Cars of Italy – May 2017

It used to be the case that across Europe there were very distinct differences in the list of cars that were available and more importantly which sold in quantity, reflecting both which cars were produced locally in country as well as differing tastes, budgets and other constraints such as the fiscal regime and space to park in places designed and built long before there were cars. Whilst these days the list of available models tends not to vary very much at all across the whole of Europe, so there can be something of a same-ness to what see out on the streets no matter which country you are in. A program of Scrappage schemes, as well as tougher annual tests like the British MoT have decimated the population of older cars, certainly that are in every use and that you are likely to come across out on the road or in the supermarket carpark in the way you would have done a decade or so ago, but they are still out there, if you are a bit more patient, and this proves to be more true the further south and east you head into Europe. And so during the course of a week’s late spring vacation, based on the outskirts of Florence, and where I roamed around the northern part of Tuscany and also took a trip over the hills to Modena, I saw a good number of older models, mostly Italian, out on the roads or parked up. Clearly those I saw whilst driving have gone unrecorded, but there are plenty that I saw which were parked up and when I was in a position to take a photo or two. Few of them were totally pristine, but even so they present an interesting collection of cars almost all of which were one a common sight even on British roads, but which are a rare sighting now at anything other than a special event. Here is what I was able to photograph:ALFA ROMEO

These days the 164 is a rare sighting even in its native Italy, just as it is in the UK, but there are survivors and I was pleased to find this one. I still love this car and seeing one always brings back happy memories of the one I drove for 4 years and 160,000 miles from 1995 to 1999 and which to this day is the car I regret parting with more than any other of the fleet that I have owned over the years. Most people who know anything about the history of the 164 will be aware that this is one of the four so-called Type 4 cars, a joint venture involving Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Saab. In 1978 these four marques agreed to each develop an executive saloon based on a shared platform to compete against the likes of the Ford Granada and Opel Rekord (Vauxhall Carlton) as well as more premium saloons by BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the form of the 5-Series and E-Class, respectively. Alfa’s Project 164 started life as Project 154 and was completed in 1981, then still under Alfa Romeo. A year later, that project morphed into the 164 based on the Type Four platform. This new model was designed by Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina, with a wedge shape that afforded it a leading drag coefficient of Cd=0.30. The design would later influence the rest of the Alfa Romeo range starting in 1990 with the major redesign of the 33 and culminating with the 155, and Pininfarina also adapted it (much to the maker’s chagrin) for the 1987 Peugeot 405 and the 1989 Peugeot 605 saloons. Initial testing of the 164’s dynamic elements (engine and drivetrain) began in 1984, where mules based on the then contemporary Giulietta were used. In 1985, the first pre-production 164’s were put through their paces on the road. Heavily disguised, with many false panels and even a false nose design (borrowing heavily from the then equally undeveloped 155), sporting 4 round headlamps, these vehicle mules served to test the 164 for the gruelling 1 million kilometre static and road testing demanded of the design. In 1986 and 1987, the first 150 164’s were given their pre-production testing. In terms of engineering demands, these exceeded every Alfa before, and by quite a substantial margin. In Morocco, desert testing saw 5 grey 164 Twinsparks and V6’s undergo the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar rally. Road conditions varied from good tarmac to off-road conditions, and accelerometers confirmed the superiority of the 164 in terms of passenger comfort. This data was cross-confirmed in the engineering laboratory with a sophisticated dummy in the driver’s seat, with accelerometers both in its seat, and in its ears to mimic that of the semi-circular canals of the ear. The Twinspark and the V6 underwent handling trials at Arese. The Twinspark displayed very mature driving manners at the limit, with minimal skid. The V6 displayed a 25% increase in at-the-limit skid, a natural consequence of its greater nose weight. ABS testing confirmed that the Twinspark has superior braking to the V6. Brake linings of the 164’s were run at maximum braking until they literally glowed with heat, and displayed no deviation in form. The 164 was the first Alfa to feature slotted double-walled disc brakes. At no point were the discs drilled to release excess heat, the original design being demonstrated to be excellent. Sound production was tested in an anechoic chamber, the car being subjected to stress and road noise testing, with instruments and with live subjects at the wheel, on a specially designed rig. Electromagnetic stability of the complex electronic system was also tested, in an anechoic chamber equipped with EM emitters (radar). The 164 engines were run to destruction, the Twinspark proving to be the most robust, and with the longest possible engine life. The V6 displayed only 10% shorter overall engine life. All this testing meant that by the time the production car, called the 164 was unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show – the last model to be developed while the Alfa Romeo was still a fully independent company, even though the launch was a few months after the takeover by Fiat – that the car was far more thoroughly developed and tested than any Alfa preceding it. There were plenty of innovations in the build, too, thanks to the extensive use of galvanised steel for the frame and various body panels for the first time in the brand’s history. Moreover, the car featured advanced electronics thanks to the most complex wiring harness fitted to any Alfa Romeo. For example: it had three onboard computers (one for air conditioning, one for instrumentation, and one for the engine management); air conditioning and instrument functions shared a multiple-mode coded Zilog Z80-class microcontroller for dashboard functioning). The instrumentation included a full range of gauges including an advanced check-panel.. The car was a sensation at launch. For a start, it looked fantastic thanks to Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina’ design. The first 1:1 scale model of the car had been produced in 1982 and design cues had been publicly revealed on the Alfa Romeo Vivace concept car, which was exhibited at the 1986 Turin Motorshow that went on to influence the design of the Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider (916 series) launched in 1993, but the result was distinctive and elegant and very different from any of its rivals, or indeed any of the other Tipo 4 cars. The 164 became the first Alfa to benefit from extensive use of computer aided design, used to calculate structural stresses that resulted in a very rigid but still relatively lightweight chassis. Although sharing the same platform as that of the Lancia Thema, Fiat Croma and Saab 9000, by virtue of the fact that it was the last of the four to enter production, it featured unique front suspension geometry and the most distinctive styling of the lot. In fact, for example, the other cars all shared identical side door panels. Though still voluminous, the 164 had the tightest aperture to the boot, which had a 510-Litre capacity. The interior was spacious and modern, available with standard velour seating or leather trim depending on the model. Its dashboard continued the avantgarde design of the exterior with a centre dashboard that was dominated by a large number of seemingly identical buttons arranged in rows. Air-direction within the ventilation system was controlled by a pair of servomechanisms, which were constructed using notoriously fragile plastic gears that were prone to failure. Depending on the model, the 164 could feature automatic climate control and electronically controlled damping suspension – the latter, for example, in the sports-oriented Quadrifoglio Verde (“Green Cloverleaf “) and 164S models. This suspension actively reduced damping in response to conditions to provide a dynamic compromise between road holding and comfort. At launch, the original 164 range comprised three models: a 148 bhp 2.0 Twin Spark, the 192 bhp 3.0i V6 12-valve and a 2.5 Turbodiesel (badged “TD”). It took a year before the first cars reached the UK and the first eighteen months saw only the 3 litre model offered. The bigger selling 2.0 TS arrived in the simmer of 1990, just before the range was expanded by the 4-cylinder 2.0i Turbo, the sports-oriented 3.0i V6 Quadrifoglio Verde (badged “QV” or “S”) and North American export versions that included the luxury-oriented 164 L (“L” for Lusso) and the 164 S (in essence, the “QV”). Apart from minor running production upgrades, the next change came in 1993 with the launch of the 164 Super. Key differences on the outside consisted of larger bumpers with chrome trimmings added to the upper edge and revised headlights with a slimmer profile. Inside, there were revised instruments and a centre console that featured more delineated switchgear. The range was now also bolstered by a 3.0 V6 24V with a 24-valve engine upgrade and the 3.0 V6 Quadrifoglio 4 (badged “Q4”), which was the most powerful and sole all wheel drive variant built. Production ended in late 1997, with a gap of nearly two years before the replacement model would go on sale.

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When it came to replacing the 33, Alfa decided that they needed not just a five door hatch, but a three door as well, just as had been offered with the AlfaSud. The three door model, the Alfa Romeo 145 (Tipo 930A) was first to appear, making its debut on static display at the April 1994 Turin Motor Show and then at the Paris Motor Show in July. A simultaneous European commercial launch was planned for 9 September, but it was delayed until October. It was only in April 1992 that work had begun on a second car, the 146 or Tipo 930B, derived from and to be sold alongside the 145; with its more traditionally Alfa Romeo style it was aimed at a different clientele, that of the outgoing Alfa Romeo 33. The 146 premiéred in November 1994 at the Bologna Motor Show and went on sale in May 1995. The two cars shared design plans and interior components from the B-pillar forwards, but with very different looking rear ends. Based, as they were, on the Fiat Group’s Tipo Due (Type Two) platform, the 145 and 146 had a unibody structure, front MacPherson strut and rear trailing arm suspensions. A peculiarity of these cars is that they were designed to be fitted with both longitudinal engines (the older Boxers) and with transverse engines (the diesels and the Twin Spark). The former were mounted in the same configuration as on the 33 or Alfasud, that is longitudinally overhanging the front axle with the gearbox towards the cabin; the latter in the conventional transverse position with the gearbox to the left side. All engines were coupled to 5-speed manual transmissions. Steering was rack and pinion, with standard hydraulic power assistance. At launch the engine line-up for both cars comprised a 1.9-litre inline-four turbo diesel and the boxer petrol engines from the 33, in 1.3 8-valve, 1.6 8-valve and range topping 1.7 16-valve flat four forms. Depending on the market, the engines were available in either or both base and better equipped L (for “Lusso”) trim levels; L trim standard equipment was richer on larger engined cars. Flagship sport models with the two-litre 16-valve Twin Spark inline-four engine from the Alfa Romeo 155 arrived a year after the début: the 145 Quadrifoglio and 146 ti. Each of the two-litre versions had a unique trim level; both included richer standard equipment than L trims, like ABS, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob and available Recaro sport seats. The 145 Quadrifoglio (145 Cloverleaf in the UK), launched at the September 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show and on sale from October,had deep body-colour side skirts with “green cloverleaf” badges and 5-hole alloy wheels. The 146 ti went on sale in February 1996. It came with painted side skirts, a boot spoiler and 12-hole alloy wheels. Two-litre cars were equipped with stiffer suspension, uprated all-disk braking system, ABS, wider, lower-profile tires and ‘quick-rack’ direct steering (also seen on the 155, GTV and Spider) which improved responsiveness, but also compromised the turning circle. The sporty suspension set-up was harsher than many others in its category at the time, but this was in line with the Fiat Group’s marketing of Alfa Romeo as a sporting brand and it is said to have resulted in class leading handling. From January 1997 all the boxer engines were phased out in favour of 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 versions of the Twin Spark 16-valve engine.1.8-litre cars adopted the sport chassis, steering and brakes of the Quadrifoglio/ti, and also offered some of their optional equipment such as the sport seats. At the same time the interior was updated: a new air conditioning system, a redesigned dashboard an upholstered insert were fitted. Outside changes were minor: new wheel covers and alloy wheels and a wider choice of paint colours. In late 1997 Alfa Romeo introduced the Junior, a trim level targeted at young buyers that combined the sport styling and chassis setup of the range topping models with the affordable entry-level 1.4 powertrain,later with 1.6 engine too. Based on the 1.4 L, Junior cars were distinguished by the Quadrifoglio’s side skirts with “Junior” badges, specific 15 inch alloy wheels, and by the stainless steel exhaust tip (as well as, on the 146, the boot spoiler) from the ti. A year later 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark engines received the updates first introduced on the Alfa Romeo 156; thanks to variable length intake manifolds the two powertrains gained 4-5 PS and reached peak torque at engine speeds some 500 rpm lower. At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1999 Alfa Romeo introduced the restyled ’99 line-up for both models. The new common rail direct injection 1.9 JTD turbo diesel replaced the 1.9 TD. The main changes outside were new, body-colour bumpers with round fog lights and narrow protection strips; the interior got new upholstery and detail trim changes such as chrome vent surrounds. Optional side airbags complemented the already available passenger and standard driver airbags. The Junior trim level was discontinued, in favour of “pack sport” option package that included side skirts, rear spoiler, alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats, all standard features on the two-litre models. A second “pack lusso” package offered leather steering wheel, velour upholstery and mahogany wood trim. In September of the next year, at the Paris Motor Show the all-new Alfa Romeo 147 was presented Eventually, in 2000, the 145/146 cars were superseded by the all-new 147, which was a far bigger commercial success, with its acclaimed styling front end and improved quality. Still, many enthusiasts feel that it lost a little of the special feel and Alfa Romeo that the 145 had. 221,037 145s and 233,295 146s were built, Seen here is a 146.

