Obscure Italian in Portugal: O.T.A.S. Grand Prix

This is a.. er.. umm.. It’s actually a.. um.. uhhhh.. Well, it’s a 1969 O.T.A.S. Grand Prix, a car based on the Fiat 850. This unusual car company has a somewhat confusing history, perhaps as confusing as the car design itself. This car is located in Maia, Portugal so you’ll have to be a huge fan of these cars if you don’t live in Europe and want to ship it back to your garage. It’s listed on Car and Classic.co.uk with a price of ­£12.100 ($15,682).

As you can see, this car needs a lot of bodywork and finishing. And, by a lot I mean a LOT. It has almost a Saab Sonett look from this angle to me. The Lombardi Grand Prix was the original version and a company called O.T.A.S. (Officina Trasformazioni Automobili Sportive, or “Sports car conversion shop”), founded by Francis Lombardi and Franco Giannini, made the version that you see here from 1969 to 1971. It’s hard to really tell, but according to the seller this is a O.T.A.S. 850 Grand Prix, not a Lombardi Grand Prix.

There are so many twists and turns in the history of these cars, maybe even more than the twists and turns in this particular car’s bodywork. The O.T.A.S. 1000 Grand Prix used a more powerful 982 CC engine in order to be competitive in foreign markets. But, then there was also an O.T.A.S. Grand Prix 820CC for the US and Canadian markets. In the US at that time, engines under 50 cubic-inches (819.35 cubic centimeters), were exempt from smog testing.

Whatever the heck it is officially, unofficially it’s a pile of work waiting to be done. I thought it was 99.9% impossible to find parts for a 1986 Nissan Stanza 4WD wagon! HA, I laugh in my own face. I can not imagine trying to find anything for this car apart from standard Fiat 850 gear, which may be difficult in and of itself. The dash layout is one of the coolest that I’ve ever seen and that alone makes me want to learn more about these vehicles. The rest of the interior is AWOL, as they say at O.T.A.S. Or, at least for the photos it is, the seller says that they have the majority of the parts for this car – that’s great news to any potential buyers.

This car was in dry storage for 23 years, according to the seller. From looking at the photos, I’m not sure if that helped or hurt things here. I can’t imagine anything less than a full nut-and-bolt restoration happening on this car so the next owner had better come loaded with both money and patience while parts are being sourced, or fabricated. This one is solid according to the owner but there’s no word on the condition of the engine or really much else. Have you heard of these cars? I saw Jeff Lane’s example at his museum outside of Nashville but that’s it for me.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Jaygryph

    It looks like if Disney designed a Pantera for it’s cartoon Cars universe.

    If I owned a Pantera I would be all over this, and would have it painted and trimmed just like it so it could be shown with it for my own and others entertainment.

    I bet it’s a fun little oddball to drive, at any rate.

  2. Pa Tina

    “Based on a Fiat”. No further comment required.

  3. Rick

    Saw one at Carlisle here in PA a few years back. I have photos of it somewhere. Very small car, and the dashboard is to die for. IIRC they were build for racing of some sort but were street legal as well.

    • Don Meluzio

      Rick, You mentioned seeing one in Carlisle Pa. That was at the Carlisle Import and Performance Show in May. Next year we will be having a gathering of OTAS there 2018. At this point we will have 4 or 5 in attendance, hopefully we will pickup a few more by then.

  4. Scott

    Hard to believe that anyone would think of paying 15k for that.

  5. Racer417

    A restored one sold this year at Bonham’s Scottsdale sale for $100K.

  6. Racer417

    To clarify that the Bonhams’ car was an Abarth version.

    https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23945/lot/46/?category=results&length=90&page=1

    • Scott in San Jose

      Shock, well it was the most powerful 1300ss version, but really?

      Drove one of the standard Abarth 850 based version. Had about half the HP of the 1300 and was so slow. A standard FIAT 850 was faster. These things had terrible areodynamics. Lift going into a corner and it felt like you hit the brakes.

      Like all Abarths these are tiny.

      On the plus side they look cool on the outside and better on the inside. Loved the instrument cluster.

      There is a club in the statements s. They often have some for sale and list events to attend. I would recommend going and seeing one in person. Many of the folks I know with these are more than happy to show you them and a few will let you climb in.

      Prices that I remember of just a couple of years ago were close to the same as FIATs, so few restored and all were drivers.

  7. Martin Horrocks

    I thought OTAS was US market only, most cars being Lombardi Grand Prix. I walked away from one which was a zillion times better and more complete than this one, offered for €7000 2 years ago .

    Restored, these make good money, but the car didn´t excite me. I like weird little Fiat etceterini a lot, but in this case I´d rather have an Abarth clone 850 Fiat coupe..

  8. Brakeservo

    I used to see these all the time at the John Rich Fiat dealership in Glendale, California. Like all Fiats of that era, I’m sure they rusted even if you just looked at them!

  9. Tirefriar

    Scott, glad you used at least one of the cars I submitted to BF although I thought the Fiat by Fissore was quite interesting and far more beautiful

    • Don Meluzio

      Hmm, A Fissore bodied Fiat, what was it, coupe

      • Tirefriar

        Don, yes it was a little red beauty offered in Japan

  10. RobM

    These cars are much lower (42″) and lighter (1,450 lbs.) than the Fiat 850 Sedan they’re based on. As a result, cornering grip is exceptional, on par with a Lotus Elan according to Sports Car Graphic magazine. They are a lot of fun to drive on twisty roads. About 80 cars were brought to the U.S. by 3 importers (roughly 300-400 produced 1968-1971) and at least half that number survive. Owners are networked and assist each other with restoration advice and parts sources. This car looks like a solid restoration project. I hope someone will bring it back to life.

    Like 1
  11. PeteL

    The price of this one seems a bit high considering what is missing in the pix. The windshield seems like the largest pain…I need one for mine eventually as it has a crack in it.
    @Don I will try to get my red one up to Carlisle, rust and all but it is running again thanks to some great help here in DC. I would be tempted to buy the blue one here if the price were a bit more reasonable and there was really no rust.
    @Martin The one you passed on is no longer available is it?

  12. RobM

    @Pete, please try to bring your OTAS to Import Carlisle in 2018. Rust is not an issue. We’re trying to get as many Lombardis together in one place in the U.S. as possible.

  13. Joseph Pole

    I’ve got a Lombardi Grand Prix in right-hand drive with 982cc engine. It’s a great handling car and enough power for the diminutive size and weight. Mine was a ‘barn find’, sitting in an underground carpark in Australia since the late 90s. I’ve learned a bit about these cars while slowly restoring mine and I like it more and more. Incidentally, a few are undergoing full rotisserie restorations at the moment which indicates that the owners are passionate and/or see long-term value in complete restorations for this vehicle. They’re Italian built, rear engined and extremely rare classics so it makes sense

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