Marques : Innocenti

In 1960, BMC entered into a collaboration with Italian component and scooter manufacturer Innocenti, which saw the latter company produce BMC/BL-based models in Italy for the next 15 years.

This page presents a brief rundown of these models, plus a potted history of Innocenti.

A potted history of Innocenti

Viewed from the air, the Innocenti plant in Milan was an impressive facility. Following the launch of the 90/120, the plant had a capacity of 75,000 cars per year

Innocenti was founded in 1931 by Ferdinando Innocenti, as a manufacturer of steel tubing. The company soon became very successful, due largely to its patented scaffolding system. Following the Second World War, in which much of its production facilities were destroyed, Innocenti used generous Government grants to venture into scooter production at his rebuilt plant in the Lambratte area of Milan.

He introduced the Lambretta in 1946, thus bringing mobility to the post-war Italian masses. He later branched out into the manufacture of automotive parts and car-body presses for such companies as Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Ford, Lancia and VW.

Joining forces with BMC

A collaborative deal with BMC, which was keen to get a foothold in the restrictive Italian market, saw Innocenti venture into car production, beginning in 1960 with the Innocenti-Austin A40 Farina in Berlina (saloon) and Combinata (estate) versions. The Combinata was originally similar to the UK’s Countryman model, but later acquired a single-piece hatchback and other minor modifications.

Next came the Ghia-styled 950 Spider sports car, based on the Austin-Healey Sprite. Both these models used the Sprite’s 948cc engine. In 1963, all models were upgraded by the fitment of the 1098cc engine, becoming the A40S (produced until 1967) and 1100 Spider (until 1968).

A coupé version of the Spider was introduced in 1967 but discontinued in 1969. Production of the ADO16-based IM3 began in 1963 and other 1100 models followed: the IM3S and Austin I4, I4S and I5. Innocenti also built Minis (including Coopers) in Italy from 1965 onwards and, in 1975, the company brought out its own re-bodied versions called the Leyland Innocenti Mini 90 and 120, with a three-door hatchback body styled by Bertone.

Innocenti exports

These cars were exported to several countries in mainland Europe and also to Japan. Additionally, the so-called Mini 1001 was built at the Seneffe plant in Belgium.

Innocenti 950 Spider was based on the Austin-Healey Sprite MkII (Picture: Gaetano Zagra)

Following Innocenti’s death in 1966, his son Luigi became President of the company, but it lost direction and was heading for crisis when BL bought it for £3m in 1972. As BLMC’s Financial Controller at the time, Geoffrey Robinson travelled to the Milan plant to undertake an assessment. Impressed with what he saw, he set his heart on running Innocenti and managed to persuade Donald Stokes that he was the man for the job.

In fact, it was largely due to Stokes’ high (and some would say misplaced) regard for Robinson that funding was granted for the latter’s pet project: the Bertone-styled hatchback version of the Mini. However, before this car saw the light of day, Robinson had returned to England in 1973 to take up the post of CEO at Jaguar, where he would make his name.

Leyland withdrawal

The failure of the Regent (Allegro) led to further losses and thus to Leyland’s withdrawal from Italy in December 1975. Innocenti was purchased by Alejandro de Tomaso, but only the Minis (both the original style and the Bertone-styled version) continued in production. De Tomaso later struck a deal with Daihatsu which saw with the Bertone Mini gain the Charade’s three-cylinder, 993cc engine and transmission in 1982.

In 1990, De Tomaso sold Innocenti to Fiat and the Innocenti Mini’s days were numbered – production finally ceased with the closure of the factory in March 1993, but the Innocenti name lived on until 1996, on cars imported to Italy by Fiat (namely, the Yugo 45 and the Brazilian Uno-based Elba).

