The forgotten spider

This peculiarity made the small spider unique, but paradoxically the market failed to understand the constructive solution, it was too expensive and had performance which could not match the competition

The Autobianchi marque, which appeared after the Second World War from the ashes of Bianchi, built cars successfully during the 41-year lifetime of the brand, including the Bianchina, the first model after the re-birth of the brand, developed on Fiat 500 mechanicals; the Primula, Italy’s first front-wheel drive car; the A112, which became part of the myth thanks to the Abarth versions and was produced in seven series for 16 consecutive years; and lastly the modern Y10 sub-compact, the ancestor of today’s Lancia Ypsilon and the last model to be produced under the Desio brand, which disappeared off the scene in 1995.

There were two models, however, which did not meet with sales success: the A111, based on Primula mechanicals, was luxurious and very modern but which sadly did not find favour and had a production life of only 4 years and, the subject of this article, the Stellina spider, presented at the Turin Motor Show in 1963. The car was rear-wheel drive and initially utilised a 767 cc engine producing 29 bhp, which failed to offer significant performance despite the light weight of the car: only 660 kg.

The Stellina consisted of a box-shaped steel frame to which the glass-fibre bodywork was attached, an original and innovative solution; in fact the material allowed a much leaner production process since it allowed the process to go from forming directly to the application of the paint and it was also much more resistant to external effects and ageing, a major advantage in a period in which cars often had metal sheets which were quickly attacked by rust.

This peculiarity made the small spider unique, but paradoxically the market failed to understand the constructive solution, it was too expensive and had performance which could not match the competition. A 792 cc version with 31.5 bhp was launched later in an attempt to revive the model’s fortunes, but despite this the revolutionary glass-fibre car continued to be ignored by buyers, who preferred the sportier and less expensive 850 Spider, produced by Bertone. The difficulties repairing the bodywork as well as the servicing and repairs also drove away buyers, who were unprepared for a production solution too far in advance for the times.

The Stellina was produced only from 1963 to 1965 with a total of just 502 made. Today, unlike then, the small Autobianchi is highly sought after by collectors, both for the small number remaining and for the ingenious innovation which characterizes and represents the car.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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