Urbanina Primavera

With little to go online, I'll try to explain the Urbanina concept as best I can.

Similar to the Hobbycar B-612-A, the Urbanina was designed with its mechanical components built into a slim sandwich chassis that sat underneath the bodywork—absolutely the way to design a car if the top part is swappable between a number of different body styles.

First shown at the Turin Motor Show in 1965, the Urbanina project is sort of like a classic version of Gordon Murray's moon shot T25 and T26 urban car project. With both gasoline and electric options, the Urbanina was either very much ahead of its time or an ambitious shot in the dark that happens to make sense now in 2015.

The skateboard-like chassis is the major component for the project, with an Innocenti-sourced (likely from the Lambretta scooter) 198-cc two-stroke engine. An electric version featuring a Bosch motor was also available. Specs on the electric version show the vehicle offered 4.6 horsepower, a 90 km (55 mile) range, and top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), while the gasoline version had 7 horsepower and a top speed of more than 60 km/h (37 mph). One source says it'd hit 60 mph, which I think is a bit optimistic even with its three forward speeds…

…especially considering that the bodywork was designed to swivel like a teacup ride (or Nissan Pivo), to allow occupants to exit using any side of the Urbanina—important as there's only one door. I'm not sure how the steering linkage allowed for this, but some grainy photos do depict the body rotated. Interestingly, it's the only car I know of with just one pedal: push down and it goes, lift off and it brakes!

Depending on weather, owners could easily swap the bodywork, with the model name following whatever body was placed on the chassis; names like:

  • Invernale  
  • Minigip  
  • Primavera (the wicker-bodied one, supposedly)
  • Quatro Stagioni

Bankrolled by the wealthy Marquis Piero Girolamo Bargagli and built in a shed on his property by amateur inventor Narciso Cristiani, the world hadn't seen anything like the Urbanina…and despite claims of thousands of orders, just a few were made over a half-dozen years before the project was abandoned. Some still exist even today (the second Flickr link below has photos of two survivors!)

At a reported 600,000 lire for the basic version, it was a tough sell. At the same time, the Fiat 500 F cost 475,000 lire and the 600 D 640,000 lire. I'll give Marquis Piero Girolamo Bargagli the final line:

Just as the Romans had a small chariot for use in the city and a much bigger and heavier chariot for long trips, so will man of the future have a small car for the city and a bigger vehicle for the distances
— Marquis Piero Girolamo Bargagli, Palm Springs Desert Sun, February 1967

Sources