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AUTOBIANCHI

The Autobianchi A112 was a supermini, developed using a shrunken version of the contemporary Fiat 128’s platform and whose mechanicals subsequently underpinned the Fiat 127. It was introduced in November 1969, as a replacement for the Bianchina and Primula, and was built until 1986, when it made way for the more modern Autobianchi Y10 (branded in most export markets as the Lancia Y10). Over 1.2 million A112s were produced in Autobianchi’s Milan factory. The A112 was available only with a 3-door body. It was offered with the OHV engine of 903 cc from the Fiat 850 capable of attaining 42 PS. The Autobianchi represented the first appearance of this engine in a front-engine, front-wheel drive configuration which would later become familiar to a wider range of drivers in the top selling Fiat 127 and its derivatives. Claimed power increased to 47 PS in 1971, but without any mechanical changes having taken place. The A112 reached a very particular market; by 1984 female buyers represented 35% of A112 owners and about a third were in the 18-24 age range. In September 1971 the A112 E (“E” for Elegant, which also became its name after the 1973 facelift) was introduced. This featured improved seats, higher grade trimming and equipment, as well as a five-speed gearbox later in life. The mechanics were originally identical to the regular version, now referred to as the Normale, but from 1975 until 1977 the Normale’ received a less powerful engine. A performance edition “Abarth” was introduced too. In March 1973 the A112 received a makeover. The grille was new, with a larger mesh, and the bumpers were now of rubber with chrome insert (although the Normale retained the old metal bumpers with rubber strips). A new style of alloys were also available, and the seats and dashboard underwent some changes. The Abarth received a new chess pattern upholstery. In 1975 the third series arrived. The insides in the rear were recontoured, so that the car now became a five-seater (instead of four). The easiest way to spot a third series is that it received new, much larger vents on the C-pillars, as well as redesigned taillights – with integrated reversing lights on the Elegant and Abarth. The Abarth also received a new larger 1050 cc engine (“70HP”), while the Normale’s output dropped to 42 PS in July 1975. All engines were still pushrod units, derived from the old tipo 100 engine first introduced in the Fiat 600. In 1976, due to new emissions standards, the Elegant lost two horsepower, now down to 45 PS. Third series Normales still received metal bumpers, but from now on they were painted black (instead of being chromed) and no longer had a rubber strip. This was the last model to have the diamond shaped turn signals on the front fenders, with later models receiving more orthodox rectangular ones. In November 1977 the “Nuova A112” (new A112) was introduced: The most obvious difference is a slightly taller roof, with a marked edge around the sides. This improved interior habitability considerably. Autobianchi also at this time modified the upmarket version branded as the “A112 Elegant” with an engine enlarged to 965 cc, now promising 48 PS and improved torque. Later, there were also “A112 Elite” and “A112 LX” versions which received even more comfortable equipment. The 903 cc engine of the lesser A112 Normale remained unchanged. In July 1979 the car underwent another styling modification, receiving large black plastic cladding on the rear, surrounding new taillights, and new side trim and bumpers. The grille was also new, and there was black plastic wheelarches to link all of the plastic parts together. The extractor vents behind the rear side windows were also larger, of black plastic, and wrapped around the pillar. In terms of transmissions, a five-speed transmission now became available on certain models. The fifth gear was an overgear, while the ratios of the four lower speeds and the final gearing remained unchanged. The front turn signals were moved from the front of the fenders to a spot just in front of the leading edge of the doors, while a small badge denoting the trim level appeared in the turn signal’s old place. The Normale now became the Junior, and the Elite version was added, a notch above the Elegant in the lineup. There were some very light modifications to the interior. A large, rollback canvas sunroof became available on the Junior, and a rear window wiper became optional across the range. Aside from the new transmission there were no notable mechanical changes. Power outputs remained at 42, 48, and 70 PS. The Abarth also received the new five-speed gearbox, as well as new alloy wheels and foglights as standard. A lot of the plastic excesses of the fifth series were reversed for the sixth series, which was introduced in the autumn of 1982. New smoother bumpers, removal of the wheelarch trim, and a less heavy grille treatment brought back some of the original elegance of the A112, while the interior was also completely renovated. Another new version arrived, the top-of-the-line LX, which featured tinted windows, velvet seat trimming, power windows, metallic paintwork, and a digital clock amongst other creature comforts. Mechanically, the LX was identical to the Elite, with the five-speed transmission and 965 cc engine. The Elegant version was discontinued, with the Elite taking its position in the lineup. The sixth series also received new body-coloured vents on the C-pillar, and the front corner lights were incorporated into the top of the bumper. The seventh series, presented in 1984, only saw minor changes, largely remaining the same as the sixth. The taillights were again redesigned and were now joined by a reflective strip. The rear license plate was relocated to the bumper and the dashboard received modifications, more noticeable in the better equipped Elite and LX versions. The Abarth received standard front foglights, which were optional on the other versions. The Abarth also has red seatbelts. While the Junior retained small hubcaps, and the Abarth received alloys, the rest of the range now received full-face hubcaps. The front corner lights were now white, instead of orange as before. The engines remained as before, all models except the lowest-priced Junior now used five-speed transmissions. By this time, only France, Italy and Israel still used the “Autobianchi” badge; all others had switched to calling the car a Lancia. At the time of the seventh series introduction, a total of 1,115,000 A112s had been built. As the new Autobianchi Y10 was introduced in 1985, the A112 range was cut down considerably, with only the Junior remaining on sale as a low-priced alternative. It was no longer called Junior, however, now being marketed simply as the “Autobianchi A112”. Other than the name change, there were no design changes to the car. Production continued into 1986, at which point 1,254,178 Autobianchi A112s had been built. The most interesting version was the A112 Abarth, introduced in September 1971 at the same time as the Elegant. It was prepared by the motorsports division of the Fiat Group, at first with a 982 cc engine, obtained by increasing the stroke, coupled to a sportive exhaust, a twin carburettor, and a different camshaft. In 1975, displacement was increased to 1,050 cc, while power climbed from 58 HP to 70 HP at 6600 rpm, for a weight of only 700 kg (1,540 lb). The two engines were offered in parallel until production of the smaller unit ended in late 1976. The 1975 model was also the first A112 to use a 5-speed manual gearbox. These changes turned the A112 into a nervous machine, much admired by young performance enthusiasts. The car was entered in various rallying events throughout Europe and even spawned a one-make trophy: the Campionato A112 Abarth spanned eight editions, from 1977 to 1984, and adopted contemporary Group 1 rules, which meant nearly-stock cars. Some famous Italian rally drivers, including Attilio Bettega, Fabrizio Tabaton and Gianfranco Cunico, were among the winners of the championship. The increasing popularity of the A112 in historic rallies and hillclimbs led to the reintroduction of a one-make trophy, called Trofeo A112 Abarth, in 2010. Abarths have often led hard lives, having been preferred by young owners with aggressive driving styles!

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Although in the UK, the Y10, launched in 1985 as a replacement for the long running Autobianchi A112, was sold as a Lancia, in most of Europe it retained the Autobianchi badging in some European markets. A boutique city car, it created a small market niche all of its own long before the world had become obsessed with “premium” at every point of the market. When first launched, the top model of the range was the Turbo, which was a slightly raw pocket rocket created by the simple expedient of strapping a small IHI turbo on the 1050cc engine, resulting in a car with 85 bhp at its disposal. When the Y10 was facelifted in 1989, the Turbo was gone, replaced by the GTie, which is the version seen here. The new unit, a naturally aspirated 1301cc engine of 1301 cc and Multi Point fuel injection was derived from the previous 1050, and although not quite as potent, with maximum power of 78 hp at 5750 rpm and a maximum torque of 100 Nm at 3250 rpm was still able to propel the car to 178 km/h and to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 11.5 seconds. It also delivered more comfort and a smoother drive than the rather raucous turbo version, which made the GT a much more “usable” and “all-rounder” of a GT. As was common with sports models at the time, the GT i.e. is characterised by red border that frames the front grille, by an adhesive strip, with the mark of identification, which runs through the lower edge of the side, by original hub caps (optional alloy wheels) and chrome tailpipe, are internally presents itself like its LX i.e., with different types of coating. It was the lesser models which achieved most of the sales, of course. Over 850,000 Y10s were made between 1985 and 1992.

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CITROEN

Most of the cars in this report are Italian in origin, but I did also spot this, a Citroen C-Elysée, a model not sold in the UK. Now on its second generation, the Citroën C-Elysée, is built in Vigo, Spain, along with the Peugeot 301, on which it is based, for markets in North Africa, South America and Western Europe (Belgium, France and Luxembourg), Eastern Europe and Southern Europe. The C-Elysée is also manufactured in China, as its predecessor had been.

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FIAT

The Fiat 1300 and Fiat 1500 were made from 1961 to 1967, replacing the Fiat 1400 and Fiat 1200 coupé, spyder and cabriolet. The 1300 and 1500 were essentially identical except for their engine displacement, as indicated by their model names. They were available as a saloon and station wagon, and as convertible and coupé models which shared little mechanically with the other body styles except the 1500 engine. The 1300/1500 were conventional cars, with longitudinally, front-mounted engines powering the rear axle via a four-speed manual transmission with a column gearchange. The engines employed were two versions of the same design, differing mainly in bore: the 1300 developed 60 bhp and the 1500 73 hp, which was more than most rivals offered at the time and combined with its lightweight construction which was unusual for the time, especially when considering the price. Front wheels were equipped with disc brakes, also unusual for the time, with four-pot calipers while rear brakes were alloy drums. Both variants started with a wheelbase of 95.5 in, but from 1964 the wheelbase of Fiat 1500 was increased to 98.6 in. This longer version was called the 1500 C and also received three more horsepower (for a total of 75) and various other detail differences, including power brakes and bigger taillights with built-in reverse lamps. The Pininfarina-designed Coupé and Cabriolet models of the preceding 1200 continued with largely unchanged bodywork, although they were now equipped with the larger 1.5 litre engine. The O.S.C.A. engined 1600 S Coupé and Cabriolet also continued to be available. All of the coupés and convertibles were replaced by the new 124 coupés and spiders in 1966. The 1300/1500 and their derivatives were also assembled by Yugoslavia’s Zastava and Fiat’s German subsidiary, Neckar Automobil AG, as well as in South Africa. The floorpan of the 1500 C was used as a basis for the 1500s replacement, the Fiat 125, while another model, the Polski Fiat 125p, made by the Polish FSO, was created by mating the body of 125 and mechanicals (engines, gearbox, transmission, suspension) of 1300/1500. In the Italian range, the 1300 was replaced by the Fiat 124 in 1966, and the 1500 by the Fiat 125 a year later. In total, 1,900,000 units were produced worldwide.

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Spotted parked up at Pisa airport on my walk to the rental car parking area was this 1100R. This is the very last of a long and complicated line of 1100 models, dating back to the early 1950s. Born in February 1966, was the 1100 R (“R” stood for Rinnovata). It had a longer, straighter and slimmer line, with a square back and a front-end look not very different from its bigger sister the Fiat 124. In terms of styling cues, the vestigial fins were further suppressed and the simple round rear light cluster from the Fiat 850 replaced the vertical form seen on the 1100 D. At the same time, the larger engine was withdrawn in order to avoid undue overlap with the 124. The 1100 R was offered only with the older 1,089 cc engine, now with a compression ratio of 8:1 and a claimed output of 48 bhp. This engine (with a somewhat narrower bore) had been first introduced in the 1937 508 C Balilla 1100. Clutch and gearbox were little changed, but the return of a floor mounted gear lever positioned between the front seats and connected to the gearbox with a rod linkage system was welcomed by the motoring press. The absence of synchromesh on the bottom forward speed nevertheless offered a reminder that under the surface this was becoming a somewhat aging design. Between the gearbox and the differential, the propeller shaft had now been separated into two parts with three couplings. The boot was usefully expanded, helped by a slight increase in the car’s overall length, and with more careful packaging of the spare wheel (under the floor) and the fuel tank (in the rear wing on the right). As configured for UK sales, reclining front seats were available as an optional extra for £8. The 1100 R finally gave way in 1969 to the new middle-class Fiat 128. It was also assembled by the Neckar-Automobilwerke in Heilbronn, Germany. Called the Neckar 1100 Millecento it only differed lightly in trim.

