Fiat Formula 4 by Italdesign

As you can imagine, I'm pretty open with what sort of vehicles I like, and I wouldn't necessarily dump on something just because it looks a little different, and yet: Giorgetto Giugiaro and Italdesign don't usually get things very wrong, but when it happens…

The 1996 Fiat Formula 4 concept-slash-prototype has a number of items on my DO NOT WANT list, beginning with wire wheels. This must be a generational thing, but I don't think wire wheels are elegant…attractive… And here, on a modern car, they look even more abhorrent; but it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Formula 4's body may be modern, but all of the details—and I mean all of them—are "classic". Exposed fasteners for the trim, old-timey windshields, chrome mirrors, Nardi steering wheel…it looks like the Mille Miglia puked all over a Fiat Barchetta. Retro California black license plate? Puh-leaze.

Underneath, the Formula 4 is nothing more than a Fiat Bravo floorpan that was pumped-up with the addition of a 147 horsepower 5-cylinder engine; notice the absence of doors and horizontal shut-line between the wheels; this is because the "fit over" body could be changed.

Yes, this is another transforming car, this time a skateboard of sorts that could be given a roadster, "leisure-time", truck, van, or other body; all were made from plastic but only this style was shown at its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The image up top shows the car with the Formula 4 body on the right, and the "Formula Hammer" on the left.

That's right: the car was updated and shown a few months later at the Turin Motor Show as the Formula Hammer, with an open, almost tender-like body…

Didn't make it better. A shame, because the body technology to make it all happen is quite clever.