MYS­TERY CAR

New Zealand Classic Car - - Automobilia Collectible Models / Lifestyle / Book -

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.

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