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There are lots of examples of the legendary Nuova 500 in Italy still, but I saw surprisingly few of them on this trip. Known as project 110, the brief for the Nuova 500 was to create a micro-car that would not only carry on the tradition of the earlier Topolino, but which would also take sales away from the ever popular Lambretta and Vespa scooters of the day. It clearly needed to be smaller than the 600 which had been released with a conventional 4 cylinder engine. Not an easy task, but development started in 1953 and by August 1954, two designs were ready to be shown to Fiat management. They selected one, and serious development began. At first the car was referred to as the 400, as it was going to have a 400cc engine, but it was soon realised that this was just too small, so a larger 500cc air-cooled engine was developed. It was signed off in January 1956, with production starting in March 1957 in advance of a June launch. Fiat’s marketing department got busy, with hundreds of the new car taking to the streets of Turin, each with a pretty girl standing through the open sunroof that was a feature of all the early cars. The press loved it. 50 units were shipped to Britain, where the car made its debut at Brands Hatch, and again the reception was enthusiastic. But the orders just did not come in. Fiat went for a hasty rethink, relaunching the car at the Turin Show later that year. power was increased from 13 to 15 bhp, and the poverty spec was lessened a little, with headlight bezels, brightwork on the side and chrome hubcaps, a Nuova500 badge on the engine cover, winding side windows (the launch cars just had opening quarterlights) and the option of a heater fan. It was enough to get sales moving. The original car was still offered, at a lower price, called the Economy. In the first year of production, 28,452 Fiat 500s were made. Over the next 19 years, the car changed little in overall appearance, but there were a number of updates with more power and equipment added. A 500 Sport was launched in August 1958, with a more powerful version of the 499cc engine. It lost the soft top, having a ridged steel roof, to increase strength of the body. It was only available in grey with a red side flash. The first major changes came in 1960 with the 500D. This looks very similar to the Nuova, but with two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D still featured “suicide doors”. There were larger rear light clusters, more space in the front boot thanks to a redesign of the fuel tank and new indicators under the headlights. A year later, Fiat added a light on the rear-view mirrors and a windscreen washer, but the car still lacked a fuel gauge. Sales increased from 20,900 in 1960 to 87.000 in 1961, 132,000 in 1962 and by 1964, the last year of production, they hit 194,000 units. The D was replaced in 1965 by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front, owing to changes in Italian safety laws. There was a deeper windscreen and thinner door pillars, which increased the height of the car by 10mm, improving visibility for the driver. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. The final updates created the 500R, which incorporated many changes from the 126 under the skin of the classic shape, and in this form production continued alongside the newer 126 until 1976.

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Fiat started work on the Ritmo in 1972, at a time when the hatchback bodystyle for small family cars was still relatively uncommon in Europe, although Fiat had utilised it for its 127 supermini. In the intervening years, however, rival European manufacturers began launching small family hatchbacks, the most notable being the Volkswagen Golf in 1974. Prior to its launch, the press speculated that the project codename 138 would be the final production name, however, Fiat resolved to follow the precedent set by the Fiat Mirafiori by giving its new car the Ritmo name, rather than another three digit number. Technologically, the biggest innovation of the Ritmo was not the car itself (since it was mechanically based on its predecessor, the Fiat 128) but the way in which it was manufactured at the Cassino plant. Fiat, in conjunction with its subsidiary Comau, developed the pioneering “Robogate” system which automated the entire bodyshell assembly and welding process using robots, earning the car the advertising slogan “Handbuilt by robots”, immortalised in a memorable television advertising campaign showing the robots assembling the Ritmo bodyshells to the strains of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The avant-garde nature of its exterior design is highlighted by large plastic bumper bars integrated into the styling (a trend that became an industry standard, thanks to this plastic’s ability to absorb small impacts without damage, unlike the then more prevalent metal bumper bars), the manner in which these intersected the front round headlights and incorporated the rear taillights plus licence plates, and how round shapes (such as the headlights, door handles and the rear edge of the roof ending in an upward sweep) were combined within overall sharp lines (e.g. from those of the sloping rear hatch and slanted rear window corners to the badges and shape of the side indicators and rear view mirrors). Its aerodynamic design resulted in an excellent — for its era — drag coefficient of Cd=0.38, The initial 4-cylinder engine range included 1.1-Litre 60 PS 1.3-litre 65 PS and 1.5-litre 75 PS petrol engines, which were reasonably refined and economical. Suspension was independent all-round, the braking system comprised front discs and rear drums and the wheels measured 13-inch in diameter. Gearboxes ranged from a standard 4-speed manual (5-speed optional on CL models) and an optional 3-speed Volkswagen-derived automatic. The Ritmo finished second in the European Car of the Year awards, finishing narrowly behind the winning car, the Simca-Chrysler Horizon – which was similar in concept. The CL range was the better-equipped model (with the 60 CL comprising 80% of total initial sales in Italy) and the whole range also distinguished itself by having numerous optional accessories unseen in past Fiat cars. These included: larger tyres; a rev counter; stereo system; safety seatbelts and headrests; passenger-side rear view mirror; split-fold rear seat; tinted windows; rear window wiper; heated rear window; metallic paint; sunroof . The instrumentation was incorporated in a rectangular pod with modular slots that could house various gauges and switches, either standard depending on the model or optional (e.g. digital clock and switches for hazard lights or adjustable-speed ventilation fan). Whilst well received in the key Italian and German markets, the first series of the Ritmo was criticised for its basic interior trim (e.g. no fabric on door panels) and other assembly shortfalls. As a consequence, Fiat quickly responded in 1979 with various revisions and the introduction of the Targa Oro (“Gold plate”) range. The latter was based on the Ritmo 65 (or 75 for export markets) and was distinguished by, among other things: a mink paint (or black for the 3-door version), gold striping plus accents in the alloy wheels, foglights, dark bumper bars and velour trim interiors. That same year, the 65 CL range could also be had with a VW-derived automatic transmission, and a 1,049 cc petrol engine built by Fiat of Brazil that had the same power and torque figures as those of the 128-derived 1.1-litre engine, was also introduced to power the “60 L” models available in some markets. At the 1980 Geneva Motor Show, a 5-door only diesel version — marketed as the Ritmo D and available in both L and CL trim — was introduced with a 1,714 cc 55PS engine.To accommodate this considerably heavier engine, the steering rack was slowed down (from 3.5 to 4 turns) and the suspension adjusted. Nonetheless, a 65.5% forward weight distribution was hard to mask and both handling and braking suffered when compared to petrol-powered Ritmos. In 1981, the Targa Oro and 75 models were replaced by the 5-door only Ritmo Super (or Superstrada in some export markets). They brought higher specification and fittings (from chrome trimmings to a more complete instrumentation and optional central locking), larger 14-inch wheels and, most significantly, revised engines with 75 PS (1300) and 85 PS (1500). This extra power was gained through slight alterations to the camshaft profile, a twin carburettor, and a twin exhaust system. Other differences included lower profile tyres (Pirelli P8) and a close-ratio 5-speed manual gearbox. The steering was also somewhat faster. By this time, the Ritmo range in Italy also included 3- and 5-door manual versions of the 75 CL and 3-door 75 CL Automatica, with the price of the popular 60CL now ranging from ₤6,868,000 to 7,180,000 for the 3- and 5-door versions, respectively. In May 1981, the first sports version, the Ritmo 105 TC, was launched. Available only as a 3-door, it was powered by a 105 PS Fiat DOHC engine with a displacement of 1,585 cc, which was derived from that used in the 131 and 132 models. This car had the same 14-inch wheels as the Ritmo Super, but with black centre hubcaps. British and Irish models had black and silver Speedline alloy wheels (5.5 x 14) as standard. Other distinguishing features relative to the normal range included: front fog lights integrated into the front bumper; integrated front spoiler combined with wheel arch extensions; black lower door paint; black mesh air intake; rear spoiler at the base of the rear window. Series 2 cars would be introduced in 1982, with more conventional frontal styling. In 1983, Fiat completed the range with the Ritmo ES (“energy saving”) models and the hot hatch, Ritmo Abarth 130 TC. The latter was based on the 125 TC (which had not been sold in the UK) but was powered by a 1,995 cc engine with power output increased to 130 PS. This was achieved by replacing the single Weber carb used in the 125 TC with twin Solex/Weber carburettors on a side-draught manifold, and via improved cam profiles. The 130 TC had a top speed of 195 km/h (121 mph) and accelerated from 0 to100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.8 seconds. It was fitted with Recaro bucket seats in Britain and it remained the only 1980s European hot hatch to continue utilise carburettors instead of fuel injection. Ignition timing was controlled electronically. Although appearing outwardly similar to the restyled 105 TC with its lower door and wheelarch trims, the 130 TC could be distinguished by its polished four-spoke alloy wheels (continued from the earlier 125 TC), aerodynamic perspex front door wind deflectors, and lower hatchback spoiler. The powerful twin-cam was mated to a close ratio five-speed ZF manual gearbox and had superior performance to its contemporary rivals, which included the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Escort XR3i, Vauxhall Astra GTE and the MG Maestro. In its day, it was faster than all of them, but it found relatively few buyers. The sporting models are the ones you see most often these days, so it was nice to see this early model Ritmo 60.

