Autobianchi was a car manufacturing company in Italy that went defunct in 1995, but not without producing a handful of mini cars. The company produced luxury cars and therefore they were pricier but the quality they exuded made up for the cost.
Initially, the automobile firm produced bicycles and motorcycles, then it gradually added automobiles as well.
In this article, we will cover the origins of the company, the cars it manufactured, and how it ultimately folded.
The First Car of Autobianchi
The first car to be launched by the company in 1957 was the Bianchina; a vehicle named in memory of the first car of Eduardo Bianchi. Also known as the Autobianchi Bianchina, the mini car featured an air-cooled two-cylinder engine and a new and eye-catching body that made it stand out.
Autobianchi Bianchina was introduced as a city car that was a level above the Fiat 500 – one of the most popular cars during that era. It came in five models: a saloon car named Bianchina Berlina, a Bianchina convertible named Trasformabile, a van known as Furgoncino, a roadster called Cabriolet, and a station wagon known as Panoramica.
The Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile looked like a two-door landaulet – a car that featured a foldable hood over the rear seats. Later in 1960, the Cabriolet was launched featuring a full convertible body, which was soon followed by Panoramica and the two-door Berlina. The last in the lineup of Bianchina was the Furgochina vans, which came in two versions – one with a raised and larger storage area and the two-seater van that had the appearance of the Panoramica.
– Features of the Autobianchi Bianchina
The car which was based on the Fiat 500 featured a small OHV two-cylinder engine with a 479 cc displacement and 17 horsepower at 4,000rpm. It was a rear-wheel drive with its engine also in the rear with a 4-speed manual transmission.
Two years later, the engine’s capacity was increased to 16.8 horsepower and then a year later the company introduced the Cabriolet. Bianchina also featured a four-wheel independent suspension as well as a four-wheel hydraulic drum brake.
Autobianchi Stellina and Primula
At the 1963 Turin Motorshow, Autobianchi launched a new model in the Bianchina line-up known as the Stellina. Designed by American Tom Tjaarda, the Stellina was a two-door roadster featuring a fiberglass body – the first of its kind in Italy. The chassis of the car was inspired by the Fiat 600D and soon became the basis for manufacturing new Fiat cars. The Stellina was discontinued in 1965, two years after its Turin launch, and only 506 cars were manufactured.
The Autobianchi Primula was introduced in 1964, a year after the Stellina, as the first-front wheel drive of the company. The car came with a traverse engine as opposed to the longitudinal engine used by the older models. The mini vehicle was introduced to Europe to test how the public will react to the changes in design and function. Fortunately, the new design caught on well with the public and soon other car manufacturing companies followed suit.
Apart from the traverse engine and the front-wheel drive, Primula also introduced the gearbox on the end of the engine, drive shafts of unequal length and a stamped steel suspension system. This design became the norm as giant companies such as Peugeot adopted it when producing its 305 range of cars.
Fiat also started producing front-wheel drive and stamped steel suspension cars while Citroen stuck to its MacPherson struts suspension system. Thus, the design of Primula transformed the automobile industry as it influenced the designs of many other vehicles.
Autobianchi Becomes Fiat and Introduces the A111 and A112
Bad market conditions forced the company to fold and by 1968, Autobianchi was absorbed into Fiat S.p.A. The integration of the company marked the end of Bianchina and the birth of two Autobianchi models: Autobianchi A111 and Autobianci A112. Produced in 1969, the A111’s design was inspired by the mechanicals of Primula, though it was much bigger and spacious. The A111 was the biggest mini car ever to come out of Autobianchi’s factory with its 4-meter length.
Autobianchi priced the A111 higher than the Fiat models and this contributed to its relative failure as only 50,000 of them were produced in its three-year history. In 1972, the production of the A111 came to an end and give way to the more successful A1112.
– Features of the A111
The mini car was 4 meters long and 1.6 m wide with a straight-4OHV engine that produced 70 horsepower same as the one used by the Fiat 124 special edition. The engine displacement was 1,438 cc and a compression stroke of 9.3:1.
The car had a four-speed manual transmission with the gears mounted on the floor. The floor was fully carpeted and the upholstery was done either with cloth or leather or both.
The A112 model was a supermini car based on the shrunken framework of the Fiat 128. Later, it also served as the basis for the Fiat 127 supermini. It made its European debut in 1969 and enjoyed a 17-year stay until it was replaced by the Lancia Y10.
It was a huge success as more than 1.2 million units were sold during production. The supermini car came in 8 versions, including the Abarth, which was labeled as the most interesting of the lot.
– Features of the A112
This model had a front-engine front-wheel drive like the A111 and featured the OHV engine with a 903 cc displacement. The engine produced 42 horsepower same as the Fiat 850, but it was later increased to 45 horsepower in 1971. There were a few alterations as the year progressed and other series was introduced to the lineup, but the core features largely remained the same.
The last A112 was manufactured in 1986 and then it gave way to the Autobianchi Y10, also known as Lancia, which was built on the Fiat Panda platform. Later, the Y10 was phased out and the Lancia Y10 was introduced. The plant finally closed in 1992 and the Autobianchi brand folded four years later.
The History of Autobianchi
The automobile company first started as Bianchi – a bicycle production company established by the Italian inventor and entrepreneur Eduardo Bianchi in 1885. A year later, Bianchi started producing luxury cars with quality features that made them the toast of the town.
However, during the Second World War, the company’s manufacturing plant in the region of Abruzzi was hit by bombs, destroying it. The following year, a car accident claimed the life of Eduardo Bianchi and the company fell to his son, Giuseppe Bianchi.
The factory was rebuilt at Desio, a town in Italy, and the production of bicycles, motorcycles and cargo vehicles resumed. However, Giuseppe decided against producing passenger cars because the prevailing economic circumstances at the time were not favorable.
Bianchi made several prototypes of new passenger cars but realized that they didn’t have the financial muscle to produce them on a large scale. Thus, the company contacted the automobile giant, Fiat, and the tire production company, Pirelli, to join it in forming an automobile company.
The partnership between Bianchi, Fiat and Pirelli gave birth to Autobianchi in 1955 and a new car manufacturing plant was constructed in Desio on 140,000 square meters of land. At the creation of the Autobianchi, all three companies had well-defined roles and interests.
Pirelli was the tire manufacturer that aimed at using the company to increase its OEM market share. Fiat provided the components while Bianchi was responsible for assembling the cars and using the company as a stepping stone into full-time passenger car production.
So far, we’ve read the history of the former Italian car manufacturer Autobianchi and looked at some of its vehicles.
Here is a recap of all that we’ve discussed:
- The car manufacturing company began as a bicycle production hub in 1885 under the direction of the Italian car designer, Eduardo Bianchi.
- Later, Eduardo branched into car manufacturing but his factory was destroyed during the Second World War.
- Eventually, the factory was rebuilt at Desio on a 140,000 square meter land after the company joined forces with Fiat and Pirelli. The first car to be produced was the Bianchina.
- In 1963 and 1964, the company launched the Stellina and the Primula with the latter being the first front-wheel drive of the company.
- The highest-selling car in the company’s history was the Autobianchi A112, which sold about 1.2 million units in its 17-year history.
The A112 was later replaced by the Autobianc Y10 (Lancia), which became the Lancia Y10. The company finally folded in 1992 after a century, but not without heavily influencing the mini-car market.
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