Autobianchi Stellina

I usually wait until later in these stories to quote production figures, but only 502 Autobianchi Stellina convertibles were made. Let's put that number into perspective: Ferrari built more than 1,300 F40s. (And when's the last time you've seen one of those?)

For Fiat, Autobianchi was an at-arms-length entity used to test novel engineering concepts, and the Stellina is no different. Introduced at the 1963 Turin Motor Show for an on-sale date in 1964, all eyes were on its simple, Luigi Rapi-penned shape for one reason: it would be Italy's first car with fibreglass bodywork. 

While a rounding error for Fiat even in 1964, 500 units was a significant milestone for Autobianchi. That the car looked like a scrunched-up version of a short-wheelbase Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California certainly helped get the Stellina more attention in the market, but its steep price—in part due to its advanced construction—kept many buyers away. Prices started in 1964 at a steep 980,000 Lire (I haven't been able to do a useful currency conversion to make sense of that number, apart from sources saying the car was expensive! Please leave a comment if you're able to assist.)

So, too did the fibreglass bodywork. Italy is, after all, home of numerous carrozzeria who'd have liked nothing more than to produce their own hand-formed metal bodywork for the little Autobianchi—the idea of a car formed in a process similar to Jell-O didn't sit well with many enthusiasts.

When drivers finally did find themselves behind the wheel, they had the privilege of piloting the rear-mounted mechanicals from a Fiat 600 D: a 767-cc four-cylinder engine with 29 horsepower. Brakes were drum at all four corners. If you're power hungry, you'll be happy to note that Stellina models built later during the production run had upgraded 781-cc engines with 31.5 horsepower.

One advantage of fibreglass is that the body itself weighs only 30 kg (66 lbs), though its engines were too weedy to impress: the Stellina could hit just 115 km/h (71 mph) and, in later examples, 125 km/h (77 mph).

Slow sales meant that when the better-looking, faster, and less expensive Fiat 850 Spider hit the streets, the Stellina was quickly forgotten about. Few survive today.