We photographed this Autobianchi A112 Junior right in the middle of downtown Aix-en-Provence, a medium-sized town located in the south of France. It is undeniably rough around the edges but it recently passed safety and emissions inspections, a sign that all is well under the skin.
Introduced in November of 1969, the A112 was billed as an Italian Austin Mini and it was tasked with replacing the aging Fiat 500-based Bianchina. At its launch, it was powered by an 850-sourced water-cooled 903cc four-cylinder engine that was mounted transversally in the front of the car and transferred power to the front wheels, a setup whose existence in the Fiat lineup is attributed to engineer Dante Giacosa.
The A112 underwent a major makeover in 1977 but its overall silhouette stayed the same until it was phased out in 1986 and replaced by the Y10, a three-door hatchback that was initially sold as both an Autobianchi and a Lancia throughout Europe. The Autobianchi name was buried when the brand was merged with Lancia in 1992.
The A112 pictured below is a sixth-generation model built between 1982 and 1984 but we can’t tell the exact year it was first registered in because the license plate number is not original. Non-Abarth A112s like the entry-level Junior model were often considered throw-away cars and they are downright rare outside of Italy. Surprisingly, unlike many econoboxes built in the 1980s, virtually all A112s have managed to keep their value fairly well.
The A112 was briefly parked next to a two-year old Range Rover Sport which brings up an interesting point. Over the past couple of years, French politicians have been trying to launch a pilot program that aims to turn eight cities including Aix into clean air zones, a move that would make it illegal for vehicles over 10-years old to enter the center of the city.
The program has drawn criticism from politicians all across the board and from the general public so its launch has been delayed several times. However, if it was introduced today, the A112 would no longer be allowed to drive through or park in downtown Aix while the Range Rover and the 348 grams of CO2 per kilometer that its V8 engine emits would be able to remain for eight more years.
When viewed from this angle, it looks like Paris is barking up the wrong tree.