1969 Lombardi Grand Prix 1300 Coupe
|Engine||In-line 4-cylinder, 1300cc|
Founded by Carlo Francesco “Francis” Lombardi, a former World War One flying ace who previously established AVIA (Azionari Vecellese Industrie Aeronautiche) in 1938 to build light aircraft, the company changed direction to focus on the automotive industry after World War Two, specifically modifying Fiats. Based on the Italian manufacturer’s rear-engined 850 platform, the Lombardi Grand Prix debuted at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show featuring attractive Kamm-tail styling by Giuseppe Rinaldi. The first Grand Prix model utilised the 850’s in-line four-cylinder engine and four-speed gearbox but later versions were powered by the uprated 850 Sport’s unit developing 47 horsepower. The diminutive Lombardi has classic Italian lines of the period, with pop-up headlamps, a long bonnet and short rear deck – early versions used a standard engine panel but later cars came with a louvered cover. Maintaining the 850’s rear drive layout, the Grand Prix used a transverse leaf spring on the bottom with A-arms at the front and coil sprung semi-trailing arms at the rear. Weighing just over 700 kilograms, the Lombardi enjoyed a decent power to weight ratio and feels fast at any speed, thanks to the laid-back seating position and the cabin is surprisingly roomy. Popular with various Italian tuners, the Lombardi was modified by Turin-based OTAS (under whose name the car was marketed in North America), Giannini Automobili of Rome and - of course – Carlo Abarth, whose Scorpione derivative was powered by either a 903cc unit or, in SS guise, a modified 1300cc engine from the 124. Further changes to the Scorpione saw Girling disc brakes added on all four wheels, special coil-sprung front suspension, a front-mounted radiator and unique engine and nose panels. Only a handful of Lombardi’s Grand Prix made it to Australia and very few survive worldwide, rarely coming on the open market. These engaging ‘pocket rockets’ are guaranteed to turn heads at any car show, but are best enjoyed from behind the wheel.