Moretti Sporting

It's often with a tinge of sadness that I watch the prices escalate on the vehicles I love. Will I ever own an early Porsche 911 or Lancia Delta Integrale? Or, for that matter, say, a Voisin or Figoni et Falaschi-bodied Delahaye? Probably not…

So here's Plan B: coachbuilt specials from Europe. I'm not talking about Pininfarina-bodied this or Bertone-bodied that, but icons from the gutter: Monteverdi Safari. Sunbeam Venezia. Lloyd Alexander TS 600 Coupé by Frua. Renault Le Car Van by Heuliez

And probably a Moretti Sporting. 

These vehicles, for the budget-minded collector, can often found (when they're found, mind you) for less than the price of a mid-range Volkswagen Golf. Collecting vehicles isn't exactly the most rational way to spend time or money, but if you've got some stacks to spend, why not get something that's rare? It's not like any such vehicle will run all that well or reliably anyway!

Moretti is older than Ferrari, founded in 1925 to build motorcycles and, later, their own car designs. The attraction to their models was almost always because of design; to my eye even their small city cars look like they were clothed by one of my favourite car companies, Cisitalia.

With generally gorgeous curves and simple underpinnings, I can fully understand the attraction to the marque's early models. After the Second World War, the company stopped making their own designs and began to use FIAT underpinnings to design a series of essentially mainstream coachbuilt cars.

Often daring and futuristic bodywork was applied to the Fiat 127, 128, 123, and 132 models—some successful, others not. Their market share began to decline precipitously: they made 3,292 vehicles in 1973 but just 1,071 in 1974. It was time for a change.

Though other makes had dabbled in car-based off-roaders, Moretti attacked the genre with gusto, changing nearly all of their existing sporting coupes into chunky-ish off-ish road-ish machines. The Midimaxi, for instance: just a Fiat 127 underneath—but something about it really got Bring A Trailer commenters excited recently. (It may look like 1/2 of a real car, but it proves my point about forgotten classics: the mint-looking machine was just 8,550 euros.)

By the late 1970s, Moretti's strategy had worked, keeping the company afloat for a few more years. It was time for a new model.

Launched in 1979, the Sporting has obvious similarities with the two-door Mercedes-Benz G Class, 3-door Land Rover Range Rover, and other "luxury" off-roaders. Based not on a compact car but on the Italian military's Fiat Campagnola—today a collectible in its own right—the Sporting took the seriously capable 4x4 underpinnings of the donor truck and topped it with a modern body and luxurious interior.

The Sporting was in the hunt to snare wealthy Italian outdoorsmen.

With the Campagnola's largest 2.5-litre 4-cylinder diesel fitted, the truck made 72 horsepower and 108 lbs-ft of torque. Besides four wheel drive, the Sporting retained the Campagnola's novel MacPherson strut suspension: two struts for the rear wheels and a single for each of the front wheels—six in total. These pieces were identical and could be used interchangeably, useful in a war zone or, I suppose, while out pheasant hunting.

I'm not certain if the Sporting could also wade through water 70 cm (2.3 feet) deep, but it's likely Moretti's modifications wouldn't have upset the original machine too much.

Made for just two years, the Sporting was rare in its day and has to be close to extinction today—if you like it and have the means, I can think of no better way to completely confuse fellow enthusiasts at your next local car show.