Glance through the catalogues for the forthcoming Rétromobile auctions and you’ll see all manner of exotica, including a Ferrari that’s likely to sell for the price of a Caribbean island. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find what must be one of the world’s smallest shooting brakes – the Autobianchi Bianchina Panoramica.
The Bianchina was the first car to be manufactured by the new Autobianchi company, created by a joint venture involving Bianchi, Pirelli and Fiat. Although this was a new company – with a new name – the Bianchi company could trace its roots back to 1885, when Edoardo Bianchi started building bicycles.
Autobianchi’s relationship with Fiat allowed it utilise its products to create a more upmarket and luxurious version of the 500. The first Bianchina rolled off the production line in 1957 and immediately caught the eye, largely thanks to its two-door landaulet body, which featured a full-length folding sunroof. The American influence was clear and was exemplified by the two-tone paintwork, whitewall tyres and lashings of chrome.
From the outset, Autobianchi targeted middle class women and managed to capture the wave of increasing affluence in Italian society. Other variants soon followed, including a cabriolet, saloon, van and the car we see here – the Panoramica.
Isn’t that the best name for an estate car? Forget all the nonsense about sport tourers and sport wagons, because Panoramica is a proper name. PetrolBlog insists the new Fiat Tipo estate is called the Fiat Tipo Panoramica. Make it happen, Fiat.
The Autobianchi Bianchina Panoramica – a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue – arrived using Fiat’s Giardiniera’s space-saving horizontally-opposed engine. For ladies who liked to fill their boots in the fashion houses of Milan, this was the estate car of choice. Back in the 1960s, this was as fashionable as the modern-day Fiat 500 is today.
Sure, Autobianchi’s claim that the Bianchina was a true four-seater was stretching things a little, but it did feel more glamorous than the Fiat 500 and it was, by all accounts, very easy to drive. And look at that delightful interior – no touchscreen tosh or soft plastic silliness to be found here.
Autobianchi’s reign as purveyors of upmarket Fiat 500s didn’t last long. By 1968 it had fallen under total control of Fiat and by 1989 it was effectively distinct. Only production of the Y10 kept the name alive in its native Italy. By 1995 it had gone completely. Some 40th birthday that was.
Of course, from a PetrolBlog perspective, there’s more interest in the likes of the A112 and Y10. But there’s something so elegant, so perfect about the Bianchina Panoramica, it deserves its place in the spotlight. The shooting brake is, after all, synonymous with the English country gent, but here’s a two-door estate car marketed almost exclusively at women. Bella.
If you’d rather not part with a few million euros for a Ferrari, the Autobianchi Bianchina Panoramica is going under the hammer at the Artcurial Motorcars sale, which is part of Rétromobile 2016. Yours for between €15,000 and €20,000, or £11,500 and £15,000 in crisp British notes.
Save your Euromillions for a Caribbean island. This pint-sized shooting brake could be all the car you’d need out there.
Main image © Artcurial.