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Miniature Toy Cars in Rome

20 Nov

Something that always amuses me here is the sheer assortment of what I like to refer to as “toy cars.”

Coming from the States, land of the mighty SUV, I was charmed to see my first Smart back in 2001. As far as I know, at the time it was banned in the US for safety reasons (as an SUV on the freeway could easily blow it away) but apparently there is a model now slated for release there as well.

In any case, IMHO, the classic toy cars are the best. The old Fiat Cinquecento is like the car you see in the circus where clown after clown piles out. I had no idea Fiat had reissued it in its original form, after being out of production for 32 years—where have I been? I want one! There are cars like the Aixam, its claim to fame being: “The market leader for vehicles that can be driven with no driving license.” Which is true here in Rome, where they are pretty much driven only by rich 16 year-olds (the minimum age for a driver’s license here is 18).

But the car you see at the beginning of this post was a find that really struck me because it was a manufacturer I’d never seen before, and the 50’s-era Bakelite color was equally striking.

Thanks to Wikipedia, official knower of all things, I learned that Autobianchi was created jointly by Bianchi, Pirelli and Fiat in 1955. I know about Pirelli and Fiat, but poor Bianchi seems to have been lost to history. From what I can gather, this brand eventually morphed into Lancia. Apparently only a handful of Autobianchi models were ever produced. This one currently lives in Trastevere. I wish I had a toy car collection—I’d add this one to it.

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12 Responses to “Miniature Toy Cars in Rome”

  1. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy November 20, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    The cinquecento is still my dream car – I hope some day to have one just to put around. 🙂

  2. Robert November 20, 2007 at 12:14 pm #

    My all time favourite of these dinky cars is the three-wheeled Ape. Mind you, that could just be because I watched way too much of Mr Bean when I was younger…

  3. Cinzia November 20, 2007 at 1:30 pm #

    My aunt had the Autobianchi, it was pink. If you ask your inlaws they’ll remember it as the “Bianchina” that’s how people called it. All my friends from US take a lot of pics of Smarts and other small cars.
    Can you answer this: Why do all the SUV and Jeep or similar owners need them for in Rome?. It is a status symbol, are they sadics who like to make other drivers go crazy or do they all live in the countryside? Boh???

  4. Anna L'americana November 20, 2007 at 2:14 pm #

    OH MY GOD! The Bianchina was our family car! We LOVED IT! Consumes no gas, turns on a dime, parks practially in your pocket. It is so small that the driver could touch the rear window from the front seat! Ours was white though – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in this color! I am going to have to show my mother this post, she will get such a kick out of that photo! I’ve owned a few Fiat 500’s – they are everything you would think and they run on practically NO gas or oil (I had one that was atually MISSING the oil pan and it ran fine for years!) Sort of like the Flinstones’ car….

  5. jessica in rome November 20, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    Too cute! Besides a Vespa I want a Cinquecento! I may be too tall though 😦

  6. nyc/caribbean ragazza November 20, 2007 at 6:03 pm #

    I saw a couple of Smart Cars in Beverly Hills. I think it was a promotion. People were confused. While hybrid sales are rising so are the sales for Hummers and other very, very large cars. I’m curious to see how the Smart car does in the U.S. market.

  7. L Michelle November 20, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    I owned a navy blue Autobianchi in the early 80s while living in Rome and absolutely LOVED that little car. I remember being able to parallel park it in the tiniest spaces. For as small as it was, it really was quite roomy inside. I had nicknamed mine Bella. It was just the perfect car for Rome.

  8. Kelli November 20, 2007 at 7:37 pm #

    Your bakelite comparison is spot on. I love these cars too! I parked next to a smart car the other day in Paradise Valley and my “tiny” Civic was about twice the size. I was so impressed!
    I loved the smart car I drove around Ireland, although I knew we’d certainly die if I hit one of the cows that were always getting on the roads. They are tiny, but so darn efficient.

  9. Nihal November 20, 2007 at 8:31 pm #

    I popped up here upon drifting in Isadora’s blog. Next month I will be looking up for those toy cars in Rome, as they are pretty nice and felt in love! In Istanbul we urgently need those kind of cars but Istanbulian people are tend to drive big, enormous, expensive cars and SUV’s. I know no market for them here, how pity!

  10. finnyknits November 20, 2007 at 8:53 pm #

    That car is adorable. I mean, simply, I want to put it in my pocket and call it a day. Bubba would love this car.

    And I am constantly amazed at how teeny the cars are in Rome. My Prius seems absolutely gigantic over there wedged in between SmartCars and Opals.

    Meanwhile, that lime green Smart is my fave still.

  11. John Rauchert November 20, 2007 at 10:06 pm #

    Here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Home office of many an Oil Company), I see quite a few Smart Cars buzzing around so there may be hope yet.

    I personally am holding out for a practical electric.

  12. luigi November 20, 2007 at 11:15 pm #

    This post really screams for somebody to post this link

    http://haha.nu/gadgets/tiny-car-review/

    I spent half an evening laughing when i watched it. Talk about a *really* small car!

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