This month we’re back in Blighty again — and here’s an odd one for you. We believe this to be around 1957 vintage, mainstream but very low production. Who can pick what this is? Send your solution, by email or snail mail, to Mystery Cars No. 229, NZ Classic Car, PO Box 46 020, Herne Bay, Auckland by mid-february. The winner will be the first correct entry opened from the entries box.
Last month’s Mystery No. 228 was the rare Moretti 750 Gran Sport Berlinetta, from 1954. A very sweet-looking little car, with a two-seater coupé body from Michelotti, this particular example was imported to the USA by Ernie Mcafee in 1954, and actually tested in the August 1954 issue of Road& Track magazine by the editor, John Bond.
Moretti was a small-time Italian car builder, starting out in 1925 producing motorcycle engines and electric motors, then small vans and pickups, and beginning car production after WWII and remaining active until 1989. Founder Giovanni Moretti did seem to have quite a talent for engine construction, as this little car featured a 748cc twin-cam motor developing a claimed 52.9kw or 71bhp, not far short of 75kw per litre, which was at the time pretty much the benchmark for a potent engine. Zagato also produced bodies on the Moretti chassis, but even that famed styling house would have been hard put to match this relatively early effort from Michelotti, in 1954 a 33-year old freelance stylist still earning a reputation in the competitive Italian styling world. He managed with this Moretti the none-too-easy task of achieving near-perfect coupé proportions on a very short 1.98m wheelbase, plus comfortable seating for two and a bit of room for luggage. Convertible, saloon and estate bodies were also available, and tamer versions of the 750 used a single-cam version of the motor. We’ve not been able to trace reliable performance or production figures, but if the quoted power output is accurate, this little coupé should have been a 160kph or 100mph car, and from the known chassis number of the pictured vehicle (No. 1290) one might perhaps surmise that Moretti had by this time sold a thousand-plus cars, though I suspect the figure covers all models rather than just the 750. In the late ’50s Moretti switched to Fiat motors to cut production costs, then soon after moved out of own-design car production to concentrate on Fiat-origin special body designs and conversions, sold through the Fiat dealer network, though they retained the Moretti nameplate for some while. Writing to an earlier deadline, we are unable to give winner details for our recent competitions — we’ll catch up in the March issue.