1971 Giannini Fiat 128 NP S Sport Coupe
Not all coachbuilt Italian sports cars are paragons of beauty, as Giannini’s ‘interesting’ 1971 Fiat 128-based prototype proves. Story by Chris Rees. Images by Richard Heseltine.
CURIOSITIES FROM THE AMAZING WORLD OF ITALIAN CARS
It was in March 1971 that Adolfo Melchionda designed a notorious car that was bodied by Carrozzeria Sports Cars, the iconoclastic Modena-based coachbuilder founded by ex-Formula 1 driver, Piero Drogo, along with Lino Marchesini and Celso Cavalieri, and active between 1960 and 1971. This car was the Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Navarro, widely regarded as one of the ugliest Ferraris of all time (and which undoubtedly also qualifies as an Obscurati – watch this space).
But it’s another Melchionda design that we’re highlighting this month. We’ve already featured one Giannini-badged coupe in Obscurati: the Fiat 500- based Giannini Sirio (see Auto Italia September 2015). This month it’s the turn of an even more bizarre one: the 128 NP S Sport coupe.
Rome-based tuning firm Giannini had a notable presence at the November 1971 Turin Show, showing off a range of tuned Fiats, from 500s to 127s to 128s. Then there was this: the Fiat 128-based NP S Sport Coupe 2+2. Adolfo Melchionda’s design was, frankly, weird. Its shovel nose was particularly arresting, with a suite of lights mounted behind huge Perspex cowls, the fogs and indicators being mounted on flat platforms. Access to the engine was via an ungainly matt black panel that was roughly screwed into place.
The lower half of the body narrowed as it galloped gracelessly to the tail, which was severely cut-off. Draped clumsily above this was a comically concave Perspex tailgate. The glassfibre body was, according to press reports, extremely poorly moulded. Up front was a Giannini-tuned Fiat 128 NP S 1118cc engine delivering 76hp at 7000rpm, good enough for a claimed top speed of 124mph. Which coachbuilder crafted the body? That’s not at all clear. Melchionda’s previous collaborator, Piero Drogo, had fluttered out of the coachbuilding business in June 1971, so he couldn’t be used.
Various other theories have been promulgated, including Eurostyle, but that seems unlikely. One report suggests it was made by a small (but unnamed) coachbuilder in Rome, while another cites Stefano Contedini, who would collaborate with Melchionda on future projects. Any prosects Giannini’s coupe may have had for a production future were certainly not helped by Fiat unveiling its own 128 Sport Coupe at the same Turin show, a design that was as beautiful as Giannini’s was gopping. Unsurprisingly, Giannini decided against a production run and stuck to its much less ambitious, but undoubtedly more profitable, line in tuning Fiats. Adolfo Melchionda’s career as a designer wasn’t over, though.
In 1972, he rebodied a Fiat 850 with an upturned boat body for Giannini – yes, seriously – while in 1984, he penned the Arcobaleno, a natural gas-powered MPV-style prototype based on the Fiat Uno. Perhaps realising his days in the motor industry were numbered, Melchionda had much more success as an author of fiction. As for the unique Giannini 128 NP S Sport Coupe, its fate remains unrecorded.