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Innocenti, English cars with an Italian touch

The Innocenti brand was a subsidiary of the English BMC that for years built the Mini in Italy, but its history goes much further.

The origins of the Innocenti company date back to the end of the XNUMXth century, although it would not be until the XNUMXs when Ferdinando Innocenti's company would dedicate itself to the industrial manufacture of steel tubes. 

It would not be until after World War II when Innocenti began the production of means of transportation, presenting in 1946 a star and iconic product, the Lambretta, an economical scooter, which together with the Vespa, helped motorize Europe after the conflict. 

At that same time they were also dedicated to supplying parts for other car brands such as Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Ford. 

1960: ENTRY INTO THE AUTOMOBILE MARKET WITH BMC 

The British from the BMC group, which included brands such as Austin, MG or Morris, had already established contacts with Italian companies, designing some models with Pininfarina in the 50s, such as the Austin A40, considered the first compact hatchback and which was the first model manufactured by Innocenti-Austin in two versions; Berlina and Combinata (family). 

The second car model presented by Innocenti was the Ghia-designed 950 Spider, the Italian equivalent of the Austin-Healey Sprite, using the same 948 cubic centimeter engine that in 1963 would become 1.098 cubic centimeters, to which a coupe version was added in 1967. 

In 1963 it is presented an Italian market-exclusive version of BMC's popular ADO16 platform on which cars like the MG 1100 or later the Spanish Austin Victoria were based. The car was named Austin IM3, and later versions IM3S, I4, I4S and I5 were released.

1965: THE MINI ARRIVES AT INNOCENTI 

The revolutionary compact designed by Sir Alec Issigonis arrived at Innocenti, and The same popularity that it had in the United Kingdom transferred to Italy, to such an extent that the Italian company even established a factory in Belgium to manufacture this car. 

Versions of the Mini like the exciting Cooper, and family variants of the model, and which tended to be better built than their British counterparts and in many cases had more luxury elements. By the early seventies the brand was working on a new car body designed by Bertone.

CHANGES IN THE BOARD: FROM BRITISH LEYLAND TO DE TOMASO 

In 1966 the founder Ferdinando innocenti died, and the company passed into the hands of his son Luigi, but he managed it that left much to be desired. BMC had become British Leyland in the late sixties, and they acquired Innocenti in 1972 in a transaction worth £3 million. 

During this time with the English in command they presented in 1974 the Innocenti Regent, the Italian variant of the controversial Austin Allegro, a model that was sold for two years and that failed miserably in the country and which forced the withdrawal of British Leyland from the Milan company.

Innocenti Regent

At the beginning of 1976 Alejandro De Tomaso acquired the company which was renamed Nuova Innocenti. By that time the brand had already presented its new Bertone design Mini, a model that did manage to captivate the Italian public, recovering the production rate prior to the internal crisis, with 40.000 annual units manufactured in 1976. 

The car was initially available with the 998 and 1.275 cubic centimeter engines inherited from BMC., and which were assigned the commercial name of 90L and 120L respectively. The 90L developed 43 HP which over the years would increase to 49 HP, and the 120L produced 63 HP which became 65 HP. 

The modern car It was proposed as a replacement for the original Mini in the United Kingdom, but after British Leyland declared bankruptcy in 1976 these plans were scrapped. 

In 1977 the Innocenti De Tomaso, the sportiest version of the model which had a body kit with various improvements and developed 71 HP, and from 1978 its power rose to 74 HP. 

El Innocenti Mille was presented in 1980, and came to replace the 120L in many markets, although there were also 90 LS and 90 SL versions. By 1982 Alejandro De Tomaso's agreement with British Leyland had ended, and they would no longer provide engines to a brand they now considered a competitor.

DAIHATSU ERA 

With De Tomaso at the helm, many tests were carried out to find a candidate to be the next engine of the Innocenti. The chosen one was a three-cylinder block from the Daihatsu Charade and that was available in displacements ranging between 548 and 993 cubic centimeters. A 617 cubic centimeter twin-cylinder block was also offered.

Innocenti 500, with two-cylinder mechanics

This agreement with Japan was possible thanks to the collaboration that Alfa Romeo and Nissan carried out with Arna, which ended the Italian government's reluctance to have the Japanese country be a mechanical supplier.  

The engines were substantially more expensive than the BMC units, but Alejandro De Tomaso managed to make them profitable thanks to their reliability, which reduced car warranty claims by 70%. 

Innocenti Turbo De Tomaso

During that time, there was also a sports version, the Innocenti Turbo De Tomaso, which with the 993 cubic centimeter block managed to develop 72 HP. Also with the same displacement there was a diesel variant that was more economical than cars like the diesel Fiat Panda and Punto, its main competitors.

1990: THE PURCHASE OF FIAT AND THE BEGINNING OF THE END 

At the beginning of the nineties, Alejandro De Tomaso sold the company to the company that had been his main competitor, Fiat, and With this agreement, Innocenti's days were numbered. One of the first measures was to end many of the variants in the range such as the Turbo and the diesel. 

Manufacturing of Innocenti cars ceased in 1993, but The name managed to survive until 1996, with cars brought from other markets with cars like the Brazilian Yugos and Fiats. that were sold under this brand, thus marking the end of a manufacturer that made the Mini something very great.

Photographs: Innocenti

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Written by Javillac

This thing about cars comes to one since childhood. When other kids preferred the bicycle or the ball, I kept the toy cars.
I still remember as if it were yesterday a day when a black 1500 overtook us on the A2, or the first time I saw a Citroën DS parked on the street, I have always liked chrome bumpers.

In general, I like things from before the time I was born (some say I'm reincarnated), and at the top of that list are cars, which, together with music, make the ideal combination for a perfect time: driving and a soundtrack according to the corresponding car.

As for cars, I like classics of any nationality and era, but my weakness is American cars from the 50s, with their exaggerated shapes and dimensions, which is why many people know me as "Javillac".

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