By 10 November 2013 24 Comments Read More →

Carrozzeria designs : Pininfarina 1800

Ahead of its time

Pininfarina 1800 Berlina Aerodinamica stunned the world when it first appeared in 1967 at the Turin Motor Show. (Picture: Ian Nicholls)

Pininfarina 1800 Berlina Aerodinamica stunned the world when it first appeared in 1967 at the Turin Motor Show. (Picture: Ian Nicholls)

This brilliant Pininfarina styling exercise was never considered for production. The running gear was pure BMC 1800, but the style was utterly unique for 1967.

This BMC-Pininfarina 1800 predates the Citro├źn CX by seven years – one wonders how BMC may have fared had they the courage to put this beauty into production – it would have certainly appealed in Europe and undoubtedly would have created a high-technology reputation for the (by then) struggling manufacturer.

There’s no doubt that had BMC had the foresight to produce this car, then things might have been somewhat different in the lead-up to the Leyland takeover of the following year. Styled by Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina, the Berlina Aerodinamica was as svelte and slippery as the standard Austin/Morris 1800 was frumpy and unappealing to contemporary motorists.

Unveiled at the 1967 Turin Motor Show, seven years before the introduction of the very similar-looking Citroen CX, and nine before the Rover SD1, the styling of this concept car was hugely influential.

There was never very much wrong with the production 1800 to drive thanks to keen dynamics and reasonable performance (especially in the later 2200cc guise) but it was brought down by its stark interior and rather challenging styling. Plenty of subsequent speculation from commentators has concluded that with this styling, the 1800 could have gone on to be a huge international hit – although we’re not so sure that buyers would have been ready to take the leap in the late 1960s – and the 1800 may well have benefited more from a less extreme restyle of its interior and exterior and the option of a column gearshift (something very popular in Europe at the time).

It was rather a similar story with the later 1100 version, which was a far more appealing proposition than the Allegro…

Although this car was never produced as an 1800 replacement, it may have been a source of inspiration for the design of the Rover SD1, as this comparative analysis demonstrates.

Not its best angle, but the styling of this car pre-dated the move towards fastback executive saloons by nearly a decade...

Not its best angle, but the styling of this car pre-dated the move towards fastback executive saloons by nearly a decade…

A hatchback rear end placed it at an advantage over the Citroen CX and Lancia Gamma

A hatchback rear end placed it at an advantage over the Citroen CX and Lancia Gamma

This kind of profile would become very familar in subsequent years...

This kind of profile would become very familar in subsequent years…

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

24 Comments on "Carrozzeria designs : Pininfarina 1800"

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  1. Chris Sawyer says:

    It would have been a bit polarizing for the time. However, with some minor tweaks, like a less bullet-shaped nose, it could have succeeded. Plus, it would not have been impossible to pull a neat coupe or even a sedan from this.

  2. Tim Wellington says:

    I think it would have been trend-setting… as the commentary correctly states the Pininfarina design pre-empted the competition by 7 years or so.
    Another winner overlooked by BMC.

  3. Chris Baglin says:

    BMC (and its successors) never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The 1800 was not a big seller, and it would well have been worth the risk of putting this version into production instead of the poorly styled Landcrab.

    But they were blind to the possibilities, and seemed to be more concerned with saving money for instance by pointless door sharing. This model could also have been built instead of the Maxi- and not producing that car could have saved a small fortune which could have more than covered the extra costs of productionising this beauty. That said, it would have been a shame not to have had the CX- I doubt Citroen would have developed that model in the way they did had this gone into production- the CX would have looked far too ‘me too’ for that most idiosyncratic of manufacturers.

    Needed nicer wheeltrims though…

  4. daveh says:

    This was another failed opportunity from BMC, but would of it sold or would have they had a similar experience as Ford had with the Sierra? BMC should have launched a facelifted version based on the Aussie X6’s if they could not stomach this, but they missed out on this as well. If they had they could have had a car to compete with the Cortina.

  5. Chris Baglin says:

    @4 daveh,

    The launch of the Ford Sierra was problematic because the Cortina had been such a conservative car. It didn’t take Ford very long to re-capture sales for what was, in essense, a re-bodies Tina. Wheras BMC/BL in the 60s 70s was associated with more advanced designs (as well as some dinosaurs)- this could have served instead of the Princess and the Maxi. Not sure if it would have sold that much better- I suspect what scared buyers off those two cars was not advanced design but poor build and sometimes poor availability from strike-prone BL.

  6. francis brett francis brett says:

    very similar to the opron design teams CX which pininfarina accused of copying.

  7. francis brett francis brett says:

    BMC’s biggest problem was it was run by stick in the muds,the car above yet again shows what could have been and what eventually did happen-ECV,RDX etc. Stunning car stunning failure. Sad.

