Italian Artisans Brought This 1949 Fiat 1500 6C Sport Back To Life
Persuading the coachbuilder that dark red mixed with brown was an appealing color combination for the 1949 Fiat Barchetta was not easy. Not because these types of racing cars were built to be more powerful than beautiful at the time, but simply because he was convinced that putting them together would have been like a fist to the face. Nevertheless, Gianni Morandi (a homonym of the Italian singer), the car’s owner, was fortunately very determined: “I had to promise that if the result wasn’t good we would have done the whole paint job again,” he remembers. That was obviously unnecessary, as the coachbuilder soon realized that that bicolor bodywork was the perfect cherry to top of the restoration of this spectacular car, a 1949 Fiat 1500 6C Sport Lanzarone with a few added Stanguellini components. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?
It can reach speeds up to 160 km/h (100mph), and everything is so visceral when you drive a car of this vintage in a sporting manner: the sound, the high-strung performance of the six-cylinder engine with some additional Stanguellini components fitted, the Nardi Moretti gear shifter which is quite unusual in this type of Fiat, and last but not least, the feeling of an absence of weight. Gianni adds some backing to the claim: “In fact the bodywork is made of 1.8mm-thick aero-grade aluminum with internal chrome alloy. A material which gave us some problems during the restoration as it is not easy to weld, at all: only the nephew of the coachbuilder finally succeeded, while his father and grandfather said they were getting bubbles and other issues.”
The car was probably built for the Targa Florio originally, and it lived most of its long life in Palermo before settling down in a small town in Tuscany with its current owner. “It was created for the Sicilian gentleman driver Giovanni Casales, who’s done the Targa several times with a Cisitalia,” Gianni tells me. “I think it was considered like a spare car to use if needed, as there is no information about its participation in the race, and my impression is that it never actually competed.
“I bought it in 1988, and the color of its skin was not very attractive back then. It was pale yellow, while underneath it was red. During that period I was searching the length and breadth of Italy, looking for classic cars. My addiction had started a few years before however, after I bought a 1954 Fiat 1400 A with my father. That was the birth of my passion for ‘heritage’ vehicles, after having been doing off-road racing for many years.”
Gianni, 50 years old, is now an experienced collector and one who took part in the last two editions of the modern Mille Miglia with his 1929 Officine Meccaniche 665 S “Superba” 2000. “After a while, I was introduced to some dealers in Sicily and the 1500 was a sort of barn find for me as it was more or less abandoned under a shelter when I saw it. Then, for ten years I didn’t do anything with it because some components were missing and the chassis was damaged… So I just carried on with some other cars’ restorations. Later I purchased another Fiat in Sicily, a 1947 red 1100 S Berlinetta,” he recalls.
But one day he decided it was time to wake up this “sleeping duckling” as he called the yellow Fiat, and make it a jewel on wheels as it deserved to be. “I took it back to Sicily, to the Falanga workshop, a restorer who knows the car very well. They worked on the mechanical aspects, remaking pistons and other components. Generally speaking, every aspect of the car required attention, even the instruments on the dashboard. The first step was the chassis, made by CAMEN (Costruzione Auto e Motori Esposito Napoli), a well-known preparer based in Naples.
“It was constructed by mating a Fiat 1500 front end and part of the rear chassis of a Lancia Aprilia, and it was slightly awry when I got it. While the body was not damaged because it was put on a wooden frame, the chassis had been somehow accidentally stretched,” he says. “The only thing that was really missing from the Barchetta was the lid of the trunk and so it had to be fabricated from scratch. While the original Pirelli Stella Bianca tires are, almost incredibly, the same that were installed in the Fifties, just a short time after the Barchetta saw the light for the first time.
“The whole restoration job was finished last December and involved five or six different artisan companies to complete it.” The last element to receive attention after the painting of the body and the reupholstering of the seats with the very resistant synthetic resin material called Vipla, was the restoration of the cork steering wheel. And, of course, being a carpenter, the owner of the car happily tackled that job himself.
For those in the area, note that this car will take part in the Poltu Quatu Classic, Concorso di Eleganza, held in Sardinia, Italy from July 6th to the 8th.