Vignale Record Sperimentale 1000. A wind-cheating concept car that was built to break records. Story by Chris Rees.
OBSCURATI CURIOSITIES FROM THE AMAZING WORLD OF ITALIAN CARS
Record-breaking wind-cheater from Vignale
The November 1962 Turin Motor Show was a momentous one for Alfredo Vignale. This was to be his company’s first event since he and the prodigious design talent that was Giovanni Michelotti parted company. Michelotti had designed a whole slew of innovative and beautiful cars for Vignale but had now struck out on his own. Wanting to make a splash at the show, Vignale brought along – in addition to a couple of rather more humdrum coach-built versions of the Fiat 1300 and Fiat 2300 – a wildly experimental bit of kit: the Record Sperimentale 1000.
In truth, the origins of the 1962 show car can be traced back to a perhaps better-known Vignale-built project dating from 1957, which had been designed by Giovanni Michelotti. This was the extraordinary Abarth 750 Sperimentale ‘Goccia’ (‘Teardrop’).
Widely viewed as inventing the ‘monovolume’ idea so prevalent in today’s cars, it was designed to maximise aerodynamic efficiency, and was based on Abarth 750 mechanicals. One of the tiny handful of examples built famously participated in the 1957 Mille Miglia race.
So it was that, five years later, Vignale returned to the idea of the one-volume teardrop shape – nominally as an intended record-breaker but probably more to steal some Turin limelight. The shape was inspired by the teardrop school of thought, the result of a series of aerodynamic studies that concluded that the falling drop of water was the most efficient in terms of airflow. Vignale crafted a long, low and relatively wide shape. The car’s wraparound windscreen was absolutely enormous, while the glass roof very much prefigured the current fad for panoramic sunroofs. The headlights were faired in behind Plexiglas for smoothness of airflow and the front bumpers were shaped like bullets. At the rear end, the tail was sharply cutoff, Kamm-style, while a variety of cooling ducts were provided for the rear-mounted engine.
Inside, the two-seater cabin had a futuristic, jet-age theme to it. Three gauges were set into a wooden instrument panel, housed in a binnacle that extended way forwards to the base of the windscreen. The seats were anatomically formed, with curious form-hugging grab handle-style extensions. The wraparound headrest (curiously, on the passenger’s side only) was described as “inspired by aircraft”. Behind the seats sat a spare wheel.
As first presented at Turin in 1962 the Record Sperimentale 1000 had conventional wheel arches, but when it was shown again at Geneva in March 1963, it had been slightly modified with faired-in wheels covered by spats all round, presumably as a result of extra aerodynamic experimentation. Vignale claimed its Cd figure was just 0.25.
As with the 1957 Sperimentale, the 1962 Record was based on the platform of the Fiat 600D, complete with its suspension and rear-engined layout. The engine itself was expanded from 767cc to 1.0 litre by the Turin-based tuning company ZM, run Edoardo Zen, who basically represented the famous tuner Giannini in Turin, and who would later set up OTAS with Franco Giannini.
The Record was intended – as its name clearly stated – to attempt to break speed records. However, no evidence appears to exist to suggest that any such record attempts were made.