Concepts and Prototypes : Innocenti IM3/I4/I5 facelift

Keith Adams

Innocenti J4 facelift proposal

It’s often been said that Innocenti had the unswerving knack of being able to take a BMC car and make it look just a little bit more appealing. The Austin A40 transformed by the Italians into the fully hatchbacked Combinata, and the already pretty 1100/1300 was tweaked to become the better-looking and more appealing Morris IM3 and Austin I4/I5 models. First signs that the Italian company was keen to beat the British at its own game in 1961, when it took the Austin-Healey Sprite and turned it into the 950 Spider. And okay, that car didn’t look as good as the Midget, but it spelled out that Italians preferred their cars to sport an Italian style…

As the A40 and 1100/1300 were both the work of Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina, there wasn’t much to do there – but that didn’t stop them trying to give the latter car a bit of a brush up – as the picture above clearly shows. Actually, we don’t know a great deal about this proposal. As it’s parked alongside an IM3, we can only assume it’s a proposed facelift, and the two have been placed side by side for comparison purposes. The date is unknown, but given the 950 Spiders in the background, it’s safe to assume it’s pre-1968, which is when that car went out of production.

We don’t know who styled it, either. A safe bet would be Pininfarina, due to doing the original car, but that’s not a forgone conclusion give Michelotti’s tweaking of the ADO16 to become the Apache/Victoria. The new front-end does look nicely integrated, and adds a little modernity to the ADO16, if not prettiness.

So, if you know more about this mysterious Innocenti, we’d love to hear from you – and fill in yet another small gap in the company’s fascinating history.

Keith Adams


  1. There’s almost a hint of the Jacques Coune MGB Berlinette model in the frontal styling, possibly thanks to the headlamp covers.

    In fact, put an MGB grille on that proto-type and lose the headlamp covers and you have a remarkable similarity to the MGB front, perhaps with a ridge in the bonnet to line up with the badge.

  2. If that photograph illustrates anything , it is that it is far more difficult to improve upon a classic shape than even talents such as PininFarina realised . Neither of those cars look as good as the original , ( indeed the one on the right can fairly be described as hideous ) and this problem seems to be borne out by so many facelifts : original BMW 5 series as against later attempts, ditto 7 series , current Mercedes C and E and S classes compared with the last versions , Jaguar XJ40 ( alright , not a facelift ) compared with S3 XJ6 , S3 E type compared with S1 and even S2 – the list is almost endless. The moral seems to me to be that if you are going to improve, you must start with a clean sheet of paper

  3. @3, Christopher Storey,


    The car on the right is far better looking than the rather bland original, which- let’s face it, succeeded like the Mini before it despite it’s ‘un-styling’ because there was nothing quite like it on the market.

    Issigonis may have been an engineering genius on certain levels, but styling was never his forte, and the failure of the Maxi and the 1800 was, to a greater extent’ a testament to that.

    • @Chris Baglin: The Mini was not such a success from the start, it became really successful only later in life. The 1100, very much helped by the generally lauded ‘prettiness’, became a huge sales success from day one, being on the top of the UK sale charts for nearly 10 years! Personally I maintain the view that the 1100 was such a success because it was the only Issigonis car clothed to sell – the Mini and Maxi were hardly styled at all and on the 1800 Issigonis influence was too strong to leave Battista Pinin Farina (who styled that one too) enough room to really succeed.
      Here in Germany the 1100 was never street furniture, but I received an awful lot of comments on how pretty this car is – most of them from people not interested in cars at all.

  4. You’re in a (very) small minority of you don’t think that the 1100 is a good-looking car. As said in various places around this site, it was styled by Pininfarina – Issigonis was the packaging man; the Italians were the stylists…

  5. The sloping back headlights are a nice touch. Shame about the upright grille though.

    If the prototypes were pre-1968, I would hazard a guess that Pininfarina would be at work rather than Michelotti since the latter collaborated with Triumph who weren’t in the same camp pre-Leyland merger.

