Rare and highly collectable, AutoClassics currently has an Innocenti Mini De Tomaso for sale in the classifieds. But is it better than the British equivalent?
Ah, the 1970s; of all the post-war decades, this one suffers the unhealthiest repute. Fashion, xenophobia, hyperinflation and power shortages symbolise a nation that struggled with dire health. The 1950s may have been embodied by innovations in technology and class reform after wartime austerity, the 1960s then spicing things up a bit with the introduction of the miniskirt and ‘free love’, but the succeeding 'tasteless' decade is represented by the Austin Allegro and global industrial unrest.
Except, it wasn’t all bad. Certainly not when it came to stylish metal and timeless design. Flares and spacehoppers may have aged worse than Bernard Manning’s stand-up routine, but some of the vehicles from the ‘decade style forgot’ have stood the test of time. The insanely rare and utterly spectacular Innocenti Mini De Tomaso being just one of them.
Because it was the turbulent 1970s, Innocenti’s Mini De Tomaso project came about through turn of financial ownership – then owners BLMC (British Leyland Motor Company) went bankrupt and sold the Italian machinery works to car-manufacturer De Tomaso. Adding moulded plastic bumpers rather than keeping the fillgrane chrome units from the previous BLMC-licensed Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits, the De Tomaso also featured a bonnet scoop, integral foglights and flared wheelarches to accommodate larger alloy wheels for the finalised sporting look.
It was during the 1976 Turin Auto Show that the Innocenti Mini de Tomaso was first showcased to the public. Entering into production for early 1977, the ferocious aesthetics fuelled with BMC’s A-series inline 4 engine, the Issigonis alternative churned out 71bhp from 1275cc – the same powerplant employed by the sporty Mini GTs back in Great Britain. There was a power increase for 1978, with an extra 3bhp to keep rivals at bay – making for a grippy 90mph go-kart.
The Innocenti Mini was generally better equipped than the original British comrades, resulting in stronger sales and a sturdier reputation within European markets. The largest improvement was the addition of an opening tailgate, allowing easier access to the small holding area in the rear. The drag coefficient was also lower, resulting in 0.41 Cd over the 0.42 accepted by the British.
The Bertone styling may have appeared drastically right-angled when compared to contemporary Minis of the time, but when the ex-Leyland subsidiary made the Innocenti Mini briefly available in Britain prior to the launch of Austin’s Metro, the public lapped up the different image with glee.
Offered in limited numbers from Islington-based dealer London Garages Ltd, the sporty Mini De Tomaso retailed for £4040 back in 1977. To put that into perspective, a base model Allegro (then considered a sensible purchase) was nearly £1k cheaper while a range topping Triumph Dolomite 1500 was a mere £60 more.
As with any Mini, rust could kill a De Tomaso from thirty paces – but the fine example residing within the AutoClassics classifieds is free from tin worm infestation. Sold by Stelvio Automobilli, this 1977 Innocenti Mini De Tomaso also comes with its Ministero Dei Transporti certificates, original bill of sale, service booklet and that cheeky 1970s styling utilising proven Mini running gear.
As something different and largely unique, should you be tired of the Austin Mini hogging the limelight, this is the left wing choice for those seeking solid fun with huge investment potential.
See – it wasn’t all bad between the swinging sixties and the decade of excess. Have a look at the full advert with the AutoClassics classified.
Step back into the 1970s...