Fiat’s association with producing small, yet attractive and eminently usable vehicles was already well established by the time they launched the Fiat 1200 in 1957 – the Topolino and 600 being just two examples. The 1200 aimed to further deliver on this ethos, but whilst the mechanicals drew heavily from the 1100 that had been in production since 1953, the body was a stylistic departure.
The first of the 1200 range to launch was the Granluce. Unveiled at the 1957 Turin Motor Show, the saloon’s styling majored on a greater area of glass than previous offerings with a wider windscreen and rear window – the translation of Granluce being ‘full light’, but whilst the front end still looked distinctly Italian, the extended boot and finned rear offered a nod to other 1950s small saloons of British origin.
Of course, home market buyers would also be looking to take advantage of the local weather and Fiat completed the range with two open top versions. First to arrive was the Fiat 1200 TV Spider designed by Luigi Rapi. With its curved-edged windscreen and twin-grilled front, it looked a little like a mini BMW 507, but as the Spider gave way to the Cabriolet, the Pininfarina looks were unmistakable and with its edged bonnet bulge and swage line along the car’s length, it bore more than a passing resemblance to Ferrari’s 250GTE.
Two years into its production run, The Motor published a road test – albeit a brief one – on Fiat’s Granluce. The little saloon was praised for its driving position and for the room on offer, but drew criticism for its fierce brakes and ‘insensitive clutch’. These were small points however; the 1.2-litre petrol engine enabled brisk progress on the road and when “driven in Italian fashion” provided the driver with a rewarding and fun experience – particularly as cornering could be taken without knocking off too much speed, thanks to the light steering, castor angle and pitch-free suspension.