Reporter Martin Philippo spends a lost Sunday afternoon clearing the attic. Join him travelling back in time behind the wheel of his Innocenti Bertone Mille.
Today we retrieved a stack of old pictures from a box that had been neglected in the far corner of the attic for ages. Heaps of pictures from long ago, of young men and ditto women enjoying their careless youth. Pictures that immediately jog our memory. They make us remember our past instantaneously. Long forgotten trips, the long wavy hair of a childhood friend, the endless meadows outside the village, where the new developments haven’t been all that new for a long time now. Amongst al these pictures there are a few I had forgotten long since. The cars on them however are still deeply anchored in my memory. These are the two cars that I enjoyed most during my early automotive years. And there, at that one moment, they stand together. Parked on the premises of Schoonderbeek’s garage. One leaving, one welcomed into the family. United in one frame for just this once.
The new kid in town is an Innocenti Bertone Mille. It replaces my Fiat 850 Spider and will bring me a mountain of driving pleasure. The Italian car maker Innocenti is part of British Leyland, which provides the factory in Italy with engines and subframes, which in their place are bolted onto a very charming little body by Bertone. The ride is exactly like in the British Mini, tight, direct and, well, to put it bluntly, bumpy. Even the steering column comes directly from the Mini and gives the car that same weird horizontally positioned steering wheel. The Innocenti is still a car that is heavily enjoyed though. Seated inches above street level you feel like driving a kart, an experience only emphasised by the sound of the sporty exhaust. Every drive is a hoot. Even the short trip between home and work is something to look forward to time after time.
The car isn’t really very fast, the small one litre engine isn’t very muscular, but that is no objection at all. You clearly don’t need to go fast to drive quickly. The excellent road holding makes for high speed cornering and roundabout crossing, which gives the Innocenti an extraordinary sporty character. The close link to the Mini leaves the Innocenti with the same good credentials on using the inner space of the vehicle. Outside it is rather tiny, but inside there is plenty of room. Bertone even improves on the design of Alec Issigonis by adding a hatch to the original micro car idea. It makes the boot slightly bigger and easier to use. The shape of the car is typical for the era. Boxy and tight with a sporty looking lip at the far end of the roof. The Innocenti would have been a worthy successor to the British Icon.
The re acquaintance with this little beauty puts a broad smile on my face. I look back on all the rides we had together in this car, to the fun had on the road. The Innocenti always remained one of my favorite cars and the memories will remain engraved in the back of my head for eternity. The pictures we found today brings it all back. What a good thing we still had this forgotten box in the far end of the attic!