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Unique 1949 FIAT Topolino C ‘Francis Lombardi’ Lunotto Panoramico Special

In the 1940s, Ugo Zagato introduced the “panoramica” concept to his automotive designs. Influenced by the wide-ranging vision from the cockpit of bi-planes he built in WWI, he used a combination of glass and plexiglass to lighten the greenhouse of about 100 cars, from Fiats to Maseratis. Other designers adopted the technique, issuing amazing creations like this Alfa by Pinin Farina. Francis Lombardi – who specialized in re-crafting Fiats – apparently took up the cause, and made three Topolino-based “panoramica specials.” Here at Car & Classic is a 1949 Fiat Topolino C Lunotto Panoramico special, coming up for auction shortly. This tip is courtesy of Kyle K – thanks, Kyle! This car has been off the road since the 1970s and requires complete restoration. It is located in Treviso, Italy. We found that the same car was offered in January, reaching a bid of €5600 without selling.

Based on the “C” series Topolino, the engine is a 567 cc four-cylinder good for about 16 hp. With over half a million Topolinos made starting in 1936, parts are plentiful, which is good since all the mechanicals will need rebuilding. Note the motor is mounted ahead of the front axle, with the radiator to the rear. The drive shaft is tiny, but the wheels are generously sized at 15″. The Topolino was produced with a fully sychro’d four-speed transmission, hydraulic brakes, and hydraulic shock absorbers – well advanced for the time. Fiat claimed the “little mouse” could reach 53 mph, but a reviewer for Autocar managed 60 mph, and feisty Italians were said to bomb around at even higher speeds.

The interior is crafted of simple, close-set bucket seats. Amazingly, the vinyl remains intact, and portions of the door cards provide enough of a pattern to copy. The seller indicates the original rubber mats are present, and the car comes with framing for the sunroof that was apparently filled in at some point (argh!). Chrome, lenses, trim, and rubber seals are all in need of refreshing.

Rust has invaded the floors and door bottoms. The car does roll. To inspire the prospective buyer, I dug up these photos of the car, the first possibly at its introduction when first conceived, and in the wild. With only three made, you’re not likely to encounter another at Cars ‘N Coffee, and if the restoration is good enough, an invite to a more prestigious event might be forthcoming. Still, there are many dineros, hours, and skinned knuckles between the photo above and a restored version. I love oddball cars like this, but like the Typhoon written up recently, it’s an ocean away from me. What do you think of this one?


  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Honey I shrunk the Studebaker…

    Like 51
    • Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

      …and then I glued a DKW 1100 front end on it.

      Like 23
      • DelBoy

        And then beat the whole lot with an ugly stick. For a long, long time. A perfect excuse to walk instead.

        Like 14
    • chrlsful

      yes! back window’n fenders fersure

      Like 0
  2. Cadmanls Member

    I have no words for this. One question, who styled this together?

    Like 7
  3. John Eder

    This looks like it is equipped with those “Lightning” decals aft of the front wheel wells as well.

    Like 3
  4. scott m

    Love your eclectic taste and historical knowledge Michelle, from a Pegaso to a Tornado to a Lunotto, “oh” yeah!

    Like 8
  5. Gerry

    The name is bigger than the car!

    Like 4
  6. Rw

    Definitely gasser or street freak material iffin bought right price..

    Like 2
    • Al

      I can see this with a blown chevy block and 21″ wide slicks. Yeah!

      Like 9
      • jwaltb

        If the block was blown it wouldn’t run.

        Like 1
      • Al

        Well jwaltb you are probably write. Maybe it was a gerbil in a wire cage.

        Like 10
    • Chris Cornetto

      Omg, honey, I shrunk grandpa’s Studebaker. Industrial espionage gone wrong. Well I guess spy cameras took blury photos back then. I have an eclectic collection but this would be hard for even me even if it were free. Drunken Shriners, clowns, candid camera, impractical jokers switch some guys Carrera in the valet delivery.

      Like 4
  7. Maggy

    Fix it again Tony….and again and again….lol.

    Like 2
  8. Big C

    Not quite a masterpiece.