The Innocenti 186 GT, the prototype coupe penned by young Giugiaro when he was working for Bertone. Powered by a 1788cc, 158bhp Ferrari V6 engine, this concept didn’t make it into production (Picture: Gaetano Zagra)

The Innocenti models

Innocenti emblems in their various evolutionary stages. (Picture: Gaetano Zagra)
Innocenti A40/A40S Berlina and Combinata
BMC’s first true hatchback was never sold in the UK. Based on the split-tailgate A40 Farina Countryman, the A40 Combinata (pictured) was an innovation on the part of the Italian company. More…
Innocenti 950/1100 Spider
Based on the Austin-Healey Sprite MkII (which also spawned the MG Midget), this stylish roadster was designed by the Italian styling house, Ghia.
Innocenti IM3/IM3S, Austin I4/I5
The IM3 was Innocenti’s take on the Morris 1100, with some interesting modifications. It was later joined – and eventually replaced – by the more standard-looking Austin I4 and I5 (pictured). More…
Innocenti Mini
The best known of Innocenti’s models, produced in a variety of specifications including the original ‘Mini Minor’, the ‘Mini t’ (Traveller) and ‘Mini Cooper’, as pictured here. The Innocenti versions were often both better built and more luxuriously appointed than their UK counterparts and a few have found their way to these shores over the years.
Innocenti Regent
A thinly-disguised Austin Allegro, which singularly failed to win the hearts of the its intended customers – it lasted for just two years. More…
Innocenti Mini 90/120/De Tomaso
Surely Innocenti’s most significant model, it’s all the more sad that this car only really took off after British Leyland had sold the company to De Tomaso. More…

Innocenti production (1960-1973)

(Picture: Gaetano Zagra)
(Picture: Giovanni Marchisio)

This page was contributed by Declan Berridge, with thanks to Gaetano Zagra and Giovanni Marchisio.

Declan Berridge


  1. I can report that the great Innocenti factory is to live on, at least in part. I was there in Early November 2011 and INNSE (the heavy engineering division of Innocenti) has been renamed INNSE Milano SpA and has recommenced production at Lambrate. A new roof has been put on the original INNSE Building (the second one after the Autostrada which cut the original factory in half) and there is a promotional corporate video on You Tube testifying to this. However in sad news the 2 buildings furthest away from the city have just been demolished (the ones where the Minis and Maserati were produced).

  2. Another illfaited episode from the Flying plug hole, Strangely in the Strike torn 70s you would have thought BL would have taken a leaf out of Fords book and assembled everything from outside the UK, though not sure how much it would of cost in shipping back to Blighty? But Fiat made a fortune out of The UK back then.

    As for The tasteful Italian styling updates, why werent these applied to the UK models? Instead they spent £M on the Clubface and Allegro… A stretched Innocenti could have filled the gap between Mini and 1100 ? (perhaps on the Mini Estate wheelbase?).

    And the Ferrari engined 186 GT could have replaced the MGBs ??

  3. To me the Innocenti mini would have been a logical replacement for the Clubman, which at 5 years old was more than past its sell by date.

    I know Longbridge was flat out building Mini driven by growth in the small car market at the time, but the Mini was increasingly pushed into the bargain basement end as Fiat, Renault and later Ford took the premium end with better profits in the mid 70’s.

    However the former Mini line at Cowley was barely ticking over with the Maxi and 1800 / 2200 was going even slower so surely they could have been put on a single line then both replaced by the Princess to release capacity for the Innocenti Mini.

    Fitted with Hydragas, it would have offered almost everything the ADO88 offered and not that short of where the Metro ended up for little more than pennies and 6 years earlier.

  4. I think u will find it was like many of the large automotive giants in the 70’s if it’s not thought of here we wont use it. Ford invented the pinto when it had good alternatives in europe, while Rootes Simca hashed up what could have been good cars. BL did the same but even more in house. The Innocenti Mini could have been the small car they needed on a budget, the rover P6B concept could have become the etype replacement etc, but becuase of ignorance and prejudice none of this happened – or am I talking with hindsight…..

  5. Interestingly Innocenti was also considering building vans in the 1960s, one from the link below (in Italian) was apparently based on the A40 and sized between the Fiat 600 (600T van?) and the Fiat 238, the other was apparently a more modern-ish looking proposal in 1967-1968 which was powered by a 500cc water-cooled 2-cylinder engine.

  6. It’s worse than you think. The Innocenti also had 5 door prototypes, the managers have a lot to answer… WE knew that already, one more proof…

  7. Have read the Innocenti C Coupe was both slightly longer at the wheelbase from 80 inches to 85.8 inches as well as a shade wider from 55 inches to 57.5 inches, yet MG themselves thought such ideas were apparently not worthwhile for the Midget/Sprite.

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