Italian Dreams

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    Young children will know ‘Simba’ as the cute little lion cub of ‘The Lion King’. It’s a name familiar to the Africans of the Savannah and now it is also a name mentioned in the halls of Fiat’s design centre

    The Fiat Simba is a concept car which, like its namesake from the movie, speaks of journeys and adventure through the urban jungle. Compact and cute, its dimensions allow it to slip through traffic jams with ease.

    The Simba is said to be a revolutionary concept due to its original styling and versatility, a prototype that will open up new horizons in the minicar segment. It is the first example in Europe of an off-roader that is small yet able to combine the idea of roughing it with the comfort and performance of a conventional car.

    That Fiat designers have come up with such a concept is not surprising since the Italian company was a pioneer of small cars 70 years ago. With an eye on changing customer profiles within the sector and the good potential growth prospects, they have now come up with the Simba.

    In essence, this car has a dual personality that conveys an immediate impression of freshness and fun backed by solidity and sturdiness. The Simba, created to entertain yet also to surprise the most sceptical young customer, may be envisaged (and experienced) as an authentic off-road vehicle you could take on a desert rally or drive through dense jungle vegetation. Or it could be a fun car capable of navigating intricate city centre streets and slaloming through traffic with ease.

    No obstacles could possibly stand in the way of the Simba’s 4WD system (with viscous coupling) and neat size (3680 mm long, 1730 mm high and 1630 mm wide). Externally, the prototype is distinguished by crisp body lines and typical off-road equipment: big headlights, spare wheel on the roof, broad windscreen for the best visibility and straight sides for ease of manoeuvring.

    Another off-road concept from Fiat is the Doblo Sandstorm, an off-road version of the Doblo van. The Sandstorm is Fiat’s answer to the challenge of converting a conventional car to an off-road racer. It is an admirable demonstration of the model’s versatility and the way its DNA can adapt to the needs of very different customers and very different applications, however demanding.

    The Sandstorm is basically an exercise in styling and design and a concept car with a strong personality. It features clean looks with no frills or pointless detail yet still conveys an impression of sturdy and protective solidity.

    The overall impression is of a big vehicle with broad shoulders and protected front and sides: a vehicle that evokes strength, power and safety at first glance.

    This impression is enhanced by an increased ground clearance that may be adjusted according to the type of terrain. The pint-sized dimensions of the Fiat Doblò have been maintained for the sake of compactness and it measures just 4159 mm long and 1714 mm wide.

    The mechanicals have undergone big changes to create a true rally version. Because the Sandstorm is expected to spend much of its life off the highway, it has to be fun to drive over impervious desert dunes as across precipitous mountain terrain.

    This is why it has an off-road suspension package comprising 215/85 wheels (with 16″ wheels) and disc brakes with piston calipers (4 at the front and 2 at the rear). The transmission system has dual speed ranges with a self-locking central differential.

    Fiat’s affiliate, Lancia, also has some dreams which it has been showing and the latest is the Granturismo, a concept car of great stylistic appeal. More than that, it is a veritable live testing ground for the shapes and motifs of Lancia cars to come.

    The prototype, the result of a joint venture between the Lancia Style Centre, Studio Carcerano and Carrozzeria Maggiora, represents a meeting point between a quest for good looks and computerised and virtual technology.

    The car measures 4260 mm in length, 1920 mm in width and 1410 mm in height and from the outside features an essential purity of form that is a living embodiment of the slogan ‘less is more’. This piece of modern art features great dynamism coupled with beautiful proportions. This stylistic feature, so typical of Lancia tradition, is permanently back in the designers’ brief since the advent of the Thesis flagship.

    The Granturismo offers the sculpted quality of many models dating from the Fifties and Sixties without ever losing sight of Lancia’s need for its own expressive language. The Granturismo also features HPE (High Performance Estate) architecture, a famous name from the Seventies.

    Built on Thesis mechanicals and equipped with a roomy, welcoming, fully glazed passenger compartment while a long bonnet gives visual emphasis to the front wheel drive layout. The front end is also a sporty take on the Lancia flagship’s leader’s distinctive physiognomy, as evidenced by a stylised grille set into a long bonnet and vertical headlights that underscore the wraparound wings. The surfaces extend stylishly over the car, slipping seamlessly from body to bumper.

    The HPE-shaped roof is apparently supported by a line of tension that passes through the rear pillars and counterbalances the forward slant of the other lines. The car’s downward tapering surfaces and upright headlights seated on sturdy shoulders are reminiscent of cars such as the Aprilia and Ardea. These hugely appealing retro hints and motifs, survivors from a golden age of world motoring, have now been appropriated by Lancia’s designers and made part of their new stylistic language.


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