

Reverting to Type

A seemingly harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.

Tipo Berlina. Image: Car Suggest

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”

Brochures Redux – Midship Triptych

Three brochures for the same car demonstrate Fiat’s marketing skills – or lack thereof.

All images: Driven to Write
All images: Driven to Write

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”

World Cars 1984 (2) : Bertone Ritmo Cabriolet

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”.

1984 Bertone Ritmo cabriolet: wikipedia.org
1984 Bertone Ritmo cabriolet: wikipedia.org

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”

Fiat Multipla: Time to Belt Up

Richard’s recent examination of a brochure for a 1998 Fiat Multipla inevitably drew diverging opinions in the comments about the vehicle’s styling.

The contentious belt line.
The Multipla’s contentious belt line.

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”

Theme: Brochures – 1998 Fiat Multipla

I picked this brochure up at the Birmingham Motorshow in 1997 or 1998. 

1998 Fiat Multipla brochure
1998 Fiat Multipla brochure

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.

While the public had mixed feelings, most of the press disdained the eye-catching style. And yes, it is not conventionally beautiful;  Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1998 Fiat Multipla”

The Fellow Traveller

We’re looking at the Fiat 124 at 50. Or are we?

Fiat 124 Berlina - You call that snow. You should see what they have in Russia.
Fiat 124 Berlina as lifestyle transport – You call that snow? Wait until you see what they have in Russia.

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”

Theme: Sudamerica – Fiat in Uruguay

Uruguay is the second smallest state in South-America. Being right next door to Brazil, it’s natural enough one can buy Fiats there.

2016 Fiat Uruguay range: source
2016 Fiat Uruguay range: source

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”

The Late Film: Mistaken Identity

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.

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The mighty FIAT Cinquecento Sporting (source Retro 02)

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”