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The one “youngtimer” that you see everywhere still, is the first generation Panda. There were lots of them, mostly relatively late model cars, in a variety of different versions. The Panda (Tipo 141) was designed as a cheap, easy to use and maintain, no-frills utility vehicle, positioned in Fiat’s range between the 126 and 127. It can be seen as a then-modern approach to the same niche which the Citroën 2CV and Renault 4 were designed to serve. The first Panda was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign. In an interview to Turinese newspaper La Stampa published in February 1980, Giugiaro likened the Panda to a pair of jeans, because of its practicality and simplicity, and he has often said that this is his favourite of all the cars he designed. Mechanically the first Pandas borrowed heavily from the Fiat parts bin. Engines and transmissions came from the Fiat 127 and, in certain territories, the air-cooled 652 cc two-cylinder powerplant from the Fiat 126. The plan for a mechanically simple car was also evident in the rear suspension, which used a solid axle suspended on leaf springs. Later versions of the car added various mechanical improvements but this spirit of robust simplicity was adhered to throughout the life of the model. Many design features reflect the Panda’s utilitarian practicality. Examples include a seven-position adjustable rear seat which could be folded flat to make an improvised bed, or folded into a V shape to support awkward loads, or easily and quickly removed altogether to increase the overall load space. The first Pandas also featured removable, washable seat covers, door trims and dashboard cover, and all the glass panels were flat making them cheap to produce, easy to replace and interchangeable between left and right door. Much like its earlier French counterparts the Panda could be specified with a two piece roll forward canvas roof. At launch two models were available: the Panda 30, powered by a longitudinally-mounted air cooled 652 cc straight-two-cylinder engine derived from the 126, or the Panda 45, with a transversely-mounted water cooled 903 cc four-cylinder from the 127. As a consequence of the different drivetrain layout the 45 had the radiator grille to the right side, the 30 to the left. In September 1982 Fiat added another engine to the line-up: the Panda 34 used an 843 cc water-cooled unit, derived from that in the 850. It was originally reserved for export to France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Fiat launched the Panda 45 Super at the Paris Motor Show later in 1982, with previous specification models continuing as the “Comfort” trim. The Super offered numerous improvements, most significant being the availability of a five-speed gearbox as well as improved trim. There were minor styling changes to the Super including the introduction of Fiat’s new black plastic “corporate” grille with five diagonal silver bars. The earlier grille design (metal with slots on the left for ventilation) continued on the Comfort models until the next major revision of the line-up. A 30 Super was added to the range in February 1983, offering the Super trim combined with the smaller engine. The Panda 4×4 was launched in June 1983, it was powered by a 965 cc engine with 48 bhp derived from that in the Autobianchi A112. Known simply as the Panda 4×4, this model was the first small, transverse-engined production car to have a 4WD system. The system itself was manually selectable, with an ultra-low first gear. Under normal (on-road) conditions starting was from second, with the fifth gear having the same ratio as fourth in the normal Panda. Austrian company Steyr-Puch supplied the entire drivetrain (clutch, gearbox, power take-off, three-piece propshaft, rear live axle including differential and brakes) to the plant at Termini Imerese where it was fitted to the reinforced bodyshell. Minor revisions in November 1984 saw the range renamed “L”, “CL”, and “S”. Specifications and detailing were modified across the range including the adoption of the Fiat corporate grille across all versions. Mechanically, however, the cars remained largely unchanged. In January 1986, the Panda received a substantial overhaul and a series of significant mechanical improvements. Most of these changes resulted in the majority of parts being changed and redesigned, making many of the pre-facelift and post-facelift Panda parts incompatible between models. The 652 cc air-cooled 2-cyl engine was replaced by a 769 cc (34 bhp) water-cooled 4-cyl unit, and the 903/965cc by a 999cc (45 bhp, 50 bhp in the 4×4) unit. Both new engines were from Fiat’s new FIRE family of 4-cylinder water-cooled powerplants with a single overhead camshaft. The rear suspension was also upgraded, the solid axle with leaf springs being replaced by a more modern dependent suspension system using a non-straight rigid axle (known as the ‘Omega’ axle) with a central mounting and coil springs (first seen on the Lancia Y10, which used the same platform). The 4×4 retained the old leaf sprung live axle set-up, presumably to avoid having to redesign the entire 4WD system. Improvements were also made to the interior and the structure. The body was strengthened and fully galvanised on later models, virtually eliminating the earlier car’s strong tendency to rust. The rear panel design was also revamped to include flared arches that mirrored those of the front wings, replacing the un-sculpted style seen on earlier models, and the doors received a slight redesign with the earlier car’s quarter light windows being removed and replaced by a full width roll-down window. The bottom seam of the facelifted model’s doors unfortunately retained much the earlier car’s susceptibility to rust. In ascending order of specification and cost, the revised range was as follows: 750L, 750CL, 750S, 1000CL, 1000S, 4×4. April 1986 saw the introduction of a 1,301 cc diesel engine with 37 bhp (a detuned 127/Uno unit). Fitted as standard with a five-speed gearbox it was only available in the basic “L” trim. A van variant of the Panda was also introduced, with both petrol and diesel engines. The van was basically a standard Panda without rear seats. The rear windows were replaced with plastic blanking panels and a small (always black) steel extension with side hinged doors was fitted instead of the usual hatchback tailgate. Neither the van nor the diesel were available in right hand drive markets. In 1987, a new entry-level model badged “Panda Young” was added to the range. This was essentially an L spec car with a 769 cc OHV engine based on the old 903 cc push-rod FIAT 100 engine and producing the same 34 bhp as the more sophisticated 769 cc FIRE unit. The Panda 4×4 Sisley limited edition was also released; this was based on the standard 4×4, but came with metallic paint, inclinometer, white painted wheels, roof rack, headlamp washers, bonnet scoop, “Sisley” badging and trim. Although originally limited to the production of only 500, in 1989 the Sisley model became a permanent model due to its popularity. In 1991, a facelift was introduced. This entailed a new front grille with a smaller five-bar corporate badge, plus revisions to trim and specifications across the range. New arrivals included the ‘Selecta’, which had a continuously variable transmission with an electromagnetic clutch. This advanced transmission was available either with the normal 999 cc FIRE engine (revised with single-point fuel injection and a catalytic converter) or an all new 1108 cc FIRE unit, fitted with electronic fuel injection and a three-way catalytic converter and producing 51 bhp. The new CLX trim also featured a five-speed gearbox as standard. The range now comprised the 750 Young (769 cc ohv), 750 and 750 CLX (both 769 cc FIRE sohc), 900 Dance (903 cc ohv), 1000 Shopping, CLX, CL Selecta and S (all with 999 cc sohc, available with or without SPI and catalytic converter depending on the market), 1100 CL Selecta (1108 cc sohc with SPI and cat) and the 4×4 Trekking (999 cc, again available with and without a cat depending on the market). The Elettra concluded the range. In 1992, the 1108 cc engine, complete with SPI and catalytic converter, replaced the 999 cc unit in the 4×4 (with 50 bhp) and also in 1992 an 899 cc (with injection and catalyst) became available, in the ‘Cafe’ special edition. This was a reduced capacity 903 cc unit, designed to meet tax requirements in some markets. From 1996 onwards, the Panda was gradually phased out across Europe, due to tightening emissions and safety legislation. The car remained in production in Italy until May 2003. Its total production run of 23 years, during which time over 4.5 million were built, makes the Panda one of Europe’s longest-lived small cars.

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Fiat launched the Uno, the Tipo 146, in January 1983, just one day before the equally iconic Peugeot 205, to replace the elderly Fiat 127. Both were huge sellers, and deservedly so too, but it was the Fiat that sold in greater quantity, with over 8 million examples produced. It was Italy’s best selling car, and by some margin, throughout its 10 year production life, though you might find that hard to believe now, as they were are not a common sight even in Italy. The 127 had revolutionised the supermini market on its launch more than 10 years earlier, and the Uno followed the same format, but brought uptodate. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign company, its tall, square body utilising a Kamm tail achieved a low drag coefficient of 0.34 won it much praise for interior space and fuel economy as well as its excellent ride and handling, and was widely regarded as the most innovative small car in Europe at the time of its launch. It incorporated many packaging lessons learnt from Giugiaro’s 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car (the first modern people carrier / MPV / mini-van) but miniaturised. Its tall car / high seating packaging is imitated by every small car today. It reversed the trend for lower and lower built cars. It showed that not just low sleek cars could be aerodynamic, but small, roomy, boxy well packaged cars could be too. There was a lot of activity in the supermini class in 1983, as the Uno hit the UK market a couple of months before the Peugeot 205 – another small European car which became the benchmark for this market sector, enjoying a long production life and strong sales, and just after General Motors launched its new Opel Corsa/Vauxhall Nova. Within a few months of its launch it had gained two new major competitors in the shape of the restyled Ford Fiesta and Nissan’s new Micra. UK sales began in June 1983, and more than 20,000 were sold in its first full year and peaking at more than 40,000 sales in 1988, making it one of the UK’s most popular imported cars during the 1980s. In December 1983, it was European Car of the Year for 1984, finishing narrowly ahead of the Peugeot 205. Initially, the Uno was offered with the 0.9 litre (903 cc) 100-series OHV, 1.1 litre (1116 cc) and 1.3 litre (1301 cc) 128-series SOHC petrol engines and transmissions carried over from the 127. The Uno’s badging was not by the commonly used measurement of engine size but by metric horsepower: 45, 55, 60, 70, or 75. The Uno was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback. It also featured ergonomic “pod” switchgear clusters each side of the main instrument binnacle, (that could be operated without removing the driver’s hands from the steering wheel), although indicators remained on a stalk; an unusual arrangement similar to that used by Citroën. The Uno had MacPherson strut independent front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension with telescopic dampers and coil springs. From 1985, the 1.0 litre (999 cc) SOHC Fully Integrated Robotised Engine (FIRE) powerplant was offered, replacing the 0.9 litre unit. This was a lighter engine, built with fewer parts, and gave improved performance and economy. The most luxurious version, the single-point injected 75 SX i.e., had remote door locks, integrated front foglamps, and the oval exhaust tip also used on the Turbo. In April 1985 the hot hatch version of the first series Uno – the Uno Turbo i.e. – was launched as a three-door only derivative. It competed with the likes of the Ford Fiesta XR2, MG Metro Turbo and Peugeot 205 GTI. The Uno was replaced by the Punto in late 1993, although production for some markets continued for some time after that. Huge numbers were sold in Italy but they have almost all disappeared now.

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The Tipo (Type 160 in development speak) was styled by the I.DE.A Institute design house, and produced between 1988 and 1995. The Tipo was initially available only as a five door hatchback. The car was made entirely out of galvanised body panels to avoid rust, and was built on a completely new Fiat platform, which was later used on Fiat, Alfa-Romeo, and Lancia models. It stood out because of its boxy styling that gave it innovative levels of packaging, rear passenger room being greater than that in a rear-wheel-drive Ford Sierra, but in a car that was of a similar size to the smaller Ford Escort. This type of design was comparable to the smaller Fiat Uno, which was launched five years earlier. For 1989, the Tipo won the European Car of the Year award. Unveiled in January 1988, the Tipo went on sale in Europe during June 1988, and on the right-hand drive UK market from 16 July 1988, initially base (i.e.), DGT, (early Italian market DGT models were badged as ‘digit’, presumably in recognition of the digital dash, but this was quickly changed to DGT after a dispute over ownership of the name, leading to confusion about whether the model was diesel-powered) S, SX and 16v trim levels were available. Power outputs ranged from 57 to 146 bhp, with a engines of 1.1, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.8 16v, 2.0, and 2.0 16v litre petrol engines, as well as a 1.7 and 1.9 diesel, and 1.9 turbodiesel, though not all of these were available in all markets. The 1.1 base engine was widely regarded as underpowered for the car, which was otherwise roomy for five adults and with above average equipment. This version was never sold in the UK, which initially received only the 1.4 and 1.6 versions of the Tipo, with the 1.8 and 2.0 petrol engines and the diesel powered units not being imported until the early 1990s. The smaller Uno had been a huge success there during the 1980s (peaking at more than 40,000 sales in 1988) and it was widely expected by both Fiat and by the motoring press that the Tipo would prove similarly successful, not least as the car launched into a favourable market in the UK, where none of the “big three” (Ford, Vauxhall, and Austin Rover) had launched an all new car of this size for at least four years. However, these three marques all had new Tipo sized products within three years, and increased competition reduced the Tipo’s sales. Initially it won plaudits for its innovative and practical design, as well as its good handling. It was originally sold with only 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines, although the 16 valve 1.8 and 2.0 engines with fuel injection became available in the early 1990s. The digital dashboard of higher end models proved to be controversial and unreliable. The addition of the more powerful models did little to help, even though these were pretty good. The top of the range was the 2.0 Sedicivalvole (16 valves), which took its engine from the Lancia Thema, and with a much smaller and lighter bodyshell to house it, this power unit brought superb performance and handling, and a top speed of around 130 mph (210 km/h), which made it faster than the Volkswagen Golf GTI of that era. Many thought it to be one of the best cars in its class at the time. The Tipo was facelifted in 1993 and a three door version was added, as well as minor exterior changes (the two evolutions of the car can be differentiated by their slightly different radiator grilles and headlamps) and improved specifications; safety features like stiffer bodyshells, driver’s airbag, and side impact bars were added to the range. This included the new S, SX, and SLX trim levels, as well as a new eight valve 2.0 GT model. The Tipo ceased production in the summer of 1995, and was replaced by the three door Fiat Bravo and five-door Fiat Brava.

