Is there anything happier than a tiny Italian car on the boil?
Sometimes all it takes is one look to know precisely where a vintage car heralds from. In the case of the 1960 Autobianchi featured on the latest episode Jay Leno’s Garage, it’s an example of a car that’s unmistakably Italian. A quick walkaround and road test demonstrate that what the microcar lacks in size and power, it more than makes up in smiles per gallon.
Autobianchi was founded in 1955 as a joint venture between Pirelli, Fiat, and Bianchi. The goal was to produce small and stylish family cars for postwar Italy. It was also a testbed for the parent companies to develop new technologies and manufacturing techniques to be used in their main product lines.
This particular Autobianchi, a Bianchina Transformabile owned by NBC executive producer Peter Lenkov, is what Leno claims could be the most un-intimidating car in the world. Its bright red and white exterior, smiling face, and pocket-sized footprint make a fairly convincing argument in favor of his opinion. The micro drop top is powered by a 499-cc air-cooled twin producing a scant 18 horsepower. A four-speed manual transmission helps propel the car to a claimed 65-mph top speed, but as Leno and Lenkov soon learn, real-world experience indicates that might be optimistic.
Squeezing into the miniscule automobile appears to be an event in and of itself, but the ultra-cool suicide doors guarantee you’ll look good doing it—well, at least the car will look good. The pair pulls out of the garage and Leno immediately puts all 18 Italian steeds to use. Unfortunately, they quickly find that the weight of two full-size men and a slight uphill grade make for an unhappy clutch, as Leno notices it begin to slip early on in the test drive.
Despite the setback, Lenkov and Leno have a blast in the car, navigating through the sea of gigantic SUVs and doing their best to avoid L.A.’s Bianchina-sized potholes. If there’s one thing this tiny car is good at, it’s putting big smiles on everyone in its pint-sized radius.
Do you have a favorite grin-inducing microcar? Let us know about it in the Hagerty Forums below.