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Autobianchi A111: The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie

The year was 1969…Italian car historian Matteo Licata explains…

The Autobianchi A111 was launched in 1969, and this makes it the fiftieth anniversary you’re likely to have completely forgotten about.

In July, Turin’s Museo Nazionale Dell’Automobile hosted in its lovely lobby some cars from 1969, as a way to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first Moon landing: one of those was a pristine Autobianchi A111.

Built for only three years in less than 58.000 units, the A111 is, unsurprisingly, a rather rare sight nowadays.

Having been presented in the same year and looking, at least superficially, quite similar to the Fiat 128 leads many to believe the two cars to be closely related, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While the A111 was similar in size to the 128 and was a front-wheel-drive, transverse-engine car just like it, the Autobianchi’s underpinnings were those of the older Primula it replaced.

The A111 was intended as a higher-end, more distinctive alternative to the 128, hence the relative abundance of chrome trim on its formal, traditional three-box body and its luxuriously appointed interior: a far cry from the stark, vinyl-clad 128.

The superior status of the A111 to the 128 was reaffirmed by its larger (1438cc vs. 1116cc) and more powerful (70hp vs. 55hp DIN) engine, carried over from the Primula Coupé S.

The well-equipped, elegant A111 struggled to find enough buyers though, as its price put it into direct competition with larger Fiat models like the 124 Special and, probably for this very reason, little or no marketing effort was made to sustain A111 sales.

Production was stopped in late 1972 without a replacement, as Fiat’s top brasses had decreed that the role of upmarket small saloon was to be better fulfilled by the newly-launched Lancia Beta 1300.

Links:

http://www.museoauto.it/website/en (Turin’s Automobile Museum)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDxu3JlOODRQR9ZMLRd6SGA (Matteo Licata’s  YouTube Channel)

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