Stretching the market

Mario is described as a ‘stretched’ Fiat 600 and that was literarily what they did when designing it by moving the wheels apart and adding a bit in the middle.

However it would appear that people have been busy making stretched versions of the original and new style Fiat 500’s.

Italian coach builders Castagna Milano who have already made several interesting beach cars based on the new 500 (see earlier blog) and have gone into the American and Middle Eastern markets by developing three versions of a 500 limousine stretched in length to 5.32m, almost two metres longer than the original.

The LimoSun is based on the Fiat 500 convertible. Targeted to beach resorts and the Middle East, the LimoSun passenger area has four seats facing each other. The large openings in the sides and roof can be closed with transparent panels.Castagna-Milano-LimoSun fiat-500-limousine NewFiat500_limousine_3

The LimoCity is a closed version and features a circular sofa couch, mini-bar, electric sliding doors.92A06D35D5D4F9DBB888E85A19FDE8

The LimoCity President starts with a Fiat 500 version made for the U.S. market and is powered by two electric motors capable of reaching 100 mph (160 km/h) with a range of 155 miles.702325A27D82DDAB487257457EB 15246052971885841676

But it would appear that individuals are also getting in on the act and original Fiat 500 Limo conversions are in demand for weddings and hen nights!fiat_500_limousine_mpst6fiat_500_limousine_sgf5wThe Limo above  appears to be a more professional conversion while some others seem to be two vehicles ‘cut and shut’ together.fiat_500_limousine_nvwqbVASTO: 500 LIMOUSINEThis one was built by Augustine Gizzi, 35, a coachbuilder of San Salvo in 11 months is just over 4 meters long and the result of a successful assembly of a Fiat 500′ Giardiniera and a Fiat 500 F.

Not all the conversions have been done recently. This very scruffy and in need of restoration example was converted over thirty years ago in San Diego. It is believed that it was used/owned by Herve Villechaize who played Nick Nack in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, it was auctioned off either by the studio or by the estate of Mr Villechaize many years ago, after he commited suicide with a rather large hand gun. At one point it was resplendent with gold plated hub caps as can just be seen in the last picture, and also had a rather hideous Rolls Royce Grill fitted. It was last seen on ebay.500limo 500limo4 fiat 500 limo imagesGG2Finally here is a rather cool stretched Fiat Giardiniera seen around Europe with a Fiat 500 trailer and believed to be owned by a Dutchman.oaav60 original OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many of these stretched vehicles are much longer than Mario but most do not seem to have a significant number of extra seats. James has been saying for years that he would love to go one stretch further and add another set of doors and seats to create a even more ‘stretched’ Mario – maybe one day.


Thought Bugatti only made cars?

UnknownEttore Bugatti made the world’s most expensive and bespoke car of it’s time, the Bugatti Royale. After the great depression Ettore found it impossible to sell more Royale’s in the economic climate and so he conceived, designed and developed a train between 1931-33 that would initially utilise the remaining stock of Royale engines on one of the world’s first high-speed railway systems the ‘Wagon Rapide’ Many other features such as the brakes were developed from his car designs.

Bugatti-AutorailBefore this, most trains were hauled by heavy steam engines, so the new aerodynamic trains were unlike anything seen at the time and were a huge improvement being light, clean and comfortable. Bugatti railcars were built as single, double or triple units with either two or four 12.7 litre petrol engines centrally mounted in one of the cars. Each car was mounted on two 8 wheel bogies and the linked engines were arranged to drive two or four of the eight axles via drive shafts with hydraulic clutches and reversing gears. They could be arranged in various combinations to suit the needs of the french railways. Trainb2_40The ‘Presidential’ which took it’s inaugural trip on the Paris-Chartres line with the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun on board, it had 48 luxury seats and the four Royale engines produced 800hp, in 1934 it reached a speed of 122mph/196kph a world record of the time.

Although the trains suffered from restricted visibility for the driver and high fuel consumption, Bugatti produced over 100 rail cars, some of which were in use until 1958 and their production has been credited with saving the company from the financial failure of it’s beautiful but uneconomical cars.13cd_2 autora14 autorai2 b1_40 BUGATTI46

The ‘Presidential’ was restored in 1970 and was initially on display in the French Railway Museum before being moved to the Mulhouse Collection in 1981 where it is shown alongside the Bugatti Royales that led to it’s ‘birth’.the-railcar-bugatti-prsidentiel-zzy-7429Autorail_Bugatti_Mulhouse_FRA_001-01


The coolest fridge ever?

SMEG have collaborated with Fiat to produce this extraordinary refrigerator based on the front end of an original Fiat 500..

