Autobianchi

Autobianchi (Italian: [autoˈbjaŋki]) was an Italian automobile manufacturer, created jointly by Bianchi, Pirelli and Fiat in 1955. Autobianchi produced only a handful of models during its lifetime, which were almost exclusively small cars, with the biggest being the short-lived Autobianchi A111, a small family car. Autobianchis were priced higher than Fiat models of similar size and the brand was used by Fiat to test new and innovative concepts which later found their way into mainstream Fiat vehicles; these concepts included fibreglass bodies and front-wheel drive.

The most famous Autobianchi models include the A112 released in 1969, a small hatchback very popular in Italy for racing, and which ceased production in 1986; as well as the Y10, which was the first car to use Fiat's new FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine). The Primula was the car with which Fiat introduced the particular front-wheel drive arrangement of engine, transmission and differential (final drive) that has become prevalent in its cars today.

Autobianchi was bought by the Fiat group and integrated into the operations of Lancia. The marque survived in Italy until the end of the Y10's production in 1995, but became extinct elsewhere when the model was rebranded as a Lancia in 1989.

Autobianchi
IndustryAutomotive
FateMerged into Lancia
SuccessorLancia
Founded11 January 1955
Defunct1995
HeadquartersDesio, Italy
Key people
Sergio Marchionne
ProductsAutomobiles
RevenueU$1.7 billion dollars (1967)
Number of employees
4,500 (1967)
ParentFCA Italy

History

Origins

Bianchi, founded by Edoardo Bianchi in 1885 and now remembered primarily as a bicycle manufacturer, was also active in passenger car manufacturer from 1899. Bianchis were in general high-end luxury cars, made with high attention to detail. The company's factory in Abruzzi was destroyed by bombing during World War II. Edoardo Bianchi himself died in 1946 in a car accident, and the ownership of the firm passed to his son, Giuseppe. Even though a new, modern facility was constructed in Desio after the war, economic conditions forced Giuseppe not to resume passenger car production, but rather to focus on bicycles, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.[1][2][3] Bianchi bicycles are still manufactured.

Bianchi's general manager, Ferruccio Quintavalle, wanted to take advantage of the company's extensive experience in manufacturing cars and ordered the preparation of studies and prototypes of possible new models. Soon it became apparent that resuming passenger car production would not be feasible without a help of stronger partner. Therefore, Bianchi turned to large industrial groups Fiat and Pirelli with a proposal to form a new company to produce automobiles. Thus, the Autobianchi company was born, with the agreement signed by the three parties on 11 January 1955 and share capital of 3 million lira, 33% of which belonged to the Bianchi family. A new, modern, purpose-built plant for the production of Autobianchi cars was erected on an area of 140,000 square metres in Desio.[2][3]

Each of the partners had a clearly defined role and interest in the venture. Fiat was to provide the technical base and components for the assembly of the cars. It was seeking to capture the premium niche of the small car market, at that time occupied by coachbuilders such as Moretti and Vignale, who were building their models on Fiat chassis. Pirelli, which was to supply tires for the cars, sought to expand their OEM market share. Bianchi, was assigned the duties of preparing the bodies and assembling complete vehicles; a step towards their desired return to full passenger car production.[2][3]

The Bianchina

Autobianchi Bianchina special (2015-08-28 front b)
Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile Special

The first car to be produced by the new company was the Bianchina, whose name was a tribute to Edoardo Bianchi's first 1899 car. The Bianchina was based on Fiat 500 mechanicals – with its two-cylinder, air-cooled engine mounted in the rear – but featured a completely new stylish body designed by Luigi Rapi, who was in charge of Fiat's special body unit and helped to set up production in Desio. With many premium design and equipment features, the Bianchina was an upscale city car, positioned above the Fiat 500 in the market. Marketed as a "second vehicle in the household", and a luxurious "recreational vehicle", also being targeted at affluent middle-class women, it mirrored the increasing affluence in Italian society.[2][3][4][5]