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I came across one example of the Tempra saloon and later in the trip, a Weekend version. The Fiat Tempra (Type 159) was a family car intended as a replacement for the Fiat Regata. The original project was called Tipo 3, being a mid size car between the Fiat Tipo (project Tipo 2) and the bigger Fiat Croma (project Tipo 4). The chassis and some other parts (most notably, the doors) were shared with the Fiat Tipo. Other vehicles, derived from the same project were Lancia Dedra (theTempra’s closest relative, sharing all mechanical components), Lancia Delta second generation, Alfa Romeo 155, Alfa 145 and Alfa 146. The Tempra saloon was shown for the first time in newspapers in November 1989 and introduced at the 1990 Geneva Salon, with the estate version (marketed as the “Tempra SW”) arriving two months later in Turin. The Tempra’s engine range was similar to that of the Tipo. Initially 1.4- and 1.6-litre models had carburettor engines. Both of these models were discontinued in 1992, due to the new European emission standards, and thus all models from 1992 on had catalytic converters and electronic injection. Transmission was a standard five speed manual, but for the first time a midsize sedan was offered as with a continuously variable transmission which was previously available on the Fiat Uno, Panda, Ritmo and Tipo. This, called the “Selecta”, was available only with the 1.6 litre engine with either bodystyle. As of July 1991, the 2.0 litre SX model became available with an optional four speed automatic transmission. Presented at the 1992 Geneva Show, there was a version of the station wagon which offered the two litre engine, combined with permanent four wheel drive. The four wheel drive version had a slight front bias (56/44%). During its six year production run, few changes were made apart from a minor facelift in April 1993, which resulted in a new front grille and other minor styling changes, as well as new equipment levels. Only two trim levels were available in its early years: standard (S) and SX, both reasonably equipped considering the Tempra’s low price. SX models for example, featured power windows, power locks, adjustable belts and steering wheel, front fog lights, body coloured bumpers, velvet upholstery, a futuristic digital dashboard and many other standard extras. They were also available with optional extras like anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, sunroof, electronic climate control, etc. A facelift in April 1993 featured more trim levels, now ranging from the standard models (“L” in the United Kingdom, where it was only available with 1.4 engine) via the S and SX to the top SLX, which was only available with 1.8, and 2.0 litre engines in the United Kingdom. An optional driver’s airbag was another innovation that year. The four wheel drive Station Wagons continued to be available in some markets such as Switzerland. The car was built in Brazil and Turkey (by Tofas), as well as Italy, and there were local variants available in both of these markets, as well as the popular Marengo commercial version which sold well in Italy. In the UK, the SW outsold the saloon. The Tempra was discontinued in Europe in August 1996, and in Brazil in 1998. It was replaced by the Fiat Marea.

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Launched in 1996 in Brazil, as part of Fiat’s “Project 178”, the Palio was Fiat’s first attempt to build a world car, the same basic design being produced in numerous nations around the globe. Four principal models were produced: hatchback, sedan, pickup, and station wagon, with different versions being built for different markets. The powerplants, both diesel and petrol, also varied from region to region depending on local production capability, legislation, and market requirements. The basic chassis was a development of the European Fiat Uno but little remained unchanged. The entire structure was significantly stronger to be suitable on the rougher roads found in some of the markets for which it was intended. The suspension layout, as on the Uno, consisted of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, even though the Weekend (station wagon) version had the fully independent trailing arms rear end from the Fiat Punto instead. The body was a completely new design by the I.DE.A Institute of Turin, which also designed the new interior. Some engines were also coming from other Fiat models, such as the Punto and the Bravo. Production began in 1996 in Brazil and was followed later that year by a plant in Argentina. In 1997, production started in Venezuela, Poland for the European market, and Morocco (at the Somaca plant whilst Turkey started building the same car in 1998. In India, assembly was at Pune in the new Fiat-Tata Motors factory and in South Africa by Nissan together the pickup version called Fiat Strada. Production in India and South Africa began in 1999, in Egypt in 2001, and in China in 2002. The Palio Weekend station wagon was launched in 1996 in Brazil and later in Europe. The station wagon is the version most commonly sold in Europe though it was a 3 door hatch which I saw here.

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The Cinquecento, Tipo 170 in Fiat development parlance, was launched in December 1991, to replace the Fiat 126. It was the first Fiat model to be solely manufactured in the FSM plant in Tychy, Poland, which had been sold to Fiat by the Polish state, and where production of the Polish variant of the Fiat 126, the Polski Fiat 126p, was still running. It took 18 months before the new city car reached the UK, and its success proved that there was a market for very small cars after all, even though Renault had concluded that there was not sufficient demand for their Twingo which appeared around the same time. The Fiat sold well, and it was not long before it had a number of market rivals, such as the Ford Ka, Seat Arosa and Volkswagen Lupo. The smallest engine, intended for sale in Poland only, was a 704 cc OHV two-cylinder unit, delivering 31 bhp, an engine which was inherited from the 126p BIS. For the front-wheel drive Cinquecento, it underwent a major refurbishment (although the engine still employed a carburettor), which resulted, among other changes, in the crankshaft revolving in the opposite direction than in the 126p BIS! The bigger engine was the 903 cc 40 PS version of the veteran Fiat 100 OHV four-cylinder engine, which saw service in many small Fiat models, starting with the Fiat 850, and dating back to the initial 633 cc unit as introduced in the 1955 Fiat 600. It was fitted with single point fuel injection and was the base engine in most markets. Due to fiscal limitations, the displacement of this unit was limited to 899 cc in 1993, with a slight reduction of output, now producing 39 PS. In 1994, Fiat introduced the Cinquecento Sporting, featuring the 1108 cc SOHC FIRE 54 PS engine from the entry-level Punto of the same era, mated to a close-ratio 5 speed gearbox. Other additions were a drop in standard ride height, front anti-roll bar, 13″ alloy wheels, plus colour-coded bumpers and mirrors. The interior saw a tachometer added, along with sports seats, red seatbelts and a leather steering wheel and gear knob. It is the Sporting model which gave birth to a rallying trophy and a Group A Kit-Car version, and the Sporting is the version you see most often these days, and indeed, that was the variant seen here. Production of the Cinquecento ended in early 1998, when it was replaced by the Seicento.

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Launched in mid 1995, Bravo and Brava were replacements for Fiat’s successful but ageing Tipo model, quite different in styling detail and driving experience, with the Bravo chassis being tuned for more precise handling whilst the Brava was tuned for better comfort. Even the interior trim and many of the body colours were unique to either one version or the other. The cars came with all new engines, the base model using a 1.4 litre 2-valve engine producing 80 PS. Three other petrol engines were available: the 103 PS 1.6 litre 16-valve; the 113 PS 1.8 litre 16-valve engine and the top of the range 2.0 litre 20-valve inline-5 unit used in the HGT model, which produced 147 PS and which could take the car to a maximum speed of 132 mph. Later in 1999 the 155 HGT model replaced the older model, power rising to 155 PS. Two turbodiesel engines were also available: both were 1.9 litre four cylinder units, one producing 75 PS and the other making 100 PS. They were among the best diesels of the day, with strong pulling power and nicely refined. In 1996, the Bravo/Brava chassis spawned saloon and estate versions, badged Fiat Marea, a car which was aimed at Ford Mondeo and Opel/Vauxhall Vectra buyers, which won praise for its large boot. Another car based on the Bravo/Brava underpinnings was launched in 1998: the curious-looking Fiat Multipla, a six-seater compact MPV. The Bravo/Brava received a mild makeover in 1999, but there were few real changes except the replacement of the 1.4 litre 12-valve engine with a 1.2 litre 80 bhp 16-valve engine from the smaller Fiat Punto and a restyling of the dashboard. The 1.9 turbodiesel was also phased out in favour of 1.9 JTD diesel units (now with 105 PS), to give even better economy and refinement. The Bravo/Brava was voted European Car of the Year on its launch and it sold quite well in the UK, a feat never achieved by its replacement, the Stilo. I used to get these regularly both as rental and courtesy cars and enjoyed them, even the entry level 1.2 litre 80 bhp petrol models. but a lot of them fell victim to scrappage, and there are surprisingly few of them left. Indeed, the only example that I saw during the week was this Bravo hatch.

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The 1997 follow on to the Cinquecento was the Seicento, and that was represented here by a number of the low end models. It did not differ much from its predecessor, retaining the same engines, chassis and general dimensions, although it did gain a minor 9 cm in length (total length of 3.34 m). At launch, the Seicento was available with three trim levels; a basic ‘S’ with black bumpers and spartan equipment and initially the 899 cc 39 PS FIAT 100 series engine; an ‘SX’ model, a slight upgrade over the ‘S’ with colour-coded bumpers, electric windows, central locking and a sunroof – which was also available as a ‘Citymatic’ with a clutchless manual gearchange – and a ‘Sporting’ with the larger FIAT FIRE series 1108 cc 55 PS engine, 20 mm (0.8 in) lower suspension and anti-roll bars added. Cosmetically, this version gained 13″ alloy wheels, sports seats. An Abarth styling kit was also available with a body kit with optional Abarth 14″ wheels a close-ratio gearbox, sill kick plates, embroidered headrests, leather gear stick and steering wheel, colour highlighted trim in the bumpers, side skirts and a spoiler also available. Both the sporting and the Abarths were available with ABS, air-conditioning and power steering but due to cost not very many owners took up the options. In 1999, the FIRE engine was used in the special ‘Suite’ version, which came with air-conditioning. A special edition ‘Soleil’ model was available in some markets, which was based on the ‘SX’ model but came with a full-length electrically-folding fabric roof. In 2001, after the update, all cars were given clear indicator lenses, with the Sporting model getting a restyled bodykit. Power steering was still an option, in lower end Seicentos. A ‘Michael Schumacher’ edition of the Sporting, with ABS and the Abarth styling kit, was also launched at this time to celebrate the Ferrari driver’s Formula One success, This model was almost identical to the Abarth kit with the exception of chrome gear stick surrounds and Michael’s signature on the boot lid and side skirt. A limited edition plate and number was also on the passenger door. In 2004, the model was withdrawn from the UK market, and production of RHD models ceased, following the arrival of the new and more practical Panda. The LHD model was facelifted, gaining a new design for the wheel rims and the introduction of the new Fiat logo to the rear. In 2005, the name Seicento was replaced by 600 (on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first edition, in 1955) together with some changes in the front and in versions donations: now the name Fiat is written on the seats. The new versions now were named “Class” and “50 anniversary”, thus reminding the strict relationship between this model and the previous one. Production continued until 2010 by which time over 1.33 million units had been built.

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Hard to believe, but the second generation Punto dates back to 1999, nearly 20 years ago, and yet it still looks modern. The car is still in service with the local Polizia, as this example proves.

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LANCIA

The Lancia Dedra, produced from 1989 to 2000 was designed to support, and later to replace, the Prisma and is generally considered to be the saloon version of the second generation Delta, that took a further four years before being released. The Dedra was sold in the UK, and it had a tough job on its hands, as it entered a particularly competitive part of the market, that for medium-sized executive saloons. The design, by Ercole Spada of the I.DE.A Institute, produced an excellent drag coefficient of only 0.29. Lancia positioned the Dedra as offering prestige, exclusivity, personality and comfort, achieved through a high level of equipment and use of materials (e.g. Alcantara) as well as details such as special paints, alloy wheels and an attention to soundproofing, ventilation and other issues. Inside the ability to obtain the perfect driving position was helped by the adjustable seats, steering wheel and electrically adjustable mirrors. Safety, both passive with a structure designed to minimise injury in an accident, and active, such as ABS and airbag, was also near the top of the Dedra’s agenda. It was based on the Fiat Tipo-floorpan, because the idea of Fiat Group at the end of the 80s was to achieve, from a single floorpan (for reasons of economies of scale), four different cars from the same base: good value for money for the Fiat Tipo (1988), elegance for Lancia Dedra 1989, convenience at a competitive price for the Fiat Tempra (1990) (with its large boot) and sportsmanship for the Alfa Romeo 155 (1992). Also were designed on the same floorpan the Lancia Delta and the Fiat Coupe. When the Dedra was launched, it was a good time for Lancia: The Thema had been facelifted a year earlier, and despite being on the market for five years was selling well, the Delta (1979), thanks its continued success in competition was living a second youth, and the Y10 had a slight restyling and good sales. However, the Dedra was not a strong success outside Italy. A major facelift in 1993 did little to boost the car’s sales success and the whole Lancia range including the Dedra was withdrawn from RHD markets a year later. The car, after 1993 also sold as a station wagon, remained popular on the Italian market until it was replaced by the all-new Lybra at the end of the 90s. In 1991 the Dedra Integrale had been added to the range. It used the same engine and transmission as the Delta Integrale 8v, a 2-litre 4-cylinder fuel injected twin cam engine, fitted with contra-rotating balancing shafts, and a Garrett T3 turbocharger and associated inter-cooler to aid volumetric efficiency that boosted power output to 171 PS. The Dedra Integrale also used the same permanent 4-wheel drive of the Delta Integrale, and included a new Visco Drive 2000 traction control system and it also included the electronically controlled suspension available as option in the 2.0 and upper versions. A total of 418,084 Dedras were manufactured.

