Rare Rides: The 1975 Moretti 126 Minimaxi, More Than a Fiat
Today’s Rare Ride marks the second entry from small Italian car manufacturer Moretti. The first Moretti featured here was a 750 two-door sedan from the early Fifties, which was an original design to the brand.
In contrast, today’s 126 Minimaxi was made long after Moretti stopped creating its own cars.
Moretti was founded in 1925 in Turin by Giovanni Moretti, and built a variety of different vehicles. Microcars for economical consumers, motorcycles, and commercial vehicles were all on offer.
Though initially able to stand on its own, by the end of the Fifties Moretti had money problems. Relatively low-volume production of multiple product types was expensive, and the brand shifted focus. The initial directional revision saw a switch to Fiat platforms and mechanicals, with Moretti-designed bodies attached. But the new generation of Fiat-derived 750 vehicles didn’t sell well, because customers saw no reason to pay one and a half times the cost of a Fiat for a slightly fancier Fiat.
After the new style 750 cars were unsuccessful, Moretti changed focus to become a specialty-type automaker. The brand would sell small numbers of unique designs, still based on Fiats. Through the Sixties and into the Seventies, Moretti made some sporty Fiat-based coupes with similar (but not identical) bodywork.
In the Seventies, Moretti shifted focus again and decided to build small vehicles for light off-roading and beach use. The first of these new cars was the 500 Minimaxi in 1970, a design that was modified to work with the 126 when it debuted shortly after as the 500’s replacement. Worth noting, the 126 was in fact a development of the old 500’s underpinnings. The 126 Minimaxi took over for the 500 Minimaxi in 1974.
Minimaxi used the chassis, engine, and many parts from the standard rear-engined 126. Early 126 versions used a 594-cc inline-two engine, which made about 23 horsepower. That engine was used until the 1977 model year when the engine was upgraded to 652-cc. That engine provided the same number of horses, but slightly more torque.
Moretti applied its own stripped utility body to the 126 platform made of as few panels as possible and styled with a ruler. It had a canvas roof which was removable with a fair amount of tent-like disassembly (a metal roof was optional). Moretti kept the 126’s standard spartan interior, with the exception of fancy luxuries like the door panels.
But unique beach vehicles and small off-roaders were not enough to save Moretti’s market share from constant decline. In 1974, the company produced just over 1,000 cars, down from 2,600 in 1967. The company hobbled along with special Fiat conversions through late 1989 before its closure.
Today’s Rare Ride is from 1975 and is in excellent condition thanks to a full restoration. It’s available in The Netherlands presently for $21,190.
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My wife is from Turin and was a design/advertising student. Her father knew Giugiaro and took her to meet him. She then decided to do her final project on an auto (yeah, not so original in Turin). She went to Fiat and the sales manager wanted her to figure out how to sell the most stripped down 1990s Panda possible. She said they were throwing her ideas like, "we'd really like to sell it without seats", etc. Anyway, those old 4x4 Pandas are now hot commodities because they are so light they can basically go anywhere in the snow/mud. Very popular with hunters, etc. So, I can actually imagine this thing selling to a certain crowd.
Estimated curb weight of 1,200 pounds. (Mach-E can run 4X this figure.) https://www.automobile-catalog.com/car/1975/2041505/moretti_126_minimaxi.html https://www.motor1.com/news/398837/mustang-mach-e-weight/