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Christopher de Fraga, Recalls His 1969 Visit To Fiat’s Turin Factory & Museum

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Well known Melbourne based automotive industry commentator and former car journalist Christopher de Fraga shares his interesting and eventful time at Fiat, Turin back in 1969 when Fiat was launching its Dino’s and their 1600 MK11 Coupe.

“I neglected to mention that my 1969 visit to Fiat in Turin and the museum was also the launch of the Fiat Dino. There was the open car, the PininFarina version and the closed Bertone version. It was also the launch of the Fiat 1600 coupe Mk II coupe which was pretty important.

Fiat had put up a temporary pre-fab house in a field off the Turin-Aosta autostrada with a timber ramp for access. it was complete with a caffe of course with a huge coffee machine and a raft of cars to drive. It was the final day – my trip was late – and at lunch, one of the Fiat test drivers who spoke little English leapt into the Bertone model waved to me and we set off for Aosta. ( Agnelli owned the Autostrada so he simply closed it. AT one point one of the motor writers came back white and troubled. He had met an old truck on the autostrada – missed it – and needed more coffee. Two Politzia Stradale taking coffee at the time looked at each other, kicked their MotorGuzzis to life and zoomed off to fling the errant truckie in the slammer for disobeying road signs.)

I had been traumatised shorlty before leaving Australia at the premiere of The Italian Job by seeing Rossano Brazzi drive into an alpine tunnel in the Miura and straight into a bulldozer blade.
So when the Fiat test driver plunged at around 140 kmh into the first of many tunnels hitting the horn and the lights at the same time I assumed there was some mischief at work. In fact he was warning the guys in navy denim who walked into the tunnels with wicker baskets to pick up fallen rocks that he was approaching fast.

The PininFfarina Fiat 1600 coupe was a huge success although most of the motor industry had not yet solved the rust problem. Porsche thought it worth advertising a seven year guarantee of no rust perforation. Workers at the Alfasud plant at Pomigliano d’Arco near Naples – a former aircraft factory – would degrease their steel Friday morning and then go on strike Friday lunchtime until Tuesday when they would use the steel in the bodies. The car design was brilliant but the execution in manufacture was faulty. It was like driving a beautifully handling swiss cheese – full of rust holes. “

Article published with Mr C de Fraga’s permission.

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