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”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Two

Fiat acquired the shattered remnants of Lancia in 1969. The Italian car giant was ill-prepared for what it discovered.

The 1969 Fiat 130 Berlina. Image via favcars
Corporate hubris? The slow-selling (if excellent) 1969 Fiat 130 Berlina. Image via favcars

Fiat made its name, reputation and not inconsiderable fortune from small cars, cost-engineered and rationalised to be inexpensive to produce, to buy and maintain. During Italy’s post-war industrial boom, the Turin car maker grew massively catering to the home market’s growing affluence and thirst for motorisation. By the late 1960’s however, Fiat’s management realised that over 70% of their car business was concentrated in the bottom end of the market – one with the least potential for profit. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Two”

The Brand That Time Forgot: Autobianchi

We look at an invisible landmark.

Autobianchi Emblem
Exhibit at The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Looking at the period between 1955 and 1975, there are various cars that we might identify as landmarks. For example the Citroen DS, BMC Mini, Ford Mustang, Lamborghini Miura, Renault 16, Jaguar XJ, NSU Ro80, Fiat 128, Range Rover, Renault 5 and VW Golf are all cars that really stood out at the time, even if some of them, fine cars that they remain, might now be seen as landmarks to nowhere, having no true descendants among today’s products. One car, however, certainly has undoubted conceptual descendants today, but would usually be overlooked when compiling such lists, and quite unjustifiably. The Autobianchi Primula.

Further to two earlier pieces, one on Etceterini, one on the Autobianchi A111, it’s interesting to look at Autobianchi in a bit more detail. The Bianchi company was started in 1885 as a bicycle manufacturer and exists to this day as such – indeed, I believe our own Eóin Vincent used a Bianchi in his ascent of Mont Ventoux. Before World War 2, they also dabbled in cars, but when Bianchi wanted to make new inroads as a car manufacturer in the 1950s, it formed a separate joint three-way company with Fiat and Pirelli. The original attraction for Fiat was to produce less mainstream vehicles and tap a market that, until then, belonged to a sizeable number of small manufacturers, such as the well-respected Moretti. Continue reading “The Brand That Time Forgot: Autobianchi”

Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111

Today we look at a shortlived 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. Continue reading “Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111”