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The Fiat Moretti 850 Sportiva, produced from 1967-71.

The History of the Italian Automobile

Part 76 – The Moretti Motor Company

By David Cavaliere

Fans of Italian automobiles may be unfamiliar with the Moretti Motor Company. The Turin-based company produced a number of different types of vehicles ranging from motorcycles to electric trucks. Giovanni Moretti was only 21 when he founded the company in 1925. Moretti’s first car was built in 1928 and although he had already moved on to motorized three-wheeler delivery vans before Italy’s entry into the war, it wasn’t until 1947 that he built his first production model. When he began to build sports cars, Moretti made his own parts and built his own engines. This was in stark contrast to most of the other specialty car builders in Italy. Even Enzo Ferrari’s first automobile was based on a Fiat 508C Ballia (See Part 17 of this series Auto Avio Costruzioni May 1, 2016).

The 1950s would be fruitful years for the company as it expanded into small capacity four cylinder engines. Moretti prided himself in the design and building of his own engines. In 1951, a twin cam 750 cc was developed which was ideally suited to a racing chassis. This led to the development of the lightweight (1,090 lbs.) Gran Sport. Over his many years in the specialty automotive section, Moretti developed a long standing friendship with the head of Fiat – Gianni Agnelli. By the 1960s, when it was too expensive for Moretti to build his own chassis and engines, he shifted his focus to outfitting Fiats with special bodies. Still, each of his cars was a testament to the passion of creating beauty and the will to make it happen.

The period following WWII was ripe for engineers and mechanics to develop vehicles to get Italy on wheels. It was natural that small cars would be the ideal type to design. The first conventional car model released by Moretti Motors was the ‘Cita’. The micro cars was produced between 1947 and 1949 and were equipped with engines of 350 cc displacement, delivering 14 hp of power.

The concept was with a larger engine and chassis for the 600 series. Belonging to the subcompact class, the cars were intended to appeal to a broader buying segment. Introduced in 1949, the car was offered as 2-door sedan and convertible, equipped with a 592 cc engine of 20 hp.

The Model 1200 used a much larger 1204 cc engine of 61 hp to power this small family car. It used a 2-door sedan configuration and was produced in three series from 1954-1959. Moretti produced a four-door compact series called the Superpanoramica, available with engines ranging from 747 up to 1,089 cc, with power from 27-54 hp. These well-designed cars were somewhat expensive for the market segment, but the station wagon proved to be popular. It was produced from 1958-1961.

The 750 series featured the high revving DOHC engine and was offered as a sedan, convertible and Barchetta version. Moretti’s cars began to establish a solid reputation with racing drivers of the era and his cars were well represented in sports cars racing including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In part 75 of this series (September 28, 2017 – The Designs of Michelotti), we featured Michelotti’s Moretti 1200 Spider. Presented to the public at the 1955 Brussels Auto Show, it was perhaps the most beautiful example that emerged from the Moretti Motor Company. Only two of the 1200 S Barchettas were built, one left hand drive and one right. The car has sensuously curved, cut down doors, side exhaust and Moretti’s 1200cc twin cam high compression engine with dual side-draft Weber carburetors. The cars were also equipped with a Moretti De Dion style rear axle and close ratio gear box.

As his engine capacity increased, Moretti developed the Golden Arrow sports car. The car was offered with notchback coupe body between 1959 and 1961, although only a few were produced. Cars were equipped with a range of engines of 1470 – 2114 cc displacement, delivering 89 – 133 hp.

By the early 1960s, due to the increasingly higher production costs of these limited-production vehicles, Moretti had to suspend the production of complete cars to become a bodybuilder. Most of the vehicles built would originate from Fiat chassis and mechanical parts. Fiat’s entry to the grand touring car arena in the 1960s was the 2300S, a Ghia-bodied coupe powered by an inline 6-cylinder dual carburetor engine. Moretti built its own version which debuted in 1962. This sleek GT has a sharpness of line and detail typical of the best of early ‘60s Italian design, combined with an enhanced Fiat powertrain. He developed the engine to a 2454cc capacity and the resulting 2500 SS Coupé delivering 170 hp. The dashboard was shared with the Fiat 2300S and the richly finished interior, with deep bucket seats, electric windows and Borrani wire wheels clearly expressed the concept of luxury with speed. Only 20 of these cars were built.

In 1966, Moretti produced a unique Maserati 3500 GT for the Geneva Show Car. It was a 1962 chassis that had been involved in an accident. Moretti acquired and rebodied the car. It used the Maserati DOHC inline 6 of 3,485 cc and produced 220 hp. The Maserati 3500 GT provided the basis for many coachbuilders, both small and large, to demonstrate their skills and inspiration. Maserati’s twin main tube chassis, which contained all the 3500 GT’s functional mechanical systems, was ideal for coachbuilders. It was actually a simple and well-built chassis, with a powerful engine and excellent handling for its era. The subsequent history of Moretti’s 1966 Geneva show car was unknown until it was found in Germany in 2000. This unique, mysterious and very attractive Maserati 3500 GT has not been restored.

The Moretti Model 850 belonged to the subcompact segment. The car was offered as a 4-door sedan from 1964-1966 and was based on the Fiat 850 with 42 hp engines of 843 cc. The same platform was used to build the Fiat 850 Moretti Sport. This small coupé was produced between 1967 and 1971 and could be customized with numerous trim levels to fit the requirements of the owner. The proportions of the car are so perfect that in pictures, there is no way to tell that the car is very small, it is just 41 inches high at the roof. For comparison, that’s one inch lower than a Lamborghini Countach. The overall effect is a car that is beautiful, delicate and streamlined. Yet, drivers over 6’ tall fit easily into the car, although size 13 feet may have some trouble in the foot well. It was a masterpiece of design. Only a few hundred Sportivas were produced and very few ever made their way to the U.S. The standard engine was enlarged to 982 cc, producing a significant increase in power.

In 1967, Moretti produced only 2,600 cars. By 1974, production was down to only 1,071. Other sporty models followed with the Moretti 125 and 127 Coupé models. The former was produced from 1969 through 1972 in two series, while the latter was built from 1972-76. As production continued to fall, Moretti turned to producing personalized conversions of various Fiats such as the Uno, Panda and Regata. Finally, after years of decline, in 1989, the Moretti Motor Company officially ceased operations.

The next feature will cover the legendary Moto Guzzi motorcycles. Please send your comments to [email protected]