Fiat and Smeg have a working relationship going back to the 50’s when Smeg was formed immediately after the Second World War and one of its first collaborations was creating refrigerators with Fiat. This new exclusive project brings back together two brands synonymous with the world of vintage style,design and technological know how, in a brand new guise.

Launched in Paris in May an exclusive event at Colette, the famous concept store on Rue Saint-Honorè, this unique fridge is perfect for the homes of avid collectors, or a fashionable lounge bar perfect for serving drinks.

When you ‘pop the hood’, you’ll be greeted by 100 litres of storage accessed by two sliding drawers, which can be set to freeze or chill. It’s A+ rated, has an automatic defrost function and features three removable bottle holders and a removable shelf for canned drinks. The chromed instrument panel is also in the style of the original Fiat 500.

This is a genuine production item rather than a PR stunt but imagine it will be made in fairly limited numbers. The price isn’t clear but you can bet it will be significantly more than the original cost of the car and probably more than an original 500 will cost you today!ku-bigpic ku-xlargeFIAT2 SMEG500B_8_WEB
1EAF2AF3F071327ED93398678799_h498_w598_m27447939B8D89527746FD946C6CD_h498_w598_m2The Smeg 500 fridge is just one of several products created for the Fiat 500 Design Collection, which also includes a sofa, a table and a console table, all  inspired by the classic small car by Italian furniture designer Meritalia.
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‘Operation; Mystery!’

‘Kaiki Daisakusen’ or ‘Operation; Mystery!’ was a Japanese TV series made in 1968-69. Recently rereleased in Japan on DVD the show followed the Science Research Institute (SRI) a special police department set up to investigate ‘strange phenomenon’ – the X-files many years before it was conceived in the US!

The SRI team had a brilliant car…custom4

Based on a Subaru Samba 360, the van version of Mario’s little brother Nippy.nippy

This fantastic futuristic vehicle was used extensively in the series and was known as the ‘Tortoise’. There is no information as to whether this unique Subaru still survives.

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Although like most good TV shows there appears to be merchandise available, laser discs, 45″ singles of the theme tune  and of course toy cars, which give a clearer view of the cars innovative design.

16044sonosheet_10 SP-KaikiDaisakusene0096346_20861 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe series was filmed on the streets of Tokyo and there where lots of other great Japanese cars which are now classic that appeared in the background, a Honda 600, Toyota 2000GT, Nissan Fairlady, Toyota Sports 800 and amazing a car chase with a RHD Japanese spec Renault Caravelle which must have been unusual at the time.i096820i096805i096889 i096809Maybe this could be a future ‘recreation’ project!

Where have all the French Classics gone?

No blog updates for a little while as we managed to take short break in Normandy, I was hoping to write about the classics we’d seen and a small museum we went to years ago. Unfortunately there was no sign of the museum in any of the tourist outlets, it was a private collection of an old man so guess it has closed and been dispersed.

What was more disappointing was the lack of classic vehicles on the road, I know it was October but the weather was good. On holiday throughout Europe from the late 80’s onwards we’d would play counting games with points for classics spotted. On one memorable trip around Italy maybe 20 years ago there were so many Fiat 500’s that I was only allowed points if I spotted them first – not easy when you are playing against an eagle-eyed car nut but I had still clocked up over 1000 within the first week!

This trip we hardly saw a classic vehicle on the road or parked in driveways. I didn’t manage to spot a single Renault 4cv or even the later Dauphine. Was this because of changes in regulations or has the increase in value of many of these everyday cars meant that those which have survived are tucked up safe and secure and not used much? Even on a midweek winters day you are likely to see a classic on the British Roads and plenty of people use everyday classics as runabouts, hopefully we were just unlucky and there are plenty out there in the French Countryside.

What we did see…
A garage ‘specialising’ in ‘old vehicles’ but when we went in only a tiny handful in the showroom were for sale and apart from a few along the front most of the others just seemed to be sitting there ‘rotting away’ hopefully they might get restored one day. The collection was mainly Citroen 2cv’s in various states of decay plus a rather nice Volkswagon Kübelwagon, VW Beatles, Mini’s, Renault 4’s, Citroen H-van and a funny little cycle-car.

DSC03788 DSC03790 DSC03791 DSC03792 A tank displayed at Pegasus bridgeDSC03799 A very clean Porsche 911 being professionally photographed at Chateau Breuil Calvados DistilleryDSC04249 A lovely old Citroen truck which i think might be a Citroen C4 Forgone on display outside the Graindorge Cheese FactoryDSC04265 And a lovely Citroen H-Van on the side of the road which looked like it was actually used.DSC04279 And finally a Citroen Mehari in Trouville, appeared to be in regular use and even had a disabled parking badge!DSC04304