Car Show Classics: Indigestion Part 1 – The Fiats of Como Park


(first posted 9/1/2014)    I’ve been to exactly three car shows since I got a cameraphone two years ago. All at the same place; beautiful Como Park nestled in a crook of the River Yarra. And always featuring Italian cars. These photos have been burning a hole on my computer and I was going to post them on the Cohort, but to be honest it was too much fun doing the research so I thought I’d write them up for CC.


Fiat Otto Vu, otherwise known as the 8V. It was named as such because Fiat thought Ford owned the ‘V8’ name. Designed by the incomparable Dante Giacosa and styled by Fabio Luigi Rapi, the 8V featured a narrow 70 degree 1996cc engine pushing out 105hp which could reach 118mph in standard factory-body form. The canted quad headlights show this to be one of the second series to come out of the factory.


The 8V was a short lived model. It was in production from 1952 to 1954 and only 114 were produced. Most came with the factory body, but approximately 40 were clothed by carrozzerie including Zagato, Vignale and Ghia. Siata was also involved with this model, being a company aligned with Fiat to help them with their premium products. From this angle the flowing curves of the bodywork are at their most sensuous.


In 1954, Fiat produced the Turbina; a gas turbine prototype that was tested on the legendary rooftop track of the Lingotto factory. The Turbina featured a much modified version of the 8V body but alas, it and the 8V did not point to the future for Fiat. Whilst some special bodied versions of the 8V enjoyed racing success, this program was scrapped in favour of Fiat’s more proletarian offerings.


Winged cars are not my forte, but I believe this is a Fiat Balilla Sport Spider 508S; co-created with Siata and designed by Ghia. It’s based on the Balilla saloon of which about 113,000 examples were produced. Two variants of the Sport Spider were available, the Coppa d’Oro (Gold Cup) with cycle wings and the ‘Mille Miglia Spider’ version with the more flowing fenders.


That fin on the rear earned this model the nickname ‘insect tail’. These cars were assembled by Fiat in Italy as well as in Germany, France and Czechoslovakia by affiliated businesses. The sportiest of these were powered by a 27kW engine and enjoyed some racing success in 1933 and 1934. It’s rakish in a Noddy sort of way.


Fiat Eveline from 1967-71. Vignale designed and built 200 of these specials based on Fiat 124 mechanicals. This is the sort of vehicle that was keeping smaller carrozzerie (barely) alive in the 60s; a rebodying of the basic Fiat sedan that sold in some (but not great) numbers. Whilst the factory-built Fiat 124 Sports Coupe started with the 1438cc engine, these were a straight transplant of 124 Sedan mechanicals including the 1197cc version of the OHV engine. It looks like there was one built with the 1438cc engine and it was called a ‘Special Export’


In profile you get a sense of some of the body’s awkwardness. I find it frustrating because, at a glimpse, this is a very handsome car. But when I spend more time looking at it I invariably end up focusing on its styling shortcomings. The unique coachwork was complemented by a raft of interior luxury appointments which were designed to appeal to the well-to-do who still had to contend with the congestion of Italy’s cities.


That overly-long rear end may be its failing in profile, but the rear three quarter is this car’s best angle. A nice sweep down with a beautifully discrete C-pillar. Still, this car is more successful stylistically than the later 128-based Vignale Samantha. Vignale was bought by De Tomaso in 1969, which was then swallowed up by Ford in 1974, so the brand is now a Ford trademark. They are apparently going to revive it and use it as a luxury spec badge, as they have with Ghia in the past.


The 2300S Ghia Coupe, like the 8V, sat at the top of the Fiat model hierarchy. In 1959, Fiat introduced the six cylinder engine for its premium saloons and wagons. Starting as a 1800/2100cc range, the 2100 was replaced in 1961 with the enlarged 2300cc engine. The coupe originated as a styling exercise displayed at the 1960 Turin Motor Show and entered production in 1961. Whilst it was designed at Ghia, lack of production capacity meant that another small manufacturer – OSI – helped put these together.


Styled by Sergio Sartorelli, the 2300 Coupe shared the same wheelbase as the factory saloon, albeit with a slightly wider track. The body was welded to the saloon platform and wears its length remarkably well. Clean lines with very little adornment mark this as a very sophisticated design. The reverse cant on the C-pillar may be a bit of an affectation, but one that works very well within the overall proportions as well as with the canted profiles of the front and rear ends.


The 2300S was a twin-carb hotter-cam version of the 2300 Coupe. This power upgrade produced 136hp compared with the standard 105hp. The difference in price between the 2300 and 2300S was so small most buyers opted for the ‘S’, making the standard Coupe by far the rarer model. Production numbers for this beautiful coupe are estimated at around 7000 over its seven year lifespan.


Another late sixties rarebie, the Lombardi Grand Prix. Powered by a 35kW version of the Fiat 850 engine, one of these is claimed to have achieved 95 mph due in no small part to its windcheating Kamm areodynamics and a curb weight of 1390 lbs. Pictured here is the first of the breed, the series one with the original Fiat 850 vented engine cover.


These went to market under a variety of brands; there was the Lombardi which was the base spec progenitor, then there was a convoluted collaboration with Moretti to produce the OTAS, which featured more power in various engine guises, and then Abarth put these out as the Scorpione. By the end of its short life, Abarth had managed to fit a 1.3 litre engine to achieve 109mph.

Fiat 695a

Speaking of Abarth, here is one of the 500-bodied variants. There were at least five 500-bodied Abarth variants so I’m not game enough to take a guess at which exact model this is. A nice baby to own, but I’m struggling to think where I’d drive one of these at even 7/10s. A bog standard 500 was my first drive at the age of 11. Through the streets of Rome. From the back seat (I was doing the steering). Fun.


Autobianchi A112 Abarth. First Autobianchi I’ve seen in Australia, and the first Abarth version I’ve ever seen. Owned by Fiat, the base Autobianchi model was essentially a repackaged 128 and was instrumental in the development of the 127. It’s a neat, unobtrusive design, except for the wheels and those stickers. The Abarth A112 had two engines over its lifetime maxing at 69bhp in 1050cc form.


Fiat 130 Coupe; object of my dreams since about the age of 8. My favourite 3-volume design ever. Paolo Martin penned this for Pininfarina and eventually 4496 were built out of PF’s Grugliasco works. It was based on the factory saloon which shared none of its styling sophistication. Released in 1971, it was still influencing car design at the end of that decade.


I plan to do a comprehensive CC on this model, but let me assure you that owning mine was exactly the nightmare every sane person who never owned one has managed to avoid. Most of my time with this car was spent looking at that gorgeous rear end parked in my garage. I’ve also found a curbside example recently; not a driver and tragically deteriorating in the elements.


Another Pininfarina, the Fiat Dino Spider. As Paul’s CC on the Fiat Dino Coupe notes, these were introduced as a series to help Ferrari homologate the V6 Dino engine for racing. It’s a really appealing car in the flesh, the curvatures over the body delineate this as every inch the exotic. I remember seeing a patinated dark red one driving around Melbourne twenty years ago and it’s a tight little design.


It’s really a Ferrari. Whilst the first series 206 versions were assembled by Fiat, these IRS 246s were assembled on the same Ferrari production line by the same Ferrari engineers in Maranello with the same engines as the mid-engine ‘Ferrari’. In fact these Spiders are the rarest of the 246 Dino range with only 424 built, making it less numerous than the mid-engined GT and GTS. Given its visual similarities to the mid-engined Dino GT, these are an under-appreciated exotic.


Tune in next Monday for Indigestion Part 2: The Alfas of Como Park.