The first Bianchina rolled from the production lines in Desio on September 11, 1957 and had the unusual body style of a two-door landaulet, called "Trasformabile". It remained the sole body style until 1960, when a two-door "Cabriolet" full convertible was introduced, followed by a three-door estate version, the "Panoramica" and a two-door saloon, the "Berlina". Finally, two van versions were launched: one resembling a two-seater version of the Panoramica, and another, with a raised and expanded cargo section.[2][3][4][5]

Stellina and Primula – Autobianchi pioneers new concepts

Five years after the debut of the Bianchina, at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, a completely new Autobianchi model debuted: the Autobianchi Stellina. A two-door spider based on the Fiat 600D's chassis was distinguished by its fibreglass body, designed by Tom Tjaarda. It was Italy's first car with such a body. The vehicle was only produced for two years (1964 and 1965) and only 502 Stellinas were made. Nevertheless, the model was an important step in the development of new technology for Fiat and the rest of the automotive industry. Its lofty price-tag of almost a million lira further emphasized the elevated status of the Autobianchi brand within the Fiat empire.

Autobianchi Primula in Benelux
Autobianchi Primula 3-door

Even more important was the following year's presentation, the Autobianchi Primula. It was Fiat's first attempt at a front-wheel drive car with a transverse engine, a configuration popularized by the British Mini and allowing for very compact and efficient utilization of the body space. Designed by Fiat's technical director, Dante Giacosa, it was launched under the Autobianchi brand to test market reaction to the new concept. The Primula's particular configuration of front wheel drive with a transverse engine, but with a gearbox on the end of the engine and unequal length drive shafts, rather than a gearbox in the sump like the Mini, became universal; as did its use of conventional steel suspension in almost all other cars with the exception of Citroen- usually MacPherson struts at the front and a "dead" rear axle. Indeed, Peugeot in facelifting their 305 range on the early 1980s switched from their former adherence to the Mini in-sump gearbox to the Primula's end-on gearbox configuration. The Primula is thus a car design of far greater significance than is often realised, as its design influence spread far beyond even the mainstream high volume Fiats such as the 127 and the 128 of the late 1960s. Even though the new Autobianchi was priced higher than Fiat models of similar size, the car met with a favorable reception. Fiat would gradually move all of its models to front-wheel drive.

Throughout its production run the Primula was available as a two-door or five-door saloon, three-door of five-door hatchback, and two-door coupé, with either a 1,221 cc or a 1,197 cc four-cylinder engine. The top of the line Primula Coupé S used a 75 PS (SAE) 1,438 cc four-cylinder from the Fiat 124 Special. The lack of a fifth gear limited the high-end capacity of all Primula models.[6]

Into the 1970s

Autobianchi A112 3rd series, Schaffen-Diest 2012
Autobianchi A112

Facing a crisis in the motorcycle market, Bianchi was forced to sell its share in Autobianchi and the company was finally fully integrated into Fiat S.p.A. in 1968. 1969 marked many important developments for the marque. First of all, Bianchina production was finally stopped. Moreover, Autobianchi was positioned within the Fiat Group under the control of the newly acquired luxury marque Lancia. And significantly, two new Autobianchi models were launched this year: the Autobianchi A111 and Autobianchi A112,[2][3][4][7] both named after their internal Fiat development codes, in a similar fashion to coeval Fiat-branded vehicles.[8]

The A111 was derived from Primula mechanicals, but much bigger and more spacious, marking the first (and only) entry of the brand into the small family car class. As usual, it was priced higher than similar Fiat models, notably the first front-wheel drive Fiat per se, the Fiat 128, and did not much find much favour with customers. After little more than 50,000 A111s were made, production ended in 1972. The A112 was much more successful. A modern, front-wheel drive supermini it was in many ways similar to the Innocenti Mini, which gained substantial popularity in Italy, following on from the popularity of the original Mini throughout Europe. Similarly, the A112 saw strong demand and built a loyal following, reinforced by the introduction of Abarth sporting versions and Autobianchi's engagement in racing with modified versions of the model.

