This Delightful Autobianchi Is Really An Even Better Fiat 500
Photography Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
It’s been said a number of ways before: the Fiat 500 is to Italy what the Volkswagen Beetle is to Germany—“the people’s car”. Both earned their place as the go-to cheap transport for the masses.
Much like the Bug, the 500 was reliable (enough), affordable, cheap to maintain, and easy to drive. But in the mid 1950s, if you were a wealthier citizen of The Boot and wanted something of a higher tier than the pedestrian Fiat, you bought something like this 1958 Autobianchi Bianchina Transformabile Series I.
Bicycle and motorcycle maker Bianchi was founded in 1855 and by the early 1920s began producing its very own automobiles. Though successful, the brand couldn’t keep up with the more prominent Fiat and Lancia. In 1955, Bianchi merged with Fiat to keep the marque alive. The first car produced under the new name Autobianchi was the compact Bianchina.
The underpinnings were carried over from the dependable Fiat 500, but the Bianchina was equipped with a number of new features—this particular model sports a 20-ish horsepower air-cooled two-cylinder mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The suspension was revised for a lower ride height offering improved handling characteristics and could wind up to 60 mph. With nearly a 300 mile range, the sporty Bianchina was capable of ~50 mpg—why can’t the market offer such splendid super compacts?
The Bianchi lineup came in several variations to include a Berlina (saloon), Cabriolet (roadster), Panoramica (station wagon), and Furgoncino (van). But of all the options, none are as quirky and charming as the Transformabile. The Transformabile model featured a unique folding roof that retained the pillars on the flanks. The canvas roof could be rolled back from the top of the windshield frame all the way to just above the boot lid—take that, Targa 911! The two-tone paint scheme further separated itself from the stubbier Fiat 500.
Originally delivered new in Italy, this Transformabile was recently restored from bare metal up and presents in excellent condition. Being offered for sale at the Monaco auctions on 14 May, included in the sale is the original tool kit and jack. All Autobianchi Bianchina are great microcars but the Transformabile takes the cool-factor-cake with the semi-convertible roof. With only 10,000 Transformabiles made, they’re not very common, either.
– Recently fully restored, including tool kit and jack
– Italian motoring icon, delivered new to Italy
~21 horsepower, 499 cc rear-mounted air-cooled two-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front and rear independent suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 1,840 mm.
Chassis no.: 110B 010511
Engine no.: 110.000 054056