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The first generation Delta had been given a second lease of life by its rallying successes, but by the 1990s it was over ten years old and due replacement; its four-door saloon sibling, the Prisma, had already been replaced by the Lancia Dedra. The “Nuova Delta” (Tipo 836)—always referred to by Lancia as Lancia δ with the lower-case Greek letter – was introduced at the Geneva Show in 1993, alongside the final “Evo 2” HF Integrale. Sales commenced in May 1993. Initially the Nuova Delta was offered with three engines and outputs varying from 76 to 142 PS: an entry level SOHC 1.6-litre, and two DOHC inline fours with Lancia’s twin counter rotating balance shafts, an 8-valve 1.8 and a 16-valve 2.0 litre. Trim levels were three: base and LE for the 1.6 and 1.8, base and richer LS for two-litre models. The sportier 2.0 HF was also unveiled in Geneva, but went on sale in September; it used a version of the 16-valve 2.0 litre equipped with a Garrett T3 turbocharger and an intercooler to produce 186 PS. Mechanical changes from the other Deltas included up-sized 205/50 tyres, stiffer suspension, standard 4-way ABS, a “Viscodrive” viscous coupling limited slip differential and, in the HF LS trim, electronically adjustable dampers with two settings. Visually the HF turbo was set apart by an eggcrate grille with a gunmetal surround and a yellow HF badge, a sportier front bumper complementing 1.1 inch wider front wings, black side skirts, specific 15 inch 7-spoke alloy wheels and a spoiler at the base of the rear window. Larger disk brakes and optional Alcantara Recaro sport seats were shared with the 2.0 LS. About a year after the launch, in June 1994, the 1.9 turbo ds turbodiesel variant was added to the range; it was powered by the usual 1,929 cc SOHC unit, pushing out 90 PS. The turbo ds was given the flared fenders and bumper of the HF, and was available in base and LE trim. Presented a month later and put on sale in autumn, the Delta 2.0 GT paired the naturally aspirated 2-litre engine with the looks of the HF—flared wings, bumper and spoiler. Although a three-door had been rumoured since 1991, it was not until the 1995 Geneva Motor Show that one became available. It was christened HPE—a denomination that had previously been used for a variant of the Lancia Beta, and standing for “High Performance Executive”. At first the HPE was only available with the three top engines: 2.0 16v, 1.9 turbodiesel and 2.0 16v turbo in HF guise. The three-door bodyshell had entirely redesigned body sides, but retained the roof and rear section of the five-door model; rear wheelarch flares complemented the HF-derived wide front wings and bumper, sported by all HPE versions. This meant the HPE was around 2.4 inches wider than a standard Delta, while all other exterior dimensions remained unchanged. Styling differences from the five-door included specific side skirts and a body-colour grille, to which the HPE 2.0 HF added all the accoutrements of the five-door HF and additional air intakes under the headlights. At the beginning of 1996 the range was updated. All naturally aspirated engines were replaced; the 1.6 and 1.8 8-valve by 16-valve units, while the 2.0 16v was discontinued in favour of a 1.8 16v equipped with variable valve timing. Trim levels for the 5-door were now three: base LE, richer LX and GT, exclusive to the 1.8 V.V.T. engine. The three-door HF turbo remained the only one offered, as the five-door version was discontinued. In addition to the turbocharged engines, the HPE was available with 1.8 V.V.T. and also the smaller 1.6 engines; the latter, entry level HPE adopted the bumper and narrow front wings of the standard Delta. Minor styling changes were introduced, such as alloy wheels and wheel covers of a new design, chrome vertical bars to the 5-door cars’ grille, and body colour mirror caps. November 1997 brought the last revisions for the Delta. Seven models made up the updated range: 5-door and HPE with a choice of 1.6, 1.8 V.V.T. or 1.9 td engines—the 18 16v having been phased out—and a renewed 2.0 HF, again in HPE form only. The 5-door range was reduced to a single LS trim. More of the plastic exterior details were now painted in body colour, namely bumper, bodyside and C-pillar inserts. All HPEs donned flared front wings. The updated HPE 2.0 HF was shown at the Bologna Motor Show in November. Visually it continued the monochrome theme of the restyled cars, and it was made more distinctive by bumpers, side skirts, and spoiler of a new design, and 16 inch Speedline Montecarlo alloy wheels with 215/50 tyres; inside the seats were upholstered in black leather with contrasting colour Alcantara centres. Mechanically it received a tweaked engine, producing 193 PS, which made for a 5 km/h higher top speed. The Delta was dropped from Lancia’s lineup in 1999, with no immediate successor.

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Also unfamiliar to those in the UK is this Lybra Station Wagon. Introduced in 1998, the Lancia Lybra (Type 839) is a compact executive car based on the Alfa Romeo 156 floorpan, and replacing the Dedra in Lancia’s range. Like the Dedra, the Lybra was available as a Berlina (saloon) or a Station Wagon (estate). The model’s name refers to the zodiac sign of Libra, and signalled an end to Lancia’s Greek letter model name convention. The Lybra was manufactured in the Rivalta plant near Turin until 2002 and after that in Mirafiori plant in Turin. The Lybra was styled in Centro Stile Lancia, contrary to earlier Lancia models, which were commissioned from external design studios. Initial models were carried out by Enrico Fumia in 1992 and by the time of His departure from Centro Stile Lancia the project was finished by Michael Robinson. The interior was designed by Flavio Manzoni. At launch, standard trim levels were LS and LX. In 2003, Business and LS Plus were added in some markets, both having basic fabric seats. The highest trim was called Emblema, presented for the first time in November 2002 at Bologna Motor Show. It was inspired by the classic Lancia Flaminia and came with tobacco brown leather interior (optional Alcantara), magnesium dashboard trim, exclusive 16 inch (10 spoke) alloy wheels, privacy glass and a gloss painted black roof. The Lancia Lybra was a front-wheel drive car with transversely-mounted engines. The Lybra is available with a 5-speed manual, and the 2.0 litre had an option of a 4-speed Aisin automatic transmission, called the Comfortronic by Lancia. Lybra utilises MacPherson struts at the front and BLG (“Bracci Longitudinali Guidati”, translating to “Guided Longitudinal Arms”) multilink rear suspension. Estate versions were also available with Boge-Nivomat self-levelling hydropneumatic rear suspension. Lybra uses four-wheel disk brakes, with front ventilated, ABS with EBD and optional ASR. Production ran until 2005 and a total of 164.660 units were made.

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Replacing the Thema, the Kappa was launched in 1994. Kappa is the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet, Lancia nameplates having frequently derived from Greek letters. In 1919, Lancia had already produced a Kappa (and its later evolutions called Dikappa and Trikappa), but these are far less known nowadays than the 1990s Kappa. In writing, Lancia often referred to the Kappa simply as the k (lower case “k”), which is fairly similar to the original Greek letter κ. Autocar’s Peter Robinson reviewed the Kappa in November 1994. He commented on the car’s bland styling which was justified by Fiat’s Paolo Cantarella on the basis that the designers did not want to create too much “visual noise.” The body was reported as having twice the torsional rigidity of the outgoing Thema. It was 15 percent stiffer than any of its rivals. The automatic Aisin-Warner gearbox (50-40 LE type) was shared with the Volvo 850. Robinson went on to say “the Kappa´s dimensions ensure a commodious interior, the impression of space only heightened by a low cowl and very Japanese-looking fascia, somewhere between a Honda NSX and Lexus LS400.” Rear cabin room was described as “immense” but the cushion was criticised for being too flat, a fault rectified in later iterations of the car. Robinson criticised the “horrid mock wood with which Lancia frames the prominent central console that runs from the handbrake, up the full length of the dash and over the top.” About the driving characteristics, Robinson wrote: “If Lancia quietened the starter motor, this would be one refined drivetrain…with no hint of any 5-cylinder unevenness.” The 2.4 litre engine tested appeared to have been tuned for low-end torque, a characteristic of this Alpine brand. The engine was praised by Robinson for its “smooth responsiveness” and “torque steer has been eliminated…and the Servotronic steering is terrific, with just the right degree of self-centering.” His summary of ride and handling was that car was better than average but not class-leading: “On the Lancia there is too much body roll and the front grip in the wet didn’t inspire confidence.” The station wagon version of the Kappa, designated “SW” by Lancia, was designed and built by Pininfarina and did not differ from the saloon exterior dimensions, sharing most of its body panels. Only 9,208 cars were built in Pininfarina’s factory. This estate version was also available with Boge-Nivomat self-levelling hydropneumatic rear suspension. The Coupé was designed by Centro Stile Lancia and built by Maggiora and technically quite different from the saloon, having a shorter wheelbase (by 120mm), wider rear track and a distinctive profile with frameless doors. The front, from bumper to the window screen, was identical to the other Kappas. It was Lancia’s first coupé since 1984, when the Beta and Gamma coupés were discontinued, and remains the last Lancia to feature this body style to this day. The small building capacities at the Maggiora factory for this essentially hand-made car, and the relatively high price, destined it to be a rare vehicle. As a money saver the rear lights came from Delta. Only 3263 coupes were manufactured from 1996 to 2000, making this model a true rarity. Car magazine described the car as looking “top heavy, like a Bentley Continental that´s been heated up and squeezed at both ends.” However, the car’s engine range was praised for matching the vehicle’s dynamics, the 2.4 litre five cylinder and the 3.0 Alfa-derived V6 coming closest to “infusing the k Coupe with the classy character its styling tries to suggest.” “It´s the spiky turbo four that asks the hardest questions of the chassis and the all-strut suspension doesn´t flounder. It shines. A viscous coupling helps the front wheels cope with the onslaught of the engine´s old school, big-bang turbo delivery, and it feels remarkably untroubled.” About the refinement and ride, John Barker (of Car Magazine) reported that the occupants “are completely isolated from any vibration while the ride is smooth at moderate speeds, parrying bumps quietly and unobtrusively.” The interior was described as “appealing” and having “curvy, attractive door casings, plump supportive Recaro seats and choice plastics.”. The 1997 price was estimated at 24,000 pounds sterling. Italy remained the most important market.for the model In Poland, where Fiat Auto is the largest domestic car manufacturer, the Kappa served as official government cars (replacing Themas). Production ceased in 2000, with 117. 216 having been made.

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There were Lancia versions of both generations of the MPVs that were produced in a joint venture between Peugeot/Citroen and Fiat. As at the time of the launch of the second generation model seen herem Lancias were not using Greek letters in the 2000s (the first generation model had been called the Zet) until the Lancia Delta was reintroduced in 2008, the new minivan was called Lancia Phedra, in honour of the Greek mythological figure Phaedra. The second generation of the Eurovans were launched in 2020. The Peugeot 807 car first, in June, followed by the Citroen C8 in July, with the Italian duo of the second generation Fiat Ulysse and the Lancia following a few months later. The floorpan and wheelbase were not transformed, but all exterior dimensions, including front and rear tracks, were increased. The increase in length of almost 30 cm greatly enhanced interior volume. The new Eurovans were afforded a much more bubbly, contemporary look, along with a modern looking dashboard with centrally mounted gauges. The differences between the various versions were more marked, surrounding full front fascias and rear sections (including head and tail lights), as well as different interior colour themes. The middle and third row seats now had fore/aft sliders to increase flexibility and also adjustable backs. As with the first generation, a three seater bench seat was available in the third row, slotting into the standard third row seat runners, with back-lowering and tilt forward arrangements to increase boot space. The Citroën C8 and Peugeot 807 also got a light facelift in February 2008. The Fiat and the Lancia were slightly wider than PSA vans, and the Phedra was also longer than other Eurovans.Production ceased in 2014. The American-built Chrysler Voyager, with Lancia badges on it was effectively the successor.

