8. March 2010 06:27
It will come as no suprise to you that we do love a good retro super car here on RSM, one of our favourites being the De Tomaso Pantera, Italian style matched with American muscle is a great formular for and interesting car. De Tomaso produced many other sexy wedges during the last four decades, however they also had a hand in some slightly more consumer level cars, most notably the De Tomaso Innocenti.
Innocenti as a name has a history that stretches back to 1920, initially a company that built industrial machinery it changed direction post World War 2 and produced Lambretta scooters for many years. In 1961 Innocenti started to produce a licensed version of the BL Mini, in 1972 British Leyland took over Innocenti completely. Sadly for Innocenti, which was a hugely popular brand in its native Italy, this resulted in the company getting caught up in BL running out of money and being nationalised in 1975. Step forward Alejandro de Tomaso to save the day, and the company.
Rechristened Nuova Innocenti, the company started to produce a Bertone designed five seater in 1976, still on the Mini underpinnings. The engine produced a respectable 71bhp being closer to a Cooper 'S' in tuned than a standard mini. The car looks more like a shrunk down Golf than a Mini the hatchback allows the boot to be larger than a mini, but the slightly larger seats mean less leg room and a more cramped interior. To our mind this car has everything, very modable for more speed with its reliance on mini parts, cool boxy 70’s styling, a super car name on the badge, and that little bit of Italian throw into the mix, fantastic.
Contemporary reviews of the car found it to be a great drive, possibly superior to the comparable standard Mini. Which makes us even sadder that it was never officially imported to the UK, any you see in the UK are private imports. They turn up on Italian ebay occasionally, so keep you eyes out.
What followed the Innocenti mini was equally as cool, in 1984 the line ceased production and De Tomaso struck up a new deal with Diahatsu to provide the under pinning’s for the follow up. The Innocenti 650 and 650SE were based on the Daihatsu Charade with a 617cc 2 cylinder engine, later the Mini 3 would come along with a 3 Cylinder engine, running production through to 1992. Innocenti finished as a company in 1995, but have left us a legacy of some cool cars to hunt out.
During the deal with Diahatsu it turns out the De Tomaso were partners in a bid to make a Charade Group B car, which the guys at 7tune have a great entry on that is well worth a read.