The Italian Edoardo Bianchi started manufacturing luxury motor vehicles in 1899, but after the Second World War, the company, now in the ownership of his son Giuseppe, was forced to cut down to the manufacture of bicycles and motorcycles because of financial reasons. In 1955, they joined with Fiat and Pirelli to form Autobianchi in Turin.
Fiat supplied the technical base and components such as the chassis, Pirelli the tyres and Bianchi did the preparation and assembly of the bodies. Fiat's interest was to use the brand as a test market for its own vehicles, something in which it largely succeeded.
In 1957, the two-door Bianchina, based on the Fiat 500, was launched as an upscale minicar. This rear-engined, air-cooled recreational vehicle was followed by a cabriolet, estate, saloon and van version. In 1963, the Stellina was introduced, the first Italian car with a fibreglass body and although only 502 were made, it formed an important link in the development of new technologies. The following year saw the launch of Fiat's first front wheel drive car, the Primula. Its McPherson suspension struts became universally used in practically all cars. Its end-on gearbox was also revolutionary at the time.
In 1968, Lancia gained control of the marque when Bianchi was forced to sell its interests. The bigger but short-lived small family car, A111, was followed in 1969 by the popular A112 supermini, in production for seventeen years and marketed as a Lancia outside of France and Italy. This model formed the base for the Fiat 127.
In 1971, the 112E (for "Elegant") was introduced with improved seating and trimming and was produced alongside the Normale. 1973 saw the Abarth with new upholstery and alloys and in 1975, the Third Series became a five seater with some cosmetic changes. The 1971 Abarth was developed for racing by Fiat; its engine was upgraded to a 1050 cc in 1975, coupled with increased output of kilowatts (up to 51 kW). This became a very popular little performance car for hard-driving young people; even Formula One driver Oliver Panis drove (and crashed) one of these.
The Series 4 Nuova (1977), Series 5 Elite (1979) with a fifth gear available (in the Abarth this was standard), Series 6 LX (1982), seventh Series in 1984 and the final and eighth Series in 1985 were all basically the same car, with minor changes to the body, seating and some upgrades to the engine size. From 1979, the Normale was called the Junior.
In 1986, the Y10 was introduced, with the Junior (now simply called the Autobianchi 112) the only other model available until its production ceased in 1986. By 1996, the company was completely absorbed by Lancia, with the Y10 becoming the Lancia Ypsilon. There are still a number of Autobianchis available in good condition, many still in everyday use
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