How does one define Italy’s relationship to the motor car? One might start by attempting to define the country itself.
[Editor’s note: This piece is a re-run of an article originally published in May 2016, as part of DTW’s Values theme.]
As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation. That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.
As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Values – Italy”
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.
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.
Very reluctantly I have decided to try to make sense of Simca’s slow fade from the market.
I have our monthly theme to thank – my interest has been piqued. Up to now Simca has meant little and I didn’t plan to write a lot on the topic. Simon Kearne insisted slightly too.
My findings are partly just a bit of editorial reworking of the mess that is already publicly available at Wikipedia. My contribution is to put in some bits about Chrysler and Peugeot. And also to make a DTW exclusive “infographic”. It is barely legible, frankly. The main use has been to explain (to me at least) the chronology of Chrysler/Talbot/Simca’s model terminations. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.”
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”
In 1964 the Skoda 1000MB went on sale, replacing the first Octavia of 1959 (which stayed in production anyway). It had a 1.0 litre four-cylinder engine.
And it started a long series of rear-engined Skodas. It’s not a car I know a lot about. The Wikipedia web-page reeks of fandom: “Apart from the use of cooling vents in the rear wings and rear panel, everything else about the 1000 MB’s styling was normal, which was undoubtedly in an attempt to appeal to all the conservative-minded buyers in export countries like the UK. This car was highly successful both for Škoda and the Czech economy”.
This item is from legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar’s motoring diary for the Chester Mail, July 1972.
Time stops for no man but Fiats can stop for everyone, at any time. While out on test with the revised Fiat 128 I found myself stuck by the side of the road near the Swan at Tarporley: failed brakes. The wretched car juddered to a halt with engine braking just as the lunch menu reached its final dregs. Only the rabbit brawn remained (foul) and I followed that with some Cheshire pudding and followed that by coaxing the stricken car back to life.
In 1989 the little Lancia Y10 looked like the runt of Lancia’s litter. What was it doing in the range?
At that time Lancia dealers stocked the ordinary Delta, the Delta HF, the Prisma 1600, the Thema and Thema Ferrari 8.32. Did any European manufacturer have such an inconsistent or heterogeneous range? Isuzu had a coupé and an SUV – (Piazza and Trooper), while Subaru had the tiny Justy, midsized 1800 4wd estate and the XT. Perhaps only Volvo’s odd mix of the 340, 480, 240 and 740/760 gets close in terms of antiquity/novelty and visual difference. No, the prize for incoherence must be Lancia’s. Continue reading “Small Wonder”
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. 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 “Itsy, Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Hotted Up Machinie”, or something similar). The little FIAT had everything I liked at the time. It was small, chunky, smart, with just enough tough about it (almost entirely down to slightly lowered suspension and a set of 1” larger and wider alloys and tyres), and came in a beautifully bright and cheery yellow.
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…”
As well as providing the location for the suspension system and being sufficiently durable, a car body needs to protect the bodies of the occupants. And to look alright.
If we compare the smooth bodies of contemporary vehicles with early attempts at safety engineering you notice how safety was first ‘added on’ by means of obviously larger bumpers and also by the use of safety padding inside the car. Volvo took this approach as did the GM ESV (1972) and Fiat with the ESV (1973). GM did also provide for passive safety by removing the A-pillars and fitting airbags. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – Protecting Them”
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”
You can make 4-cylinder engines bigger but what about making a smaller 6?
We have considered two approaches to bridging the 2.0 to 2.5 litre capacity gap, the enlarged 4-cylinder engines, and the 5-cylinder concept. And while the first is relatively common and the second shall we say not unusual, there is one other method of adding power and prestige to a smaller engine. That route is the road less travelled, 2-litre V6s.
The first small capacity V6 I could think of turned out to be a 1.8 litre V6 used in the Mazda MX-3, a car whose appearance I never got to grips with. In this small feature “two” is the magic number, so the 1.5 litre V6s used in racing will also be overlooked – also because I am not at all interested in motor sport. I am allergic to nylon padded jackets. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue – Engines: The Road Less Travelled”
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 differences between Poland and Germany take many forms.
Fighting in 1945 meant Guben (Germany) and Gubin (Poland) both experienced near total devastation. They stand on the Niesse river that divides the two countries. Today Guben has a city centre and Gubin has some apartment blocks, a ruined church and a lot of trees. Essentially, the Poles didn’t rebuild. Among this lot I found a lovely FSO Polonez in what looks like late-model trim. Continue reading “Polish Snapshots”
We continue our stroll down the list of obscure brands that may tempt you from Opel, Ford and VW.
