In 1951 Nuccio Bertone gave former student in aeronautical engineering and ex sapper, combat engineer, returned from Tobruck via internment in India, Franco Scaglione his big break by hiring him as an automotive stylist.
Franco’s first job was to design a headline grabbing body on an Abarth chassis #214-01 for Carlo Abarth to promote his business.
Chassis #214-01 is powered by a FIAT 1400 four cylinder engine, apparently inherited from the failed Cistilia organisation in lieu of severance pay, bored out to 1500 cc / 91.5 cui and fitted with an Abarth intake manifold that accommodates a pair of Weber carburetors to produce 75 hp.
The experimental Abarth 1500 Biposto was taken to the 1952 Turin Shown where it’s public debut was a sensation on the FIAT stand, the car also caught the eye of Packard’s Engineering Vice President Bill Graves and Chief Designer Edward Macauley who bought the Abarth which they saw as worthy of study in an effort to revitalise sales of their own flagging brand.
Later in 1952 Fortune magazine sent it’s associate editor Richard Austin Smith to visit Packard for a profile on it’s new President James C. Nance who had been head hunted from GE Hotpoint, Smith’s visit coincided with the Abarth’s arrival and display to senior Packard management under a photo in the November 1952 issue of Fortune Smith wrote the caption “Its value is now largely ornamental; under Nance, Packard styling will stick to lines that are ‘architecturally correct,’ forgo the lunar asparagus.”
To be fair the lunar asparagus was not that different in several aspects to the contemporary Starlight coupé built by Studebaker a company Packard would acquire in 1954, during his visit Smith suggested various strap lines for Packard products which were taken up by the company and the following July Packard President Nance, who had no further use for it, gave the Abarth to Smith as payment in kind.
Smith drove the car sparingly and retired to Groton, Connecticut where the car sat unused in a garage from 1977 until his death in 2003.
Thanks for joining me on this “Lunar Asparagus” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !