The Innocenti C is a rare and little-known Italian sports car with some British and American DNA thrown in for good measure. Just 794 were made in total and today the surviving examples enjoy a cult-like following.
The handsome design of the Innocenti C was penned by American automotive designer Tom Tjaarda, and the car used the underpinnings of the Austin-Healey Sprite. Tjaarda would later design a number of significant cars including the Ferrari 365 California, De Tomaso Pantera, Fiat 124 Sport Spider, and dozens of others.
Fast Facts – The Innocenti C
- Innocenti was an Italian scooter and automobile manufacturer that was originally founded in 1920 as an Italian machinery works. It remained in business until 1996, with the later years of the company characterized by it building large numbers of cars, typically British, under license.
- Innocenti would famously build the Innocenti Mini, their own version of the British classic compact car. They also built their own version of the Regent (Allegro), and they developed their own unique version of the Austin-Healey Sprite with an all new body – the Innocenti Spider which was followed by the Innocenti C.
- The Innocenti C was introduced in 1966 and sold until 1968. It was powered by the 1.1 liter BMC inline four producing 58 bhp and sending power back through a 4-speed manual gearbox to the live axle rear end. The body was slightly wider and longer than the Sprite, offering a lower seat height and more interior space.
- The car you see here is a 1968 Innocenti C finished in Giallo Positano over a Black interior. It’s now being offered for sale out of Vantaa, Finland with 47,420 kms showing on the odometer, or approximately 29,465 miles.
Innocenti: A History Speedrun
Innocenti was founded by Ferdinando Innocenti in 1920. The company was originally an Italian machinery works that would later become famous for producing Lambretta scooters, the Mini, and a small number of other British Leyland vehicles.
In the years immediately after WWII Innocenti produced over a dozen different Lambretta scooter models, these vehicles were critical for Italy after the war as they allowed working class people to buy affordable motorized transportation.
As the Italian, and wider European, economy recovered and buying power increased, there was more demand for small and inexpensive automobiles. As a result, Innocenti formed an alliance with the British Motor Corporation (known as BMC, then later as the British Leyland Motor Corporation).
This alliance saw Innocenti producing a slew of BMC cars in Italy under license including the famous Mini with the 848cc, 998cc, and 1,275cc engine options which would be sold as the Innocenti Mini. The company would also produce the Regent (Allegro), and their own version of the Austin-Healey MKII Sprite with styling by Ghia and the unique steel bodies made by OSI near Milan.
British Leyland would buy Innocenti outright in 1972, at the time Italian Innocenti sales were second only to those of Fiat and out in front of both of Volkswagen and Renault. The good times didn’t last long, the company was in trouble by the mid-1970s and it was sold to Alejandro de Tomaso, then sold to Fiat in 1990. It was finally shut down in 1996.
The Innocenti C
The Innocenti C first appeared for sale in September of 1966. It was the successor to the earlier Innocenti Spider, a convertible sports car build on the underpinnings of the Austin-Healey Sprite with an all new steel body designed by Tom Tjaarda of Carrozzeria Ghia.
The body of the Innocenti Spider and the later Innocenti C (C for coupe) were wider than the Austin-Healey Sprite, offering more interior room and a lower seat height on the coupe C model.
In many respects the Spider was a more refined car than the British original, the firewall had been moved forward for additional interior space and it even came with proper wind up windows – a feature missing from the original “Bug Eye” Sprite.
After its release in 1961 the sales of the Innocenti Spider, called the Innocenti 950 Spider after the engine displacement, were strong. So strong in fact that the company was producing as many as 13 cars per day in 1962. The Spider would follow the development of the Sprite, so when the Sprite got a larger and more powerful engine it would soon after appear in its Italian sibling.
By the mid-1960s sales had begun to slow and something new was needed. The Innocenti C was developed with a fixed hardtop and all new bodywork that was slightly wider and longer than the earlier Spider. Power was provided by the same 1,100cc inline-four sourced from the Sprite, and mated to the same 4-speed manual transmission.
The Innocenti C would remain in production for two years with 794 sold in total before it was discontinued in 1968.
The Innocenti C Shown Here
The car you see here is a left hand drive Innocenti C from 1968, the final year of production. It’s finished in Giallo Positano over a Black interior and the paintwork is said to have recently been resprayed.
As you would expect, the 1.1 liter BMC inline four is under the hood producing 58 bhp and sending power back through a 4-speed manual gearbox to the live axle rear end.
This Innocenti C has just 47,420 kms showing on the odometer, approximately 29,465 miles, and the listing notes that this car has covered roughly 2,000 kms since its most recent engine oil and filter change.
If you’d like to read more about this unusual Italian sports car or register to bid you can visit the listing here on Collecting Cars. It’s being offered for sale out of Vantaa, Finland.
Images courtesy of Collecting Cars
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