I shall kick off with Aspid. Seven linger on the lists of Autoscout 24. Based in Spain, Aspid sell rather specialised sports cars. Wikipedia has two lines on the cars and those seven sellers of used Aspids can’t find the time or mean to upload photos of their cars. That I find very curious. Everyone knows what a Golf looks like so if you don’t include a photo it’s not such a big deal. Since Aspids are less common, a photo would be quite helpful to whet the appetite of a the buyer torn between a 2012 Focus 1.4 and a €35,000 car with 404 hp on offer. Without photos it’s hard to know what to make of cars listed as being from 1999 (before Aspid was founded) with 45 hp and costing curious sums like €4431. The next one costs €5000 and has 355 hp. TopSpeed ran an article about the GT-21 in 2012 and Car and Evo reviewed the SS in ’08 and ’09 respectively. The car GT-21 has a 4.4 litre V8 and weighs half nothing meaning the claimed 0-60 last no longer than 2.9 seconds. It’s nice to know that cottage manufacturers exist outside of Modena and the British Midlands. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: Aspid to Borgward”
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”
Ultimately then, how does one encapsulate the Lancia Gamma?
When Fiat handed Sergio Camuffo Lancia’s flatlining cadaver and told him to administer emergency CPR, he did the best he could, but there was only so much that could be achieved. Because despite Fiat management allowing him sufficient autonomy during the immediate post-takeover period to produce cars that were (on the face of things at least) respectful of Lancia’s traditions, the Italian car giant’s locked-in prejudice against the upmarket led to a fatal ambivalence. This schizophrenic attitude to their new acquisition most likely informed the compromises that damned both the Beta family and later, the Gamma itself. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Twelve”
The Minx name is mostly forgotten today, a legacy of the demise of its parent company, Hillman.
However, Hillman used the Minx name for nearly fifty years on three or four generations of cars. As was typical of Rootes, the Minx name had a convoluted model history of small upgrades, badge engineering and variants such as the Super Minx with moderately modified bodywork. There is an awful lot of noise to sort out to get at the core of the Minx story. As with many of the cars of the time, the exact social significance and market positioning is rather hard to parse and I suspect one could Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1956-1967 Hillman Super Minx”
My casual analysis of the Italian fleet leads me to conclude Fiat, GM, Toyota and VW dominate the low to middle market and thereafter it’s Audi and Mercedes. The losers are Renault and Citroen at one end, Ford in the middle and Lexus and BMW at the top. Subaru, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi have no strong presence. Alfa aren’t even all that common. Continue reading “Micropost: The Italian Car Park”
In a way, so to speak. If you lived in Italy you could be forgiven for thinking Lancia were still popular.
Here, south of Naples, Lancias outnumber Fords. There are very few Fords and Renaults, not even small ones such as Twingos. The first thing I did when stepping out of the airport was to photograph a Lancia Musa “Fifth Avenue” which had button-pleated beige leather seating. Continue reading “Lancia Lives”
As anyone has read a few books on Italian history will know, it’s a great bunch of countries. Only foreigners lump it all together as one nation.
That gives us a bit of a head start in understanding how Italy’s values translate into the broad array of markedly different car companies being stifled under one management.
As recently as the 1950s you could still find people in the deep south of Italy who didn’t know what Italy was. While outsiders consider Italy to have been unified, many Italians still Continue reading “Theme: Values – Italy”
This could well be another item in the Japanese-theme series we’re running. The title would then be so long I’d have no room for the rest of the article.
The short story about this car is that it’s Toyota’s first front wheel drive entrant in the mid-size market. The previous Camry had rear-wheel drive. Wikipedia has all the nitty plus all the gritty details of engines (this is probably a 1.8 litre four-cylinder car) and product evolution. They also explain the difference between the cars sold in the two lines of Toyota dealerships (very little). One channel is the Toyota Corolla Store and the other is the Toyota Vista Store. The European models at this time received the Toyota Vista Store grilles, making it more like the Japanese-market Toyota Vista than the Japanese market Toyota Camry or US Camry. I’ll get to the bottom of this dual line of dealerships one day. It’s more confusing than string theory. Continue reading “A photo Series For Sunday: 1982- 1986 Toyota Camry DX”
This is part of Driven To Write’s unique service. Normally colour analyses are expensive and hard-to-get proprietary information. We give it away for free.