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The Lancia Y (Type 840) was designed by Enrico Fumia in 1992. It was developed over 24 months at a cost of around 400 billion Italian lira[5] and was presented in Rome in January 1996. The arches defined the car, repeating themselves on all sides of the car. The length is 3.72 m, 33 cm longer than the Y10. The Lancia Y was built on the platform of the Fiat Punto series 176 (the same platform as the Palio and Barchetta), with a redesigned trailing arm independent rear suspension, connected by a stabiliser bar, to provide a more comfortable and refined driving experience, while suspension at the front remained of the independent MacPherson type. Main features of the Lancia Y include five seats, a soft plastic dashboard and accessories and options, including body colours in 100 shades from the Lancia Kaleidoscope catalogue. Another design property that distinguished the Y was the instrument cluster in the centre of the dashboard, which was adopted by the Musa and Ypsilon later in 2003. Initially, the range featured three trim levels: LE, LS and LX. A Cosmopolitan special edition of 600 pieces was later added. It was created through collaboration with the magazine, based on the LX trim. It was sold in the European market outside of Italy. Air conditioning was standard on the LX and an option on the LS. The LX also offered an enhanced instrument cluster with a rev counter and a larger display that also displayed the outside temperature. The engines were part of the FIRE series that debuted in the Y10 in 1985 and later was used in other Fiat and Lancia vehicles. They were available in displacements of 1,108 and 1,242cc with eight valves in an overhead camshaft arrangement. The top of the line 1.4 12 valve “Pratola Serra” engine with 80 PS was carried over from the Fiat Bravo/Brava. Given the limited success of the Pratola Serra engine, it was soon replaced by the first so-called SuperFIRE engine, featuring four valves per cylinder and multipoint fuel injection. The Lancia Y was the first car to receive this evolution of the FIRE. The 1,242cc SuperFIRE developed 86 PS at 6,000 rpm and a maximum torque of 113 Nm at 4,500 rpm. This engine remains available on the 2013 Lancia Ypsilon, 2013 Ford Ka and the Fiat 500. The SuperFIRE features a unique control system of the engine timing distribution: A toothed belt drives the camshaft of the exhaust valves, which in turn drives the intake camshaft via a gear. The Elefantino Rosso (English: Tiny Red Elephant, which was the symbol of the historic Lancia HF sports cars that won numerous rally competitions) is the sports version of the Lancia Y and the sister car to the Fiat Punto Sporting. It features an interior in grey Alcantara, seats also in grey Alcantara and accentuated with dark grey fabric insets that echo the exterior colour of the car, a centre console, 15″ wheels and rear-view mirrors in a titanium look, the steering wheel and gearshift in grey leather with red stitching, air conditioning, a shorter gearbox ratio for quicker acceleration from 0–100 km/h and in 5th gear, a lowered and stiffened suspension with bigger roll bars and more direct power steering. It reached a top speed of 177 km/h and was the only car in the lineup to receive 15″ wheels with 195/50R15 tires. For those who desired a more discreet, comfortable and luxurious ride, the LX (with an Alcantara and walnut veneer interior) and LS were also available with SuperFIRE. They were able to reach the same top speed as the “Pratola Serra” versions. The 1.2 8V was available with an automatic ECVT transmission. In October 2000 the exterior and interior were restyled. The external changes included a new, larger grille, new bumpers, new taillights, new wheel cover designs, new fog lights. The side mouldings of the car became much smoother and body-coloured. The most significant internal change was the headrests (instead of drilled solids) and new seats and new steering wheel (similar to that of the Lancia Lybra). The material was no longer available with “soft touch”, reflective security was removed from the doors, the climate control button was replaced with a lever and the instrument panel was made more readable and modern, especially in the use of the LED display. The length of the car increased slightly from 3.72 to 3.74 metres. The LX and Red Elephant versions, which cost €15.060 list, came with standard including driver and passenger airbags, air conditioning, ABS, power steering, Blaupunkt radio/navigation system with 6 speakers, split rear seat with headrests, the Alcantara interior, outdoor temperature display, electrically operated door mirrors painted in body colour, the helm station and instrument panel were red instead of green, central locking with remote control, power windows, adjustable seat and steering wheel, leather interior with red stitching on the Red Elephant, fog lamps and alloy wheels with 185/60 R 14 tyres for the LX and 195/50 R15 for the Red Elephant. The following years were marketed by other special versions: DoDo, Vanity and Unica. 16v versions reduce their output of 6 PS due to new Euro 3 pollution standards. Emissions were reduced with a more linear delivery, while maintaining, and sometimes even increasing, consumption. Lancia reduced power from 60 PS on the 1242 cc, due to the addition of the sequential multipoint fuel injection system, costing power. It also removed the 55 PS engine 1108 option, as it had not yet been adapted to the new Euro 3 directive, leaving the 60 PS 1.2 8v and 1.2 16v 80 PS. In September 2003, after nearly nine years of career and just above 804,600 units sold, its successor, the Lancia Ypsilon debuted, replacing it completely the following year.

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The Lancia Musa (Type 350) was a front engine, front wheel drive, five door, five passenger high roof B-segment mini MPV manufactured by FCA, and marketed by the company’s Lancia subdivision from 2004 through to 2012. It was effectively a badge engineered variant of the Fiat Idea, the Musa also employs the Project 188 platform, originally used for the second generation Fiat Punto. The Musa design, an adaption of the Fiat Idea by Fabrizio Giugiaro, was initially supervised by Flavio Manzoni and subsequently Marco Tencone. It debuted at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show and deliveries began in Europe in October of the same year. The Musa’s front and rear end styling bears resemblance to the technically related Lancia Ypsilon, with which it shares headlights. The interior features Alcantara or leather, as well as chrome details. Like the Fiat Idea, the Musa offers an electrohydraulic manual transmission, an automated manual transmission marketed as Dolce Far Niente (D.F.N.) — for all engines except the eight valve version of the 1.4 FIRE. A revised, mildly facelifted Musa premiered at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, and debuted at Frankfurt Auto Show in October 2007, with a revised logo of Lancia, front bumper fascia with new chrome mouldings, body side mouldings with chrome inserts, LED rear lamps and a luggage compartment seventy litres larger, while and loading deck lowered by 4cm, as well as revised headliner sound proofing in the headliner. Options including FCA’s integrated In Vehicle Infotainment system (marketed as Blue&Me), new body colours and equipment. In 2008, for the market in Italy, Lancia introduced the EcoChic version with 1.4 Fire 8v dual power (LPG and petrol) engine. In 2009, Lancia introduced a start-stop system with the 1.4 Fire 16v and 1.3 Multijet II Euro 5 engines, the latter with 95 PS. Production ended in 2012 and there was no successor.

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The Ypsilon (Type 843) was Introduced in 2003 to access the Lancia range. It was designed to meet the needs of a young audience, and over time found sales, especially to females. It became the best-selling car of the Lancia range with annual production of about 60,000 units. It was initially assembled at the Fiat plant in Melfi. In June 2005 production was moved to Sicily at the plant in Termini Imerese Palermo. The car uses a three-door body about 3.78 meters long, with design inspired by the historic Lancia Ardea. The front is characterised by a large chrome grille with lobes at the top. The lighting is placed at the ends of the front arch. Bumpers are characterised by the presence of a coating applied to the fascia. Above the air intakes are the fog lights (in versions of the tip). A prominent rib runs along the sides. The glazing frames are chrome plated versions of the tip. The tail has vertically-oriented headlamps that culminate in the bumper and are integrated into the fenders. The rear tailgate has a small size that limits visibility, embellished by chromed fascia above the license plate. The frame used a shortened version of the B platform debuted with the Fiat Punto (188) and adopted also by the Fiat Idea and Lancia Musa. The engine is transverse front-mounted, with front wheel drive. The front independent suspensions are MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar, with steel arms, while at the rear there is a semi-independent torsion beam suspension. Ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes were available only for the home versions. Sport MomoDesign provided the four-disc brakes with stiffened suspension and trim for other models. All versions included anti-wheel drive lock (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and an electric power steering system that stiffens gradually, but among the options are combined electronic stability control and traction. The interior is covered with plastic inserts on door panels and instrument panel is covered with Airtex fabric, leather or Alcantara depending on the model. Two-tone upholstery and plastic inserts mimic aluminium. The upholstery is available in four different materials: “glamorous”, Airtex, suede and leather. It offers a large storage space in front of the driver and passenger. The air conditioning and radio controls were located in the central area, including the optional navigation system. In autumn 2006 the Ypsilon, received a touch-up that affected the engines and internals. It had a new front grille, more rounded bumpers with enlarged air intakes and rear light clusters with chrome-effect ice. There are five versions: Silver, Passion, White Gold, Yellow Gold and Platinum. New fabrics for the seats came with new combinations of colours. Finishes on the bridge are painted silver or dark gray. The car has a new 1.3 Multijet 16v engine of 75, 90 or 105 horses. It also offered Blue&Me hands-free (Bluetooth with USB port), new colours and new wheels. The new Ypsilon can be equipped with pay-Electronic Stability Control and Hill Holder, a 0.93 g of grip, even if the rolling is accentuated by the soft suspension calibration. The shift lever is in a raised position and the split rear bench seat and sliding. The 2008 model introduced a DPF particulate filter as standard on all diesel engines except the 105 bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel with semi-automatic transmission DFN (Dolce Far Niente). In 2010, the exterior mirrors increased in size and darkened headlamps appeared. In 2011 Lancia introduced the final version called Ypsilon Unyca. Production of the second generation Lancia Ypsilon ended on 23 November 2011 because Fiat Group closed the Termini Imerese factory where the Ypsilon was assembled. The third generation of Lancia Ypsilon is produced at Tychy in Poland.

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Final Lancia were examples of the third generation Delta. In September 2006, Lancia announced the revival of the Delta name, with new cars to be built on the Fiat C platform. The world première of the new HPE concept was held at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival. The new Lancia Delta (Type 844) was unveiled at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. The Lancia brand was reintroduced to the Scandinavian, Russian, and Turkish markets in 2007. The new Delta was also intended for a proposed return by Lancia to the UK market during 2009. However, due to an economic downturn, plans were shelved until Fiat bought Chrysler. As the car had been engineered for RHD already, the decision was made in 2010 to bring both the new Delta and Lancia’s Ypsilon into the UK and Ireland rebranded as Chryslers and sold through the UK Chrysler dealer network. At the 2010 North American International Auto Show, the Chrysler branded version of the Delta was unveiled as a concept car for a potential North American release. Engines available at launch were 120 PS and 150 PS 1.4 L Turbojet petrol engines and 1.6 L 120 PS MultiJet diesel, 2.0 Multijet with 165 PS and 1.9 Twinturbo Multijet with 190 PS. A new petrol unit was launched later: 1.8 Di Turbojet with 200 PS. The car never really found much in the way of popularity and production ceased in 2012.

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SEAT

As well as all those Fiat Panda models, there was its Spanish cousin here, the Marbella. Initially the Spanish built model was very similar to the Fiat and was even called the Panda, but the two diverged after the relationship between Fiat and SEAT ended. The “Marbella” badge was first used for the 1983 model year, on a luxurious version of the SEAT Panda. After a second, more thorough restyling in December 1986, it received the SEAT Marbella nameplate (codenamed 28 for SEAT Marbella and 028A for SEAT Marbella box) and was produced by SEAT until 1998 in the company’s Zona Franca plant in Spain. The end of Marbella production in 1998 also meant the end of vehicle production in that factory. The SEAT model did not receive the mechanical and cosmetic tweaks (such as the loss of front window quarter-lights) applied to Fiat Pandas “Mark II”s from 1986 but was instead subjected to those from SEAT. The obvious differences between a Panda and a Marbella are at the front and back of the car where head and tail lights and boot panels are different, the Marbella gaining a pronounced slope to the front panel. The Marbella featured a boot with capacity of 272 litres, expandable to 1,088 litres when the rear seats are folded. Mechanically, the Panda borrowed heavily from the Fiat “parts bin”, using engines and transmissions from the Fiat 127. The engine is an inline four-cylinder with 40 PS and 903 cc. This proved adequate for this light car which weighed in at about 680 kg. A 60 PS kit to make a more powerful SEAT Panda Abarth version was also on offer, sold in Spain by a company called Apicsa. Shortly after introduction, a smaller-hearted version corresponding to the Italian two-cylinder model was added. Called the “Panda 35”, it had a smaller 843 cc version of the engine, a development of the engine originally fitted to the SEAT 850 beginning in the mid-sixties. To set it further apart from the “45”, a lower compression rate was chosen. Nonetheless, the smaller engine had to work that much harder to keep up, and in practice the fuel economy savings were negligible. When the Marbella was introduced in December 1986, the smaller 843 cc version continued to be available. This low-priced version produced only 34 PS at 5,600 rpm and was not available with the five-speed transmission. Top speed for the bigger engine was 131 km/h (81 mph), while the 850 could only reach 125 km/h (78 mph). 903 cc version of the engine later got electronic injection and reduced its size to 899 cc. Several differently labelled models were produced during the lifetime of the car, with few corresponding significant changes in specifications. Common models include the L, Special, XL, GL, and GLX, but there were many “special editions”, especially later in the life of the Marbella. In September 1989 the “Black”, “Red”, and “Yellow” specials were added, “Blue”, “Green”, “CLX”, and “Jeans” joined in September 1990. Various export markets also received market specific editions, such as the “Le Jouet” series marketed in France in the early nineties.