  8. Graham says:

    Would been good to launch with the E6, done properly a 2 litre and 2.25 with a 5 speed gearbox, would have hit the market nicely at a time the Triumph 2000 and Rover P6 were starting to look tired. Doubt it would have been a great seller, but would have been a good halo model to lead into using this style for the Maxi chassis.

  9. francis brett francis brett says:

    Hard to believe the 1800 is beneath this car.

  10. Phil Simpson says:

    A two litre E5 could have been made using the smaller E4’s stroke.

  11. Ade says:

    The proposals are passed around the boardroom. There is much spluttering from the assembled worthies at images of the svelte yellow car:

    “Ridiculous! Not in a million years will our man buy this! Far too continental.”

    “It’s just the sort of thing his wife’s lover might drive.”

    “What our man wants is solidity. And Maxi doors. A steaming great dollop on his driveway to show the neighbours he’s bought British.”

    “Proud to be British! Like a labrador doing a poo. We can give it a happy front so it looks like it’s trying its best.”

    “So, gentlemen, we are agreed. Our new car will NOT feature a hatchback, it will not cut through the air like an arrow or look anything at all like… this.”

    There is relieved chortling in the room as the chairman screws up his copy of Pininfarina’s mad proposal and aims it at the bin. He misses.

    “But we’ll maybe get Alec to have a tinker with the headlights.”

  12. Graham says:

    @12 I think it was more like this.

    Its impressive isn’t it. (everybody nods)

    How does it compare with the new Austin 1500?

    Don’t know, Alex won’t even use the drawing office, doing it all off site as they don’t understand car design apparently.

    Good if it looked like this, if we actually test it before putting it on sale this time, we could blow the Americans out the water. (everybody nods).

    So who is going to tell Alex? (Everybody looks at the table)

    So that’s it then, anybody know Donald Stokes phone number?

  13. SimonW says:

    This model would have sold better than the 1800, and especially in Europe but remember that in the 1960’s most family cars were fleet purchases and they would not touch this preferring the Cortina, Hunter and Victor. Most private buyers could only stretch to an Austin 1100, Mini or Escort/ Viva. However would have been a fantastic halo car for BMC and would have lasted until 1980

  14. Jim mackay says:

    Sadly the B series transverse did not actually fit under the bonnet, so I it was a non starter……

  15. Graham says:

    @15 What engine did it have as it was a running car, caused a stir in Whitley when one of the Leyland directors was using it to commute between Canley and Longbridge and they thought they were bringing it to production.

  16. Colin Burgess says:

    What I would like to know is, how come Matchbox made a very accurate, perfectly proportioned, example of this car in 1969. It was badged as “BMC 1800 Pininfarina” No. 56. It was also heavily featured on some of their Boxed Sets of Road Ways etc?
    (still have mine by the way!)

  17. Don says:

    I thought I read somewhere that the engine was one bank of the Turner Daimler 2.5 V8.

    • Nate says:

      The engine was apparently developed by Leonardo Fioravanti, who was said to have much admired the 2.5-litre Daimler V8 for its compactness and power.

      Makes one wonder whether Edward Turner ever intended for the Daimler V8 to spawn 4-cylinder variants, either for a smaller Daimler or a Lanchester after the Sprite project was abandoned similar to how the Lanchester Sprite was to be powered by a 4-cylinder version of the Daimler Conquest engine (mated to the underdeveloped and unreliable Hobbs Mechamatic gearbox).

  18. mike hurricane hicken says:

    I’m worried about the cracks and the draws. Just what kind of of crack or draw were the management on when they turned down this for the Maxi.

    If you want to sell me a Maxi give me this. This is gorgeous. This would sell by the bucket load for the next ten years. The only problem would be making enough. Again.

    Then all they’d need was to sort out a sensible corporate engine policy, so not to duplicate all the research and tooling across similar engines.

    God it pains me to look back at what a cock up things were made of simple things….

  19. Nate says:

    Agree with others that the Pininfarina 1100 / 1800 (plus Mini-based) concepts would need to be tweaked in order to be production ready, including elements of the Maxi-based Aquila at the front-nose as well as from the C-pillar to the rear end to improve rear boot accessibility.

  20. drae says:

    Just notice a big similarlity in the profile with the SD1, just saying like.

  21. John Darby says:

    It’s incorrect to say it predated other manufacturers by seven years, as Citroen built the GS in 1970 which is when the family of cars based on this style started. I believe at a motor show in Monaco Pininfarina took a BMC GS and parked it along the Citroens, with Citroen crying out that all their designs where in house and they had never seen his car. I wouldn’t compare this car with the CX it is the GS.

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