With Primula production ceasing in 1970 and the quick demise of the A111, Autobianchi became effectively a one-model brand. Consequently, the A112 was marketed as a Lancia from the mid-1970s in most markets, except for Italy, France and Israel, where it retained the Autobianchi branding until the end of production.

End of the road

The A112 continued for a remarkable 17 years, with frequent but rarely insubstantial changes. After over 1,250,000 of those small cars were built, they were finally replaced in 1986 by a new model, the Autobianchi Y10, based mechanically on the Fiat Panda. This car was branded as Lancia from the beginning for most export markets (except for France and Israel again, until 1989), thus becoming better known as the "Lancia Y10". It retained Autobianchi badging and branding in Italy alone. The Desio plant was finally closed in 1992 and with the Y10 being replaced by the Lancia Y (branded as Lancia in all markets including Italy), the Autobianchi brand disappeared altogether in 1996.

The rights to the brand are now held by the Registro Autobianchi, the official club of the marque in Italy.[3]

References

  1. ^ "Bianchi". The Etceterini pages @ CarsFromItaly.com. Archived from the original on 2005-02-09. Retrieved 2006-08-08. (accessed via the Wayback Machine)
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Storia dell'Autobianchi". Bianchina Club (in Italian). Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "L'histoire de la marque". Club Autobianchi (in French). Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  4. ^ a b c "Autobianchi Bianchina". carsfromitaly.com. Archived from the original on 2005-02-09. Retrieved 2006-08-07. (accessed via the Wayback Machine)
  5. ^ a b "Storia della Bianchina". Bianchina Club (in Italian). Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  6. ^ "A profile of the Autobianchi brand". ranwhenparked.net.
  7. ^ "Autobianchi". carsfromitaly.com. Archived from the original on 2005-02-09. Retrieved 2006-08-08. (accessed via the Wayback Machine)
  8. ^ "Fiat/Lancia/Alfa Romeo mallisarjat". Ajovalo (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-08.

External links

Abarth

Abarth & C. S.p.A. is an Italian racing car and road car maker founded by Italo-Austrian Carlo Abarth in 1949. Its logo is a shield with a stylized scorpion on a yellow and red background.

Abarth & C. S.p.A. is a fully owned subsidiary of FCA Italy S.p.A. (formerly Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.), the subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (formerly of Fiat S.p.A.) controlling its European automotive production activities.

Autobianchi A111

The Autobianchi A111 is a 4-door saloon family car produced from 1969 to 1972 by Italian car manufacturer Autobianchi, a subsidiary of the Fiat group. Despite rather modest dimensions, at roughly 4 metres long, it was the largest Autobianchi ever made, as the brand specialized in small cars. A modern front-wheel drive construction like the Fiat 128 launched concurrently, it was based on the revolutionary Autobianchi Primula, Fiat's first "experiment" with the transverse engine front-wheel-drive setup.

Autobianchi A112

The Autobianchi A112 is a supermini produced by the Italian automaker Autobianchi. It was developed using a shrunken version of the contemporary Fiat 128's platform. The mechanicals of the A112 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.

Autobianchi Bianchina

The Autobianchi Bianchina is a minicar produced by the Italian automaker Autobianchi, based on the Fiat 500. It was available in various configurations: Berlina (saloon), Cabriolet (roadster), Trasformabile (convertible), Panoramica (station wagon), and Furgoncino (van). The car was presented to the public on 16 September 1957 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan.

Initially, the car was equipped with the smallest Fiat engine, air-cooled 479 cc producing 15 PS (11 kW). In 1959, the engine power was increased to 17 PS (13 kW) and in 1960, the cabriolet version was launched.

In the same year, the Trasformabile, whose engine cylinder capacity was increased to 499 cc (18 hp), was made available in a Special version with bicolour paint and an engine enhanced to 21 PS (15 kW). This body style featured fixed B-pillar and partial roof, as the rest of the opening was covered with foldable fabric hood, whilst the Cabriolet version had no B-pillar. The Trasformabile was the only versions to feature suicide doors and in 1962, it was replaced by a four-seat saloon. The engine and chassis were the same in both.

In 1965, a minor facelift was made. In France, the models were sold under different names: the Berlina became the Lutèce, the Familiare the Texane, and the Trasformabile was marketed as the Eden Roc.

Autobianchi Giardiniera

The Autobianchi Giardiniera is a supermini produced by the Italian automaker Autobianchi, based on the Fiat 500 Giardiniera. It was available in various configurations: station wagon and van. Car was produced from 1970 to 1977. It was also marketed as the Autobianchi Bianchina Giardiniera.

Autobianchi Primula

The Autobianchi Primula is a supermini economy car manufactured between 1964 and 1970 by the Italian automaker Autobianchi, a now defunct subsidiary of the Fiat Group. The Primula was Fiat's first model with rack and pinion steering and is widely known for its innovative Dante Giacosa-designed front-wheel drive, transverse engine layout — that would be later popularized by the Fiat 128 to ultimately become an industry-standard front drive layout.The Primula was originally available with two or four doors, with or without a rear hatchback, referred to in Italian as "berlina". Beginning in 1965, Autobianchi offered a coupé model, a more spacious 2-door fastback designed by Carrozzeria Touring.The Primula was manufactured in the Autobianchi factory in Desio, with production reaching approximately 75,000 before ending in 1970.

Autobianchi Stellina

The Autobianchi Stellina is a small spider from the Italian automaker, Autobianchi (a subsidiary of the Fiat group), built for only two years, 1964 and 1965. It was based on the mechanicals of the chassis Fiat 600D, but had a unique unibody structure, with the outside panels made of fibreglass reinforced plastics, based on a steel frame. It was the first Italian car with a fibreglass body, and one of the first in the world. Powered by Fiat 600D's rear-mounted, water-cooled 767 cc straight-4 engine, delivering 29 hp (22 kW), the Stellina had drum brakes on all four wheels.With sleek styling penned by Luigi Rapi, the Stellina was first presented as a prototype at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, and went on sale a year later with a price tag of almost a million lira. Only 502 Stellinas were made until production ceased in 1965, when Fiat launched a, slightly larger, similar Fiat 850 Spider.

Autobianchi Y10

The Autobianchi Y10 is a 'designer' city car and economy car manufactured from 1985 to 1995 and marketed under the Lancia brand in most export markets (as Lancia Y10). The car was manufactured at Fiat's Autobianchi plant in Desio, Milan until 1992 and after that in Arese, near Alfa Romeo's plants. It offered a very high level of trim for its market segment. The Y10 featured a new rear rigid axle suspension design (called Omega axle) that was subsequently fitted to the facelifted Fiat Panda. Despite its short length, the Y10 boasted a drag coefficient of just 0.31.

It sold rather well, for its unique style, luxurious trim and the continuously variable transmission that equipped certain versions. Its excellent aerodynamics, characterized by very clean lines and a Kammback, also provided great fuel economy. Sales in the United Kingdom were not very strong, and it was withdrawn from sale there in late 1991. This was more than two years before Lancia withdrew from Britain, and all other RHD markets.

Bianchi (company)

F.I.V. Edoardo Bianchi S.p.A, commonly known as Bianchi ([ˈbjaŋki]) is the world's oldest bicycle manufacturing company in existence, having pioneered the use of equal-sized wheels with pneumatic rubber tires. The company was founded in Italy in 1885 and in addition to bicycles it produced motorcycles from 1897 to 1967. In 1955 the joint-venture Autobianchi was created together with Fiat and Pirelli for the manufacturing of cars – Autobianchi was subsequently sold to Fiat in 1969.

Throughout its modern era, Bianchi has been associated with the Italian Giro d'Italia and Tour de France winners, Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani and Felice Gimondi.

