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.”

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 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.

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”

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. Continue reading “Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111”