    Like 3
  9. Kenneth Carney

    It does indeed look like a ’47-’52 stude from the rear. A very unique ride if I do say so myself. And if I do
    a print of it, I’ll only need a SMALL sheet of paper to make it! Now, about this blind engineer thing…I resemble that remark! LMAO! but I
    never let being nearly blind stop me
    though. Been working on cars my
    whole life. Rebuilt my first engine when I was 12 years old with my Dad
    hanging around for moral support and
    technical advice. Once I got good
    enough, I serviced the pastor’s two
    cars and the church bus too! I’d show
    up at church on Sunday morning in my
    good suit with my Bible in one hand
    and my toolbox in the other. And while my Mom helped the ladies clean the church on Saturdays, I worked on the other paritioner’s cars
    so that they could get to and from work and church without any trouble.
    Never made much money from it, but
    I felt 10 feet tall when the church chipped in and bought me 2 pairs of
    coveralls and filled my toolbox with
    a set of brand new tools and a lot of thanks from the congregation. I’ve
    owned a lot of cars since then and the only thing I missed was ever being able to drive any of them. So I
    take pride in knowing the cars I built
    might still be on the road today. As
    for this car, I’ll make a print of it after
    I finish the ’36 Chevy on my drawing
    board now.

    Like 16
    • John Eder

      Thanks for your good works. There seems to be a shortage of those these days.

      Many years ago, l met a young guy who liked to do similar good works. He would get cheap or free cars that needed work and fix them up and give them away for free to low income folks to drive to work- no charge for parts or labor. He approached me about a place to work, as I had a large paved pad in a semi-rural location. It worked out great. He kept it neat and clean. I didn’t have to do anything and it did my heart a lot of good- I got a smile on my face every time I saw one of those vehicles depart under its own power once again. He, like you, made a big and important difference in many people’s lives.

      Like 17
      • Kenneth Carney

        Thanks John. Like the young man you knew, I took great pleasure breathing life into a dead hulk someone left behind. And to me, that was even better than going out with girls! Oh sure, a car can bust your knuckles, bite your hands, and frustrate you to no end,
        but it will never break your the way a woman can.

        Like 8
  10. BlondeUXB Member

    Oh dear…

    Like 4
  11. Kenneth Carney

    Thanks John. Like the young man you knew, I took great pleasure breathing life into a dead hulk someone left behind. And to me, that was even better than going out with girls! Oh sure, a car can bust your knuckles, bite your hands, and frustrate you to no end,
    but it will never break your heart the way a woman can.

    Like 2
  12. Derek

    That’s an interesting wee car.

    As for ugly, may I point yez all in the way of 1970s Cadillacs and so on? Buttoned velour interiors and excessive everything else… except power. Smog motors. Fake hood irons.

    Like 9
    • JMB#7

      Thanks for the write-up. Keep the unique ones coming. I hope it falls into good hands.

      Like 2
  13. James_HGF

    Whoa and howdy, now that finer points of Francis Lombardi design vis a vis a decayed and knackered 1949 Fiat 500 C Lunotto Panoramica has been through the ringer. Time to move on the the Italian Studebakers complements of carrozzieri-italiani dot com:


    Yep, good ol’ chief designer Stevens went to Italy to have prototypes built that might rescue the Indiana firm. The “jewel-like” results allegedly excited CEO Egbert.

    Like 2
  14. Lance

    Part Stude and part ugly. Mostly Ugly

    Like 4
  15. jwaltb

    It’s quite odd. Oddly, I kind of like it!

    Like 8
  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    The second I saw this post, I knew it was a Michelle Rand choice.

    Thanks for bringing the uniqueness to Barn Finds!

    Like 6
  17. Martin Horrocks

    All those ” Honey, I shrank the Studebaker” comments have a basis in truth. Post WW2 Lombardi went into producing cars with this look, until Studebaker intervened and stopped it.

    Those with the imagination to see this in a killer colour at Concorso Italiano in Monterrey week will be well rewarded. It will cost no more to restore than any other Topolino and all parts available as long as the rear glass is intact!

    Like 4
  18. James_HGF

    Google Italian Studebakers. Images will lead to article about 1960 Larks bodied in Italy.

    Like 1
  19. Ronss96

    Do you drive this or grow plants in it? 😂

    Like 0

    To drive this car I would want a Nixon mask.

    Like 1
  21. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I used to own a 1951 Studebaker Commander Starlight coupe with the 4-piece rear window, I wonder if I could have possibly put this little Fiat in the trunk as a spare.

    Like 1

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