    • Innocenti was independent of BMC at the time. Depending on their license contract for the ADO16 they could possibly choose any stylist they wanted. With the IM3 being pre face lift (to IM3S) it could be well before 68.

  6. I think the car on the right has far better resolved frontal styling. I don’t think that the original 1100 was an ugly car- but it did seem rather plain to me.

    I was born in 1969, so when I came of awareness of automobilia, the 1100 was ‘old hat’, and did not seem particularly pretty to me. That said, I happen to like certain upmarket variants of the 1100, such as the somewhat twee VanDenPlas 1100/1300- perhaps for the very reason that I found the whole concept of inverting the English class structure on its head to the point of embracing the 1100 4-cylinder A Class somewhat ludicrous.

    I would be in a small minority of people if I thought the 1100 was not a good looking car-I think it was somewhat bland- I never suggested that it was ugly.

    @Alexander Boucke- I suspect that the 1100 success was down to the Mini’s success as well as due to engineering refinements- rather than purely due to it’s own merit

  7. That car should have been a hatchback from day 1 as the shape of the car dictated. If BLMC had actually had the balls to make it one, and not a bland saloon, it would have started a trend. They made the same mistake with the All Aggro too

  8. That facelifted car certainly looks more modern, though the rear end looks unaltered. It’s hard to say whether it was an improvement though, the original ADO16 is a superb piece of styling, (sorry Chris) managing to look distinctive and fresh, without looking weird unlike so many BMC/BL volume cars…

  9. I think my opinions reflect the fact that by the time I’d become aware of cars, the 1100 had been in production for a very long time, and looked old fashioned compared to contemporary cars of that time, such as the Mk1 Escort, Hillman Avenger, Cortina Mk3, etc, etc. But at the time of launch (long before I was born) it would have looked very modern indeed.

    Also the basic Morris and Austin variants tended to look very plain with their bland grilles and old-fashioned chrome hubcabs (the badge engineered variants looked much better- excluding the tacky GT).

  10. As for the two cars in the image, the original is better than either of the facelifts, the lhs car is bland and utilitarian, the venetian blind effect of the grill and the over-heavy perpendicular headlight arrangement realy grates.

    The rear of the 1100 with the mini fins and the curves of the boot/rear window were atrractive to in my view.

    Overall the 1100 had a very light and airy appearance, the large windows to the cabin, it did not need a facelift, better for the Italians to put their pencils away and do some rust proofing on their wretched Fiats of the era

  11. The lights and grill make me think…. Aston DB5! Not that much obviously, but it was the first thing I thought of when I saw that picture.

  12. I do think we need to be careful when we criticise the old firm (or any other manufacturer) for not doing something – like fitting a hatchback to the 1100 – with the benefit of 40 years of hindsight.
    I think you right Ben – BMW must have seen sight of this picture and just adopted the front for the Mini Countryman. On reflection – more likely just design co-incidence.

  13. Well, in my opinion is a ore-1965 pics and the right proto I think is a Giugiaro’s work. In this time he was working for Bertone. Please take a look at Innocenti 186 GT. Serena the head lamps are the same, and so for the side light. Moreover, the grille has some of Gordon Keeble and much more of Iso Rivolta. Both signed by Bertone but styled by Giugiaro.

  14. This re-styling is (like the previous Innocenti alterations) an interesting & attractive alternative – but not an improvement – none necessary. And please remember – hatchbacks do not suit everyone – I for one have always appreciated ADO16 saloons as just that – saloons.

  15. You might like the revised front-end or not but – let’s be honest – they appear to be from different cars in the revised model. New front end looks more up-to-date but a deeper rear end restyling should have been arranged as well!

  16. My guess is that Tom Tjaarda at Pinifarina did it. It looks very much like the lovely Fiat 124 Spider

  17. I know Michelotti did work with Innocenti, as did Bertone. It must have been 1967 at the latest as there are A40s behind the Spiders, and that was the last year if their production.

    Other update ideas include these: – I think this may be Bertone, as has similar feel to the innocenti mini. – Michelotti did this. Front doesn’t look like it has been changed.

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