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In SAN GIMIGNANO

Towards the end of the holiday, on a rather wet and soggy day, I headed over to San Gimignano, a delightful small Tuscan town which is perched on the side of a hill, and well known for having 14 bell towers which are visible for miles around. It is lovely place, and also houses a gelateria which has on several occasions being awarded the title of “best ice cream in the world”. something I had to verify for myself (and it certainly was very good!). The biggest challenge. usually, is finding to park, as although there are several car parks on either side of the town, they tend to rammed full. Thanks to the rather miserable weather that was not the case on this occasion and when I parked up, there were relatively few other cars there. When I returned to the car park, there were rather more, and among them was a long line of delightful Alfa Romeo models. They all had German plates on, mostly from Munich. Although there was no sign of the owners, there were a few clues in the cars suggesting that this was a tour from Munich to Tuscany. I could not just walk past them without getting the camera out, And so here is the collection.

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The majority of the cars were the very pretty Spider model which started out as part of the Giulietta family and which later ended up as part of the later Giulia family. In fact, only one of these was a Giulietta, the others were all Giulia cars. Alfa had followed up the 1950 launch of the 1900 Berlina with a smaller model, the Giulietta. Known as the Type 750 and later 101 Series, the Giulietta evolved into a family of models. The first to be introduced was the Giulietta Sprint 2+2 coupé at the 1954 Turin Motor Show. Designed by Franco Scaglione at Bertone, it was produced at the coachbuilder’s Grugliasco plant near Turin. A year later, at the Turin Motor Show in April 1955, the Sprint was joined by the 4-door saloon Berlina. In mid 1955, the open two-seat Giulietta Spider, featuring convertible bodywork by Pininfarina. Alfa replaced the Giulietta with the Giulia in 1962, but as the Coupe and Spider were not ready, the Giulietta based models were kept in production, and renamed as Giulia. They gained a larger 1600cc engine, and this meant that the bonnet need to be raised a little to accommodate the new unit, so the easy recognition beyond Giulietta and Giulia Spiders is whether there is a flat bonnet or one with a slight hump and a vent in it.

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First of the all-new Giulia models to appear was the Berlina, launched in 1962. The styling was quite straight forward, but great attention was paid to detail. The engine bay, cabin and boot were all square shaped. But the grille, the rooflines and details on the bonnet and boot made for an integrated design from bumper to bumper. Thanks to Alfa Romeo using a wind tunnel during its development, the Giulia was very aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of Cd=0.34, which was particularly low for a saloon of the era and not a bad figure even for cars of today. Couple that with the fact that Alfa Romeo was one of the first manufacturers to put a powerful engine in a light-weight car (it weighed about 1,000 kilograms) and thanks to an array of light alloy twin overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, similar to that of the earlier Giulietta models range, the car had a lively performance which bettered that of many sports cars of the day. The Tipo 105.14 was the first model, with a 1,570 cc Twin Cam engine with single down-draft carburettor generating 91 hp at 6500 rpm. The “TI” nomenclature referred to a class of Italian saloon car racing known as “Turismo Internazionale”, and had previously been applied to higher-performance versions of the 1900 and Giulietta saloons in the 1950s. However, for the Giulia saloon, the Ti was at first the only version available, and later, with the introduction of the TI Super and Super, the TI became the base version for the 1,600 cc engine class. The steering column gearchange (the only one in the Giulia range) was replaced with a floor change for 1964 (Tipo 105.08). Right hand drive cars, available from 1964, only ever had a floor change (Tipo 105.09). Brakes were by drums all around at first. Discs were introduced later, first at the front, and later all around. A brake servo was not fitted at first, but was introduced in later cars. The steering wheel featured the only horn ring ever in the Giulia range. The dashboard with a strip speedo is a notable feature, as is the steering wheel with a horn ring. The Giulia TI was phased out in 1968 and re-introduced as the austerity model 1600 S. Tipo 105.16 was a special racing model introduced in 1963. Quadrifoglio Verde stickers on the front wings were a distinguishing feature. Only 501 were made for homologation and today it is very rare and desirable. The 1,570 cc engine was fitted with two double-choke horizontal Weber 45DCOE carburettors for 110 hp at 6500 rpm. The body was lightened and a floor gearchange was fitted as standard, as were alloy wheels of very similar appearance to the standard steel ones of the TI. The TI’s instrument cluster with its strip speedometer was replaced with a three-instrument binnacle comprising speedometer, tachometer and a multi-gauge instrument (fuel, water temperature, oil temperature and pressure) – these instruments were similar to those fitted to the contemporary Giulia Sprint and Sprint Speciale coupes and Spider convertibles. The steering wheel was a three-spoke item with centre hornpush, also similar to that of the more sporting models. Braking was by discs all around, although the first cars used drums and early disc models lacked a servo which was introduced later. The police cars seen in The Italian Job were of this type. Tipo 105.06 was an austerity model made from 1964 to 1970 with a 1,290 cc single-carburettor engine for 77 hp at 6000 rpm. Four-speed gearbox with floor change fitted as standard (the 1300 was the only Giulia model not fitted with a five-speed gearbox). Though the engine was given a 105 series type number, it was basically the engine from the 101 series Giulietta Ti. This model appears not to have been exported to many markets outside Italy, if at all. Braking was by discs all around, without a servo at first, later with a servo. Tipo 105.26 was introduced in 1965. It transferred the technology from the racing TI Super to a road car, to make the most successful Giulia saloon. 1,570 cc engine with two double-choke Weber 40DCOE carburettors for a milder, but torquier tune than the TI Super – 97 hp at 5500 rpm. There was a new dashboard with two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and clock, a sportier steering wheel with three aluminium spokes and centre horn push, similar to that of the Ti Super, later changed for one with the horn pushes in the spokes. All-around disc brakes with servo were fitted as standard from the outset. The serpent crest of the Sforza family appears in a badge on the C-pillar and is a distinguishing feature of the Super. For 1968, there was a suspension update, including revised geometry and a rear anti-roll bar. The wheels were changed in size from 5J x 15 to 5J x 14, and tyres from 155/15 to 165/14. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre-mounted handbrake lever to replace under-dash “umbrella handle”, larger external doorhandles, and top-hinged pedals (the latter in left hand drive models only; right hand drive continued with bottom-hinged pedals to the end of production). In 1972, Tipo 105.26 was rationalised into the Giulia 1.3 – Giulia 1.6 range. Tipo 105.39 built from 1965 to 1972. Right hand drive model replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super. 1,290 cc engine with single down-draft carburettor for 81 hp at 6000 rpm. Unlike the re-deployed 101-series Giulietta engine of the austerity-model 1300, the 1300 ti motor was a 105 series engine, basically that of the sportier GT1300 Junior coupe with different camshaft timing (but the same camshafts) and induction system. Five-speed gearbox. Three-spoke bakelite steering wheel with plastic horn push covering the centre and spokes. Dashboard initially with strip speedo like that of the TI. For 1968, updates included a dashboard based on that of the Super, but with a simpler instrument binnacle, still featuring two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and a separate fuel gauge, and the same suspension, wheel and tire updates applied to the Giulia Super in the same year. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre handbrake, larger external doorhandles and top-hinged pedals (on left hand drive cars only), again as applied to the Super for that year. Tipo 105.85 was basically a Giulia TI re-introduced in 1968 as a lower-level model to come between the 1300 and 1300 ti on one hand, and the Super on the other. It had a re-interpretation of the 1,570 cc single-carburettor engine for 94 hp at 5500 rpm and similar trim to the 1300 ti. Replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super which offered similar performance in a lower tax bracket. The last cars from 1970 featured the top-hinged pedals, centre handbrake and dual-circuit brakes as for the Super and 1300 ti. Tipo 115.09 was introduced in 1970. It was basically a 1300 ti fitted with the engine from the GT 1300 Junior coupe that featured two double-choke horizontal carburettors; the engine actually had the GT 1300 Junior type number. This model was rationalised into the Giulia Super 1.3 – Giulia Super 1.6 range in 1972. In 1972 a rationalisation of the Giulia range saw the Super 1300 (Tipo 115.09) and the Super (Tipo 105.26) re-released as the Super 1.3 and Super 1.6. The two models featured the same equipment, interior and exterior trim, differing only in engine size and final drive ratio. The 1300 ti was dropped. A small Alfa Romeo badge on the C-pillar is a distinguishing feature, as are hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts. In December 1972 Alfa-Romeo South Africa released the 1600 Rallye. This locally developed more powerful 1600 cc version of the 1300 Super used the 1300’s single-headlight body shell. The car was largely ready for competition and was only planned to be built in limited numbers, and was fitted with racing-style rear-view mirrors, rally lamps, fully adjustable seats, and a limited-slip differential. Claimed power was 125 hp. The Giulia Super range was re-released in 1974 as the Nuova Super range, including the Giulia Nuova Super 1300 and 1600 This featured a new black plastic front grille and a flat boot lid without the characteristic centre spine. Otherwise the cars differed little from their Giulia Super predecessors and bore the same Tipo numbers with an S suffix. A Nuova Super fitted with a Perkins 1,760 cc diesel with 54 hp at 4000 rpm, was the firm’s first attempt at diesel power. The same Perkins diesel was used also in Alfa Romeo F12 van. The diesel version was slow, 138 km/h (86 mph), and the engine somehow unsuitable for a sport sedan so it was not big seller, only around 6500 examples were made in 1976 and the car was not sold in the UK. Production of the Giulia ceased in 1977.

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Alfa replaced the Giulia-based Spider model with an all-new design which finally made its debut in 1966 together with the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce at an event organised in Gardone Riviera. With its boat tailed styling, it quickly found favour, even before taking a starring role in the film “The Graduate”. The original 1600cc engine was replaced by a more powerful 1750cc unit at the same time as the change was made to the rest of the range, and the car continued like this until 1970, when the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top. The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloces produced. Several examples of the Series 1 and Series 2 cars were to be seen here.

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The S4, the final major change to the long running Spider came in 1990, and mechanically, the biggest different was the use of Bosch Motronic electronic fuel injection with an electric fan. Externally, the Spider lost its front under-bumper spoiler and the rather ungainly rear boot spoiler of the S3, and picked up 164-style rear lights stretching across the width of the car as well as plastic bumpers the same colour as the car. This also marked the first generation of the car with automatic transmission, as well as on-board diagnostics capabilities. The car had remained in production largely thanks to continued demand in North America, though this market had to wait until 1991 for the changes to appear on their cars. European markets were offered a car with a 1600cc engine and carburettors as well as the 2 litre injected unit. Production finally ended in 1993, with an all new model, the 916 Series Spider appearing a year later. The S4 car was not officially sold in the UK, but plenty have found their way to our shores since then.

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AND FINALLY………..

This is Italy, and so you might reasonably expect to see a good number of new Italian models, and indeed I did. The ones I was most looking out for, of course, were modern Abarths, and there were surprisingly few of them. Just two made my camera in the course of a week, both of them 595 models.

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As is well document here, I love Italy, and I love Italian cars. So this was a most enjoyable week, taking in the best that the country could offer me: great hospitality at the hotel, with fabulous views from the 14th floor of the sun setting behind the Duomo in Florence, stunning scenery, mouth-watering food and drink and these lovely old Italian cars. La dolce vita, indeed!

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