It’s probably not comprehensive. Gizmag kindly put together a slide show of the most important cars and I added to the list with some Google image searches of brands they didn’t cover in their slide show. Did Cadillac really not show anything of note? Hyundai isn’t on my chart. If they were, it would have been another white car. Toyota showed a Continue reading “2016 Detroit Motor Show Colour Analysis”
Fiat acquired the shattered remnants of Lancia in 1969. The Italian car giant was ill-prepared for what it discovered.
Fiat made its name, reputation and not inconsiderable fortune from small cars, cost-engineered and rationalised to be inexpensive to produce, to buy and to 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 tale is etched in automotive folklore, but how well do we really know the Lancia Gamma ? In this series, we unravel its difficult birth and inglorious career.
Death by a thousand Fiats:
Fiat’s stewardship of Lancia has been such a shameful series of episodes, it’s difficult now to imagine the road to perdition being paved with good intentions. Because if nothing else, the Gamma stands as an illustration of how mergers and acquisitions never quite work out. Throughout its history as an independent manufacturer, Lancia produced exquisitely engineered automobiles that garnered respect and deep admiration, but consistently cost more than the company could afford. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part One”
FCA’s Olivier François outlines Fiat’s flat-pack future.
On the basis of his recent outpourings, I rather doubt whether FCA’s Olivier François has ever been to an IKEA retail outlet. After all, visiting one of their stores is a little like dentistry. Numbingly unpleasant but occasionally necessary. At such times I’m compelled to go, I try to plan my expeditions in military fashion. Go when its quiet, get in, get the target and get the hell out. Continue reading “Forthcoming Fiats Will Be Like IKEA.”
Among the many publications to which Archie Vicar contributed was the Woman’s Monthly Report (WMR), published in Tewkesbury.
This text appears to be a transcript of his views on the updated Fiat 127, an item notable for its distinct refusal to patronise the audience, published in the WMR in October 1977. Owing to the original film being accidentally exposed in transit, stock images have been used.
The Fiat 127 has come to define the category of car it created, the “supermini” . Six years on from its launch a quarter of all “superminis” are 127s. The appeal of the car is in its handy size and competitive price if not its boxy appearance and careless assembly. Since 1971, Renault, Volkswagen and Peugeot have fielded entrants in the class. It’s time for Fiat to respond.
To stay competitive, Fiat have updated and improved various aspects of the 127 which, while being small and cheap, is also noisy, cramped and slow. Fiat showcased their new car in a lavish event set in the north of Italy and I noted how much the car has been improved. Continue reading “1977 Fiat 127 review”
Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts…
European car sales figures from Jan-September 2014 illustrate an unexpected bright spot at FCA’s beleaguered Fiat division. It’s not much to write home about, but the former Torinese powerhouse is once again dominating the sub-compact car market. Between the top selling 500 and second placed Panda, Fiat have the mini-car sector sown up, with joint recorded sales of over 239,000 in the year to September. The 500 has performed well above expectations this year; especially so given the model’s age, with sales up 16% on 2013. The good news for Sergio continues with a small miracle occurring at Lancia. Continue reading “Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up”
A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.
A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design.
Italy’s engineering giants slug it out for your entertainment.
Given the size of the Italian motor industry by comparison to say, the United States or Germany, it’s difficult to compile a list of the great engine designers without coming to the conclusion that Italy has historically punched well above its weight. The fact that most of them were schooled through Italy’s once thriving aeronautical industry says as much about the era from which they emerged as the political and socio-economic causes, but either way, Italy’s contribution to the pantheon of notable engines is undeniable. Continue reading “Theme: Engines – The Greatest?”
It’s been going on for so long now, it almost seems a tradition. Fiat’s styling has always been variable. They have produced some great designs and some disappointingly dumpy ones, often in the same generation. But what is constant is that, when it comes to facelift time, however good or bad the original was, the facelift is always worse.
There are various theories I can offer and, not being a Fiat insider, that is all I can do.
While reading about the Humber Super Snipe and its competitors I stumbled across this.
It’s a very nicely filmed piece about a Fiat 2300S and its owner, Pierantonio Micciarelli. I have to say that the man’s elegant dress sense made me yearn to be Italian. They do know how to choose their threads. But beyond that, this (for me) forgotten coupé is superbly presented and discussed with considerable fluency by the lucky fellow who is its custodian. This is another of those cars that evokes dusk drives around the Cap Ferrat.
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”
The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them. Part two – There will be blood:
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now.
A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.
Now that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.