The Italian Junkyard

Thoughts, ideas, criticism about cars. Interesting news and facts from the world of the automobile. Events in Italy and Modena. What you can find elsewhere, filtered through the eyes of a discerning enthusiast. Design, style, everything on the chopping block. Nobody is safe anymore.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stunning Red Head of humble horigins and her Blondie heir: 1959 Fiat 600 Viotti and 2014 Willys AW380 Viotti

Technically speaking, there is only the body color of this car, or the color of the leather of its pristine interior, to qualify it as a red head, or as a Rossa in Italian. Even if back in the sixties most relevant figures in the Italian automotive sector had already been working for several if not most companies and coachbuilders from the country, it would be at least far fetched to bring about some connection between this car and say Ferrari, just to carry on the red theme.

It's nonetheless a beauty, a little gem from the local evergreen automotive industry. I actually find that what qualifies Italy among the most famous countries in the world when it comes to cars, it's not just Ferrari, Lamborghini and all the other loud names in the business, but also the capability to give birth to such great cars regardless of their technical relevance to the world, their price, or their performance. Most coachbuilders from the past and present experimented with small cars, and not simply providing the design of the bodywork or some technical insight in their engineering. It was and still is about creating something unique, special, with a personality in some ways.

Obviously today the market is in a completely different situation. There is no point in calling in the ever present global crisis, as long as Mini can afford to sell a 2.700 € set of wheels on a 30.000 € or so stock Countryman (or simply as long as it sells the Countryman I might say) it is not a matter of money availability. Sure some people suffered the crisis, not going to argue that, but there are still quite some people who can afford to spend quite some cash on rather common and not so special cars. Targeting Mini buyers is quite simple and a bit on the generalist side of things, but you got the point.
What sells is the brand, and even more so the image connected to the brand. I happened to come across a man at the mall last week, dressed with expensive clothes and with a brand new pinkish-iPhone-something, which then walked over to his car. A dented VW Polo MK3/6N. Now I don't pretend everyone to be a car enthusiast, but I couldn't help but notice he was carrying around at least twice, or trice, the money in clothes and phone than what his car was worth. And he was just fine with it which is the most important thing I take.

So is there a place somewhere in a market overcrowded with generalist offerings, premium average cars and brands actually owned by the same conglomerate, for something bespoke and special such as a truly bespoke Fiat 500, or Mini? Simple and short answer, no.
Cars are definitely less "cool" than they were 50 years ago, they no longer represent freedom and independence, and they are often seen just as a mean of transportation, and expensive one because of fuel, insurance, taxes and servicing. It's an open secret that in a few decades cars will be used just as horses are used today. Sports, sporadic trips on the countryside, fairs and little else. We will be hovering over cities with individual egg-shaped pods connected among themselves to move us around as quickly and efficiently as possible, while giving us to have a relaxed conversation, read a book (or play some silly-saga game on our augmented reality visors) and probably have lunch too in the process. What a marvelous thing progress is.

I truly believe that, but at the same time, I feel more and more people not directly involved with progress are just embracing its side effects rather than be a part of it. With people "involved" I don't mean simply engineering, scientists and researchers all around the world, but also people simply interested in science and technological progress, up to date with what's going on. If you don't understand something, it's pretty easy to misuse it, and hi-tech devices casted in the furnaces of hell are no exception. Actually, I'm pretty sure my grand-grandmother would have been even harsher on smartphones and the likes. Luckily, my grandmother has been corrupted by an LCD television a while ago. Internet is still a mistery though.

While digressing is probably my best ability, the point is it's not very common to find such a car as this 1959 Fiat 600 Viotti. Built upon a rather common and simple car, the body of this coupe can compete at any concours d'elegance all around the world side by side by with much more expensive and famous names. An evidence to this is that a Viotti Fiat 600 was featured in the first aired episode of Chasing Classic Cars, one of the few modern "reality" shows worth watching, and probably the only one among those automotive-related. For a car collector from the States to be in love with this rare and quirky little car from italy, it must be something pretty special. Here is a clip from another episode.

The Snail...

Viotti itself is partially back as a coachbuilder with the recently unveiled Willys AW380, which does its best at transforming a Porsche Boxster/Cayman into a modern replica of the Alpine A108 that the Brazilian arm of Willys was licensed to build in the seventies. The scene of its unveiling was the rather disappointing and slowly dying Bologna Motor Show, now the only generalist auto show left in Italy after the demise of the Turin Auto Show in 2002 (the last exhibition being held two years earlier). How ironic that such a pivotal place for cars as Italy is left without a decent show of international relevance.
Viotti is also a design firm in the modern sense, providing engineering know-how and prototyping facilities for new experiments. Indeed, bonus points if you can recognize what they have been working on in the recent years, might as well cover that car as well...

All pictures copyrtight: Damiano Garro for The Italian Junkyard
Press images courtesy of Carrozzeria Viotti Torino

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