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The Autobianchi Primula is one of the most influential cars in history

Often times, the most influential automobiles in the history of mechanics and design are far more unknown than they should be. One of them is the Autobianchi Primula. A vehicle born from the commitment of Dante Giacosa through which FIAT helped to lay the foundations of what would be the compacts to come with an engine and front-axle drive scheme. In this way it increased the habitability, which was accentuated thanks to its bodywork with a wide tailgate.

When the FIAT 1971 appeared in 127, the brand itself considered the model as something revolutionary in its history. After all, one of the constant trends in its trajectory had been rear-wheel drive. Even sometimes mounting the engine off the rear axle as in the 600 or 850. A configuration that placed special emphasis on the rear, looking as attached to the Turinese brand as the "All behind" It may be the Porsche 911. However, the truth is that those FIAT models were not sports with a market niche based on their distinctive and exclusive character.

Far from it, they sought to be global models where practicality and cold rational logic had to prevail over everything else. Coordinates in which Dante Giacosa was a teacher. Ideologist of the most commercially successful vehicles of that time in the Agnelli house. A man aware that arrangement in the transverse forward position of the engine would save space. Growing the trunk and the passenger compartment. Even more so if it was accompanied by front-wheel drive. Thus being able to dispense with a long transmission like that of the 124, giving the possibility of creating a totally flat floor.

However, all these ideas were already present in mass motorsport thanks to the Mini. A model presented in 1959 showing surprising habitability even decades later. For this reason, Giacosa always healthy envied Alec Issigonis and his prophetic vision of what urban models should be like. Reason why he insisted everything possible to the conservative management of FIAT, getting the green light with experimentation on front-wheel drive models. A process that resulted in one of the most influential automobiles of the entire 1964th century. The Autobianchi Primula from XNUMX.

A BRAND DEDICATED TO EXPERIMENTATION

Autobianchi's complex business history dates back to the XNUMXth century and bicycles. In fact, Bianchi continues to be one of the most revered brands by road cyclists alongside other icons such as Pinarello or De Rosa. However, going to the concrete, the truth is that the foundation of The modern Autobianchi is produced when in 1955 Bianchi, Pirelli and FIAT join. From here arises a minority car brand under the protection of the Turin giant. Which will finally end up completely absorbing it in 1967. An operation that arose naturally, since after all Autobianchi I had been fulfilling a very determined mission in the FIAT Group for years.

Neither more nor less than to try new products. New technologies. But, especially, to investigate possible market niches thanks to well-equipped and therefore more expensive vehicles. For this reason, they are unable to compete with the popular FIATs and, if anything, only a little against certain models in the Lancia access range. So things, the function of this company has always been to experiment as if it were a precious toy in the hands of the directors of the FIAT Group. So when Dante Giacosa managed to convince managers to make a front-wheel drive car, there was only one condition. It should come out in Autobianchi.

In this way the commercial risk would be minimal. Especially if we take into account that the Turinese house did not see with good eyes evolving in the way that in the United Kingdom they had done with the Mini and the 1962 BMCs designed by Pinifarina. What's more, the proof of this is in the FIAT 850. A model "All behind" that appears in 1964 next to the Autobiachi Primula. The evidence that normality remained for FIAT and innovation and risk remained for the subsidiary brand. Something that, after all, every brand has to manage at certain times in order not to be left behind. It is already known. The complex relationship between innovation and established tastes present in the management of any massive company.

AUTOBIANCHI PRIMULA, THE REFERENCE FOR NEW COMPACTS

Paradoxically, many of the most influential models in motorsport history are almost unknown to the bulk of the fans. In this sense, wonders such as the 1937 Lancia Aprilia stand out with its absence of a central pillar, good aerodynamics and disc brakes attached to the differential. A reference for medium-sized and family-oriented vehicles to the same extent as 27 years later it was the Autobianchi Primula. In this way, it highlights two sections dependent on each other. On the one hand, the four-cylinder engine available in three different versions ranging from 1 to 2 liters.

Or rather, the placement of the same in a transverse front way with the clutch and the gearbox in the same alignment. Fact that facilitated the appearance of the other highlighted section. The bodywork. Designed by Boano and truly revolutionary when it comes to habitability. Which is due to the little space occupied by the mechanics housed in such a novel arrangement for a model manufactured under the protection of FIAT in the sixties. In this way, the Autobianchi Primula set a before and after in the way of understanding family compacts.

Even more so when you consider how its initial coupe design led to a drop in a two-volume hatchback. Just what the Simca 1100 would later take for the popular ranges and the R16 for the mid-range. Nevertheless, the front engine layout raised issues such as excess weight ahead of the steering axle. Fact that affected braking, being solved with a braking regulator capable of stopping progressively and smoothly. Another of the various solutions that made the Autobianchi Primula a revolutionary model not only for the FIAT Group, but also for future family members.

Photographs: FCA Heritage

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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