The car made for youth

The car was designed by Tom Tjaarda for Carrozzeria Ghia, who also looked after assembling the bodyshell. It was presented at the Turin Motor Show alongside the A40, with a price of 1,150,000 Lire.

In 1960 Innocenti entered the world of car manufacturing with the A40, derived from the car of the same name made by Austin. The Lambrate company had made an agreement with the then BMC, British Motor Corporation, to produce British cars in Italy. By exploiting this agreement Innocenti developed their own compact convertible version concurrent with the A40 and based on the Austin-Healey Sprite two-seater, called the 950 Spider.

The car was designed by Tom Tjaarda for Carrozzeria Ghia, who also looked after assembling the bodyshell. It was presented at the Turin Motor Show alongside the A40, with a price of 1,150,000 Lire. The car immediately attracted a lot of attention and it became the forerunner of the subsequent Fiat 850 Spider and the little Autobianchi Stellina.

Its styling was simple but very elegant and it had two small rear fins, a clear American inspiration. The 950 was light, weighing just 695 kg. Inside were some nice touches, with fittings such as the adjustable driver’s seat and the standard cigarette lighter, which were rare at the time. Furthermore it had an efficient heating system and a double-layer soft-top for better soundproofing. But the car had one major problem which was the reason for its lack of success: the low power of its British 948 cc engine, which produced only 43 bhp and could only reach a maximum speed of 140 km/h with some difficulty; for a car with sporty driving aspirations and whose customers were mainly young (it was initially advertised as L’auto made for youth) the engine failed to match expectations.

Although it was a quality product and a step ahead of the competition, customers snubbed it because of the lack of the sporty driving performance that it offered. The following year a new engine was offered which delivered 50 bhp, but that was still not enough to give exciting performance. The real turning point was in 1963 when an 1100 engine producing 58 bhp arrived. Its name changed to 1100 Spider and only then was the car able to offer sporty performance and a much more engaging drive. Unfortunately, however, the competition also continued to improve and the little Innocenti still failed to carve out its own niche.  Simultaneously with the arrival of the new engine some updates were also carried out: on the exterior its new name Innocenti S appeared, it sported new wheel covers and a practical hard top was also available which turned the car into a small coupé, whilst disc brakes were also fitted on the front wheels. In 1966, due to the increasing success of the Fiat 850 and its derivatives, Innocenti developed a small coupé based on the S in an attempt to relaunch the car into the sector, but despite being amongst the first to offer this kind of car in Italy it could not carve out a prominent place for itself. Once again it was Ghia who designed the new car. The wheelbase was modified, improving internal comfort, and the car’s track was also widened. The car’s design differed from the S with a new grille as well as the addition of a roof; the rear lights were also changed with new horizontally-mounted units. Mechanically it was also fitted with the 1100 cc engine and the car’s weight was 770 kg. The Innocenti C, as it was named, was presented at the Turin Motor Show in 1966, but in its two years of production only a few hundred examples were made.

In 1969 both the Innocenti C and the S spider were deleted and never replaced. In total production numbers of the Innocenti 950 Spider, 1100 Spider, S and C amounted to just 7651 units by 1968. Today surviving examples are extremely rare, so if you have one, hold on tight to it!

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

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