The Autobianchi A112 Runabout is a classic car that has earned a special place in the hearts of vintage car lovers. This iconic car, developed by Bertone and first introduced in 1969, is a true treasure of Italian engineering and design.
The history of the Autobianchi A112 Runabout dates back to the 1960s. In 1967, designer Pio Manzù presented his mid-engined prototype called Prototype 111, based on the transverse powertrain of the Autobianchi A111 sedan. Later, in 1968, Manzù exhibited his Autobianchi Coupé at the Turin Motor Show. At the same time, Dante Giacosa, in collaboration with the Società industriale ricerche automobilistiche (SIRA), was developing a similar design using the powertrain of the Autobianchi Primula. This design was initially carried out by OSI and later a complete prototype called the G31 was built and developed by Centro Stylo Fiat in 1969.
The Autobianchi A112 Runabout, designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, was inspired by the design of the famous Lamborghini Miura, also designed by Gandini. This small convertible featured a distinctive wedge-shaped silhouette, a feature that would become a hallmark of many Gandini designs of the era.
At the time, Bertone needed a car to replace the Fiat 850 Spider it produced at its Grugliasco plant. In addition, there was growing concern that the United States would soon implement rollover safety requirements that would virtually ban traditional convertibles.
The Autobianchi A112 Runabout, chassis number 41258, made its debut at the 1969 Turin Motor Show. Its design captivated Gianni Agnelli, who in 1971 approved its development as the Fiat X1/9, another Italian classic much loved by car enthusiasts.
This classic Italian car stands out for its unique design and special features. The overall shape of the car is inspired by the racing boats of the mid-1960s. Its bonnet is long and flat, with a central recess that converges towards the rear where the Autobianchi emblem is located. The rear of the car is reminiscent of the stern of a boat, with a small recess. The tyres and low-profile wheels are covered by almost flat wheel arches. A distinctive feature is that there are no doors on the driver’s or passenger’s sides. Instead, it has a low curved wind deflector and a wing-shaped safety arch at the front, similar to the radar arches on some boats. The headlamps are not mounted on the front of the car, but are housed in prominent housings built into the pillars of the roll bar, behind the driver and passenger seats.
Inside, the car features a minimalist design with limited instrumentation. There is only a speedometer mounted in the centre of the top of the dashboard, similar to a nautical compass.
Although the Autobianchi A112 Runabout shares the transverse engine configuration with the A112 Supermini, it does not use the A112’s Type 100 overhead valve engine. Instead, it is fitted with the new Fiat 128 SOHC engine, developed by former Ferrari engine designer Aurelio Lampredi. This engine features a cast-iron block, an aluminium cylinder head and a single belt-driven camshaft. The Runabout’s engine has a displacement of 1,116 cc and is mated to a four-speed manual transmission.
The influence of the Autobianchi A112 Runabout has been significant in the automotive world. Some claim that the G31 was the forerunner of the Fiat X1/9, while others suggest that the 1971 De Tomaso 1600 Spider, strikingly similar to the later X1/9, was its predecessor. Be that as it may, the Runabout is generally regarded as the inspiration for the X1/9, as described on the official Bertone website.
Elements of the Runabout design can also be seen in the later Lancia Stratos, another classic Italian car.