Over the years, Fiat’s mass-produced rear-engined economy cars have been turned into small trucks, sports cars, off-roaders, people movers and even luxury cars. Most of these conversions were done by hand by independent coachbuilders, an industry that has sadly all but disappeared today.
We’re taking a look at a handful of the more obscure coachbuilt Fiats that were designed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
The name Ferves stands for Ferrari Veicoli Speciali. There is no connection between the firm and the Ferrari that probably came to mind as you read that, the name is simply a coincidence. Ferrari is a relatively common last name in Italy.
Introduced at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, the tiny four-wheel drive Ranger was a melting pot of Fiat parts. The suspension and the brakes came from the 600D, the front driveshafts were sourced from the front-wheel drive Autobianchi Primula and the 499cc air-cooled two-cylinder engine was borrowed from the 500 F. The Ranger also used the 500’s four-speed transaxle, though its differential ratio was shorter than that of a standard 500. Later models were available with a five-speed transmission that included a granny gear, and a two-wheel drive model was introduced towards the end of the production run.
Most Rangers built were four-seaters but a two-seater pickup was also offered. Less than 1,000 examples were built by the time production ended in 1971.
Francis Lombardi Lucciola
A former pilot in the Italian Air Force, Francis Lombardi started an airplane company called AVIA (Azionari Vercellese Industrie Aeronautiche) in 1938. After World War II, Lombardi left the airplane industry and began building wood-paneled station wagons based on the Fiat 1100.
The company’s first 600-based model was the Lucciola (firely in Italian) that made its debut in 1956. Starting with a stock 600, Lombardi added niceties such as a larger rear window that improved visibility, additional chrome trim and new wheel covers. The Lucciola could be ordered with a two-tone paint job at an extra cost, and a convertible model was produced in extremely limited numbers.
A new version of the Lucciola was introduced in 1958. It was an elegant four-door version of the 600 whose rear doors opened in a suicide fashion, eliminating the need for a B-pillar. The individual front seats were tossed out in favor of a bench seat in order to give the passengers the impression that they were riding in a large, luxurious sedan. Finally, the Lucciola was fitted with a non-functional chrome grille up front and a large serving of chrome trim all around.
Lombardi updated the Lucciola in 1963 with a larger 767cc engine sourced from the 600D. A concept car with four forward-hinged doors was built at about the same time but it was never given the green light for production. All told, very few Lucciolas were built.
Introduced in 1967, the highly-aerodynamic Moretti Sportiva looked like a poor man’s Dino when viewed from the front. The Fiat 850 emblem on the back of it revealed its true origins: It was powered by the 850’s 843cc four-cylinder engine, though a more powerful 982cc unit rated at 62-horsepower was also available.
Called Sportiva S2, the first version of Moretti’s 850-based sports car was a two-seater coupe that could be ordered with a large cloth sunroof. A four-seater model dubbed Sportiva S4 2+2 was launched later in the production run. Both models could be ordered with features like metallic paint, Borrani wheels, electric windows, leather upholstery and so forth. Production ended in 1971, and company records indicate that less than 1,000 examples were built.
Commissioned by Fiat’s Gianni Agnelli, the Savio Jungla was Italy’s response to the Mini Moke. Agnelli did not want to develop the car in-house so he outsourced both design and production to Savio, a coachbuilder based in Turin. Savio essentially had unlimited access to Fiat’s parts bin and, as a result, the Jungla was a cocktail of parts borrowed from miscellaneous Fiat models.
The 500’s two-cylinder engine was deemed too small to power the Jungla so Savio opted for the 600D’s water-cooled 767cc four-cylinder, a unit that allowed the soft-roader to reach a top speed of 60 mph (95 km/h). The wheels and the tires were borrowed from the bigger 1100, though period pictures indicate that some Junglas came stock with either 500 or 600 wheels.
Called Giungla, the first prototype was presented at the 1965 edition of the Turin Motor Show. Several modifications were made to the show car and production began in 1966 under the Jungla nameplate. About 3,200 examples were made by the time production ended in 1974. A decent amount of them were ordered by the Italian government and distributed to various departments such as the Carabinieri and the Corpo Forestale.
Fiat briefly toyed around with the idea of replacing the Jungla with an A112-powered model but the model was axed at the embryonic stage of development. However, Savio went on to build a second-gen Jungla that was based on the 126.
SIATA designed the Spring as a homage to back-to-the-basics British roadsters like the MG TC. Powered by an 850-sourced 843cc four-cylinder engine, the Spring featured a retro-inspired look that was characterized by round headlights that popped out from a tall radiator grille with chromed vertical slats, wire wheels and a rear-mounted spare tire. The Spring cost roughly the same price as a Fiat 850 Spider when it hit showrooms in 1967, and many examples were exported to the United States.
SIATA went out of business in 1970 so production ended then, but there’s a twist: the Rivolta family (of ISO fame) bought the SIATA assembly line and continued to produce the Spring using SEAT-sourced mechanical components. SEAT was closely linked to the Fiat group at the time so many mechanical parts were similar but there were a handful of differences, including the use of a more powerful version of the 843cc. The roadster was rechristened SEAT-ORSA Spring Special and production lasted until 1974, when ISO went under.