Micro Car Project: 1959 Autobianchi Bianchina

Autobianchi is an interesting company, as it was formed as a cooperative endeavor between Bianchi, (which remains the world’s oldest bicycle manufacturer), Fiat, and Pirelli. They produced a number of different models between 1955 and their final integration with Lancia in 1995. With so much input from Fiat in those early days, it is probably no surprise to learn that beneath that distinctive body, this Bianchina rolls on Fiat 500 underpinnings. These little cars didn’t sell anywhere near the volume of the donor 500, so spotting a good project car today is not a common occurrence. This isn’t the first example that we’ve seen here at Barn Finds, but it is probably the one that shows the greatest promise as a project car. It is located in Flanders, New Jersey, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has now reached $2,077, and with the reserve met, someone, is about to become the proud owner of a cool little project car.

Tiny, minuscule, minute. Those are all pretty appropriate words to describe this Italian classic. Being based on the Fiat 500, the car is only a touch over 10′ in length. Unfortunately, as well as inheriting its cousin’s compact dimensions, it also inherited its ability to transform steel into rust. This car has not escaped that fate, but thankfully, the vast majority of the problems have now been addressed. The car has been fitted with a new set of floors, while the rest of it appears to be quite solid. However, the approach to this restoration has been, in my opinion, a little haphazard. While I was replacing the floors, I would have been inclined to media blast what remained of the original floors to rid the car of every square inch of surface corrosion. The owner hasn’t done this, so it might be worth the effort to at least partially dismantle the car so that this can be properly addressed. Being the “Transformable” variation of the Bianchina, it is fitted with a slide-back roof, making the car a semi-convertible. The roof is present, but the owner says that it will need some repairs. It’s pretty obvious that the Bianchina started life finished in a pretty pastel green shade, but the color of the top and seat upholstery suggests that a change was on the cards. Whether this change was completed would be up to the next owner, because with only the top and seats done, a change of tack in this area would not be a big job. The external trim which is attached to the car looks to be in nice condition. Thankfully, the car does come with some quite hard to obtain trim pieces that are waiting to be fitted. These include an immaculate pair of bumper end pieces, along with a few other really nice external trim pieces.

The front seats look like they are wearing a new set of covers, and reinforce the belief that a color change was on the cards for the little car. Given the fact that there appears to be no rear seat or door trims present, the car hasn’t reached the point of no return if the next owner would prefer to see the car wearing its original green once again. One aspect that the Bianchina shares with its Fiat cousin, is the ability to seat four people. With the rear seat apparently missing, a replacement will need to be sourced. This might not be as difficult as you would first think, because parts cars do pop up for sale occasionally. Once again, even though the interior is pretty basic, a few of the rarer components are still present. This includes the horn button in the center of the wheel, along with an intact gauge cluster. This will need some restoration work, but I think that it should be able to be restored by a careful individual with some finer cleaning and polishing of the gauge faces and glass.

When it was new, the Bianchina housed a 16½hp version of Fiat’s 499cc twin-cylinder engine. Those willing ponies found their way to the road via a 4-speed manual transaxle. The original engine has now gone, and in its place is a 650cc Fiat powerplant. This engine produces 21hp, so performance should actually be noticeably improved. In 499cc guise, a Bianchina was capable of hitting a top speed of 60mph and achieving fuel economy figures of around 52mpg. This engine should provide some improvement in the former figure, but it probably won’t be a massive improvement. The engine has been rebuilt, although the car doesn’t currently run. It isn’t clear what work is required, but it looks like the car has been fitted with a new fuel tank, which is a start. These aren’t a complicated car, and the electrical system is a perfect example of this. The fuse box doesn’t need to be huge, as the entire electrical system is protected by a grand total of four fuses. If the mechanical restoration work that has already been completed is to a decent standard, getting the Bianchina up and running should not be a big job.

This 1959 Bianchina is a cool little micro-car, and it looks like the remaining restoration work could conceivably be completed in a home workshop. These aren’t a big car, but on a pound-per-dollar basis, they are capable of achieving some pretty healthy sales prices. This is helped by the low build numbers, with only around 10,000 cars being produced in 1959. When they do come onto the market, sale prices in excess of $20,000 are pretty common, while figures beyond $30,000 are not beyond the realm of possibility. With the reserve now met on this car, this is a project that not only promises to deliver an entertaining little car once restored but one that could potentially turn a profit at the end of the day.

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Comments

  1. Bob C

    I used to drive one of these as my daily
    transportation (although it was the standard Fiat version). Can remember driving on a local highway flat out (i.e., around the speed limit), and having a spark plug wire fall off. Felt like I ran into a giant marshmellow!

    (Not sure if it’s appropriate to mention here, but I do have some parts for both the Bianchina and Fiat versions, many of which I could make available, to help the Purchaser out, if needed.)

    Like 6
    • Rick

      I have one I’m restoring, what kind of parts do you have? I’d be interested

  2. Bruce

    The worlds finest motorized Shopping Cart. I would believe that on the highway these are just as dangerous as a motorcycle but around town what a lovely way to go to the store. Laughable yes but in their own way elegant. Use the best of paints and take extreme care and make this back to the jewel it was.

  3. Comet

    The seller says the body has “a little surface rust”. I wonder what he considers a lot?

    Just because stripping all the paint off a car and letting it stand around while nature take it’s course is a bad idea, doesn’t mean you it shouldn’t do it.

    Like 2
  4. Lance

    Love the optional duct tape tail lights.

    Like 3
  5. rod444

    I love these little Autobianchi’s and would love to have one, but I already drive a Fiat 500e and my ego can barely handle all the comments from the ladies who label it a “cute” car.

    Ug. I dont even bother with the Abarth lineage talk anymore.

    I dont think my endangered manhood would survive owning an even more “adorable” car :P

    Like 1
  6. Will Owen Member

    My first car (as some might remember I’ve mentioned before a few times) was a 1959 or ’60 Fiat 500, the first North American-spec cars with the Frog Goggle headlight pods, since this was 1962 and the Italian headliamps were neither Sealed Beam nor 7″ diameter. My kid brother, a couple of years later, bought a used Bianchina like this only a lot shinier. I don’t know about Brother John, but I’d love to have either one of them right now. For one thing, they’re a hoot to drive (if a kinda slow one). The best part is the Mrs. O’s foot-down ultimatum about garage room does not apply here: once I sell that old Magic Chef range there WILL be room!

    This one is happening too soon, but I have been seeing enough of these in every guise on this and That Other online old-car site to know that there are plenty still out there. I’m just about ready to throw another Cinquecento around, with just a little better Celestial Alignment and a few extra bucks …

    Like 1
  7. Coventrycat

    Never thought to use duct tape as a chrome substitute.

    Like 1
  8. MikeH

    Who the hell buys a new top and new seat covers while the rest of the car needs everything??

    Like 1
    • Will Owen Member

      Probably someone who has a list of those needs, and these came available? Just guessing, but I’ve been there too.

      Like 1
  9. t-BONE BOB

    Winning bid:US $5,100.00

  10. MadGoat

    The correct spelling is Trasformabile, not Transformable. I have one of these in the garage awaiting restoration. I believe only 1500 or so were made for US sale, and this does appear to be a US spec car. Some parts are near impossible to find, and others are very expensive. These may be simple cars, but they’re not inexpensive to restore. This same car has been on Ebay recently, I wonder if someone realized they were in too deep.

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