Two years ago, I was walking aimlessly around Stuttgart, Germany, taking in the sights and sounds as I closed out a few days in Europe after the Belgian Grand Prix. (Don’t get the impression I’m some jet-setting guy; it was my last trip abroad…)
I enjoy visiting thrift stores and other local shops outside of Königstraße and other tourist areas, no matter how enticing the butterbrezel stands look. Well, are. I had already eaten one that particular day. I was visiting secondhand shops to find some sort of old diecast cars. I really had nothing in particular in mind, I just wanted to bring back a small memento—until I turned a corner and was face-to-face with a model shop.
It was leagues different from the few I’ve visited in North America, with small cars and trinkets filling the dirty store windows. It looked like some kid’s toy car collection had been taken out of a shoe box and put on display…about 50 times over. The variety was incredible.
Be proud that I spent only an hour inside and 15 euros! Stepping inside was a trip back in time, with diecast cars sharing space with vintage action figures and lots—lots—of model train stuff. Like an old record store, there were bins, display cases, and sorts all over. After combing through the front room I was delighted (and daunted) to see a series of small rooms all outfitted with floor to ceiling shelves and drawers. I pulled them out, one by one, to be greeted by random selections of sorts…small cars in the scale of model train sets…Star Wars action figures…fake plastic trees…original Matchbox display cases…
Other store patrons were, I realize now, older versions of me: men with too many interests and too much time.
I left with a few old die-cast cars: a Messerschmitt KR200, a “Sydney Institute of Technology” first-generation Renault Twingo (complete with bull bar), a made-in-USSR VAZ 2102 rally support wagon, and the car above: an Autobianchi A112 Runabout by Bertone.
First shown at the 1969 Turin Motor Show, the Runabout is a small, light, very open concept, said to be inspired by racing speedboats from the period. I see the resemblance mostly in its long, low, flat nose and its curled in rocker panels. The stern’s “step” behind the mid-mounted engine is a nice touch, too, but looks a little bit small for tanning.
My toy version is yellow, but I much prefer the real car’s pearl white paint with red stripes and red interior…well…it’s so spartan and open I’m not sure this car has an interior. Whereas the earlier Pininfarina Peugette traded design flair for a simple design you could imagine at a nearby race track, the flashy Runabout seems destined for a life spent under bright lights.
Reaction to the car was so positive that Bertone had a production car in mind: the Bertone / Fiat X1/9. The Runabout was powered by a Fiat 128 engine and drivetrain, which would also find a home in the production version.
I’ll now leave you with two things. First, period photography that will make you wonder if car designers are only ever in it for the velour jumpsuit-clad models. Second, (after much Googling), the name of the shop in Stuttgart: Such und Find.