Mys­tery car

New Zealand Classic Car - - Automobilia - 17. 18.

This month’s mys­tery car of­fers a huge con­trast to the snazzy lit­tle sports coupé from last month. Here we have a 3.5-ton be­he­moth, ’60s style, pro­duced in small­ish three-fig­ure num­bers to trans­port ‘im­por­tant peo­ple’ around. Send your so­lu­tion, by email or snail mail, to Mys­tery Cars No. 236, NZ Clas­sic Car, PO Box 46 020, Herne Bay, Auck­land by mid Septem­ber. Our mys­tery last month was the very strik­ing-look­ing OTAS Grand Prix 820, from the early ’70s. There’s a rather com­pli­cated story to tell of how the OTAS evolved. It prob­a­bly started in 1968, when the 843cc Lom­bardi Grand Prix coupé was built us­ing a Fiat 850 plat­form and me­chan­i­cal com­po­nen­try (rear en­gine, RWD). The main part of the body was steel, but the doors and en­gine cover were fi­bre­glass. A se­cond se­ries of cars fol­lowed, with the body now mostly steel, and var­i­ous en­gine op­tions were of­fered to en­hance per­for­mance. Two other com­pa­nies noted for Fiat-based per­for­mance ac­tiv­ity now joined the party, with Gian­nini do­ing its own ver­sion of the car called the Gian­nini Grand Prix, with 843/903/998cc op­tions of the Fiat 850 en­gine with We­ber car­bu­ret­tors. Abarth also joined in, with its ver­sion of the same car called the Abarth 1300 Scor­pi­one, with a 1280cc Fiat 124 en­gine in the back, the hottest ver­sion (Scor­pi­one SS) tuned to 100bhp or 74.5kw. The ra­di­a­tor on the Scor­pi­one was front mounted and four-wheel disc brakes and wish­bone and coil front sus­pen­sion im­proved the road­abil­ity of the car. Still with us? Three ver­sions of the same ba­sic car so far, but there was a fourth — this be­ing our fea­tured mys­tery, the OTAS 820 Grand Prix in 1971 and early 1972, sev­eral (pos­si­bly 100-plus) of which were im­ported into the US, but with the en­gine down­sized to 817cc, a smidgen un­der the 50ci bench­mark to avoid an im­port tax, al­though it was tuned to give 39kw (52hp). OTAS ( Of­fic­ina Trans­for­mazione Au­to­mo­bili Sportive) was ac­tu­ally part of the Gian­nini au­to­mo­tive op­er­a­tion, headed by Domenico Gian­nini, who worked with Fran­cis Lom­bardi to re­work the Lom­bardi Grand Prix into the OTAS 820 Grand Prix for the US mar­ket. US mag­a­zine Car and Driver put one through its road-test­ing pro­ce­dure, com­ment­ing that its low build made it feel much faster than it ac­tu­ally was! But it pub­lished an es­ti­mated top speed of 145kph (90mph) and an ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ure of a stand­ing quar­ter-mile in 22 sec­onds, and 0–60mph in 18.7 sec­onds. The kerb weight was 708kg (1560lb), with front-to-rear weight dis­tri­bu­tion of 40:60, length 3607mm (142 inches), and wheel­base 2045mm (80.5 inches). We had no suc­cess­ful an­swers for the BMW 1600 de­vel­op­ment pro­to­type, though one en­try at least picked up on the Alfa Gi­uli­etta front end grafted onto the car to dis­guise its true parent­age.

Clues Across: 7. An early 1930s model in AC’S com­pany his­tory (6) 8. Vaux­hall’s four-cylin­der fam­ily car built in two main se­ries from 1948 to 1957 (6) 10. Lan­cia’s clas­sic sport­ing sa­loon and GT coupé, built from 1950–’58 and suc­cess­ful both as a road car and in com­pe­ti­tion (7) 11. Model name for Subaru’s 1971–’94 mid-range sa­loon, built in FWD or 4WD trans­mis­sion lay­out (5) 12. Dodge small FWD compact car built from 1977 to 1990 and based on the Euro­pean Simca Hori­zon (4) 13. Lan­cia’s 1984 on­wards sa­loon which shared its chas­sis en­gi­neer­ing plat­form with Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Saab (5) US Ford ter­mi­nol­ogy pre WWII for a two-door sedan body style (5) Ber­tone-styled per­for­mance sa­loon built by Iso from 1969–’74, V8 pow­ered, ini­tially by Chevro­let, but later by Ford (4) 22. US spe­cial­ist sup­plier of orig­i­nal or af­ter­mar­ket gear-lever equip­ment for US per­for­mance cars (5) 23. Prom­i­nent UK rac­ing car, record car, and sports-car de­signer pre WWII, re­mem­bered also as de­signer of a suc­cess­ful Angli­cized Hud­son­based sport­ing straight eight (7) 24. Mar­que name for Ford (UK) com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles through the 1950s to around 1965 (6) 25. Ger­man car and two-wheeler maker ac­tive from c.1902 through to 1926 (6)

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