Edoardo Bianchi

Edoardo Bianchi (17 July 1865 – 3 July 1946) was an Italian entrepreneur and inventor who founded the bicycle manufacturing company Bianchi in 1885 and the Italian automobile manufacturer Autobianchi.

FCA Italy

FCA Italy S.p.A. (formerly Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.) is the Italian subsidiary of the Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, dedicated to the production and selling of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles and headquartered in Turin, Italy.

Fiat 127

The Fiat 127 is a supermini car produced by Italian car manufacturer FIAT from 1971 to 1983. It was introduced in 1971 as the replacement for the Fiat 850. Production of the 127 in Italy ended in 1983 following the introduction of its replacement, the Fiat Uno.

Fiat 238

The Fiat 238 was a van produced by the Italian automotive production firm Fiat from 1967 through 1983. The van was introduced in 1967 as the logical successor for the Fiat 1100T. The 238 was based on the chassis of the Autobianchi Primula and had a downtuned version of the Fiat 124's engine. The 238 was produced in many different body styles for utility and personnel transport. In 1974 Fiat introduced a new van, the 242 with a larger petrol engine and also a diesel engine variant. Despite that the sales of Fiat 238 did not weaken and Fiat decided to keep it in its lineup, and made the new bigger 1.4-liter engine also available to the 238 model. The 238 was produced until 1983 and was replaced with Ducato.

The 238 was also briefly built by Germany's Neckar-Fiat. It was also popular for mobile home conversions since the front-wheel-drive packaging allowed for a low, flat floor, enabling a very spacious living area for such a compact and light vehicle. Ruggeri, Weinsberg, Westfalia, and many others provided conversions.

Fiat Powertrain Technologies

Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) was established in March 2005 as a Fiat Group division which included all the activities related to powertrains and transmissions. The company was formed following the dissolution of the alliance between Fiat and General Motors.

Between 2005 and 2011, the company also included industrial and commercial powertrain activities that were subsequently spun-off as a separate entity named FPT Industrial who acted as a subsidiary of Fiat Industrial (now CNH Industrial).

In January 2013 Fiat Powertrain Technologies was incorporated in Fiat Group Automobiles.

The company had activities in nine different countries, it had 10 plants and around 20,000 employees. With output of around 2.9 million engines and 2.4 million transmissions and axles annually, Fiat Powertrain Technologies is one of the largest companies in the powertrain sector.

Fiat Professional

Fiat Professional is the brand name and subsidiary for FCA Italy's (formerly Fiat Group Automobiles) light commercial vehicles and their passenger variants. It was launched on 17 April 2007 and replaced the Fiat Veicoli Commerciali division. Fiat Professional is only present in the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions; the Fiat Automobiles brand is used in the Latin America region. The Fiat Ducato and the Fiat Doblò are rebadged as the Ram ProMaster and Ram ProMaster City respectively for sale in Canada and the US.

Luigi Rapi

Fabio Luigi Rapi (born 1902), Italian automobile designer. Worked for Zagato, Isotta-Fraschini, Fiat and later Autobianchi. He was the design director at Fiat.

Timeline of European automobiles

This is a list of automobiles produced for the general public in the European market. They are listed in chronological order from when each model began its model year. If a model did not have continuous production, it is listed again on the model year production resumed. Concept cars and submodels are not listed unless they are themselves notable.

Turin Auto Show

The Turin Motor Show (Italian: Salone dell'Automobile di Torino) was an auto show held annually in Turin, Italy. The first official show took place between 21 and 24 April 1900, at the Castle of Valentino, becoming a permanent fixture in Turin from 1938 having shared it with Milan and Rome until that time. From 1972, the show was held biannually and in 1984, it moved into Fiat's shuttered Lingotto factory.The event was last held in Turin in June 2000, and cancelled from 2002, resulting in the Bologna Motor Show taking over the role of Italy's International Motor Show. Since 2015, Turin again now holds a Motor Show, albeit as an open air festival to keep exhibitors' costs down and provide free access to the public. It is held in the precinct of the Parco del Valentino.

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