It is inevitable, the Siata 50 S is a vehicle that arouses sympathy. When she goes out, people look at her in amazement and there is always someone who comes to comment. "Nice hippie van." Excuse me? No, this is not hippie at all, it is a Spanish van based on the Seat 600.
It is then that the friendly pedestrian who admired it as an icon of the crazy sixties happens to do it as a rare monstrosity based on the popular Spanish utility. Nothing happens, the fact is that people, whether for one reason or another, continue to like the nice lines of the Siata.
If you see it go fast or without references to compare with another vehicle, its small size does not attract attention, and perhaps that is why some people confuse it with one of the desired VW "Combi". However, the two vehicles have little in common except that they are rear-engine vans and sometimes sport a striking two-tone paint.
Well, they also share the purpose for which they were created: both Volkswagen and Siata Española were looking for a small delivery vehicle that could move agilely through the narrow streets of any city or town.
From now on we will focus on the Hispanic vehicle, which by the way is much smaller than the well-known German vans.
Background and evolution
It was in 1961 when the Siata Formichetta began to be manufactured in Tarragona, a small van that was, simply, an elongated Seat 600 with a cargo box placed from the doors. This model was a great commercial success for Siata that allowed it to reach 2.000 units per year in 1965, and that much of the manufacturing was still done semi-traditionally.
Meanwhile, already in 1964 a new van that could offer more useful space, also using the platform of the Seat 600, had begun to be studied. The idea must have been based on existing products in the Fiat range of the time, such as the Multipla model -presented in 1956- or the later 600 T.
These Fiats were small “minivans” with capacity for 6 adults, built on the platform of the Fiat 600 but with the driving position advanced in such a way that the driver was seated on the front axle.
This same principle was used by the Siata technicians, who for the tests used a life-size mannequin that helped them to distance themselves from the seat to the steering wheel and the pedals in order to find a relatively comfortable position.
In the design department, Francesc Casas created modern lines for his time but too similar to those of the DKW F-1000L that Imosa had recently started to manufacture in its factory in Vitoria.
Such was the similarity that several aspects had to be changed to avoid being accused of plagiarism and, even so, if we see only the top half of one of these Siatas, we could still mistake them for one of the German vans.
The presentation of the Minivan took place in 1967. The factory produced 23 units per day in 1970, thanks to the modernization of construction techniques that made it possible to obtain the one-piece roof matrix and the use of stamped sheet metal on almost the entire body.
The original version received the denomination "2.850", in reference to its internal load capacity of 2.850 dm3; although soon after this changed due to a legislative amendment: in 1969 the Ministry of Industry promulgated a rule that considered commercial vehicles - exempt therefore from the Luxury Tax - those that exceeded 1,80 meters in height. The Minivan 2850 only reached 1,66 meters.
The technicians of the Spanish brand were then forced to provide their van with a raised roof, and in this way the 3000 model was born, with greater interior space and a silhouette that would already be the definitive one for later models.
That same year, Siata began to offer the 850 hp Seat 34 engine as an option, somewhat more powerful than the 737cc from the 600 D which produced a somewhat scarce 28 hp for a cargo vehicle.
[su_note note_color = »# f4f4f4 ″]
Iberian Motor enters the scene
In 1971 the production already exceeded 7.000 units, and the following year a tempting offer arrived from Motor Ibérica to take over the manufacture of the Minivan. In Siata they decided to accept and, with this, the name of the old brand became only in the name of the model, from then on Ebro Siata 40.
Around these years the initial van had already received numerous changes that continued after the acquisition by Motor Ibérica, better known for the Ebro trucks and tractors. The mechanics and interior controls, which originally came from the 600, began to be gradually replaced by those of the 850, and on the outside the chrome letters «Siata» were replaced by black plastic letters - less flattering - from Ebro. The front mustache remained the same, the same as those of the 850 coupé, but the letters "Seat" they had been changed for that kind of H in the Ebro logo.
[su_youtube_advanced https=»yes» url='https://youtube.com/watch?v=1ew-b9FNdRY' ]
Credit: User jajaniono, from Youtube
In 1973 the 600 ceased to be manufactured and a new chassis had to be found to adapt the bodywork to, finally opting for the Seat 850. The van was then renamed Ebro Siata 50, and some details such as the filler neck of the gasoline, which went from being next to the right rear door to being next to the engine hood, or the engine ventilation slots, which were in less and were located only under the fillet that runs through the center of the body.
These two details are not exactly improvements since, on the one hand, less fresh air enters the engine and, on the other hand, removing the access door to the fuel tank cap gives rise to malicious temptations.
In 1975 production of the 850 ended, and the mechanics and frames of the Seat 133 began to be used as a basis. Thus comes the name Ebro Siata 50S, with an increase in power that caressed the 34 CV.
In 1977, Motor Ibérica absorbed the truck manufacturer Avia and the small 50 S were also produced under that name, with the only external difference being that they mounted a rather unsightly black plastic grill on the front, in the style of those of the vehicles of the the brand just acquired.
[su_note note_color = »# f4f4f4 ″]
Whether the Avia and Ebro Siata 50s were manufactured successively or simultaneously is a question that is not entirely clear, As there are copies of both brands registered until almost 1980.
However, this model was still able to give more of itself. At the beginning of the 80s the molds received a last modification and various parts of Seat 127 were assembled.
The result of all this was a rather unattractive vehicle, full of black injected plastic components -bumpers, headlight visors, grills, logos, etc.-, Seat 127 wheels, seats with head restraints and some pillars for the doors and windows. They grew several inches to make him taller.
The commercial success of these last vans, whose name was Avia Siata 500, was rather scarce and many units went to the army (PM), where they acquired fame among the young people who did the disappeared Military Service both for their versatility and for ... its ugliness.
Finally, Motor Ibérica was swallowed by Nissan, which quickly recalled the Siatas. This was followed by the famous Vanette, which originally carried the Ebro brand and was a worthy successor to the Minivans, with a more advanced technical approach but with an appearance not too far removed from that 1967 design.