Moretti Sporting

Car of the Day #88: 1979 Moretti Sporting

Moretti Sporting
Moretti Sporting • via

It's often with a tinge of sadness that I watch the prices escalate on the vehicles I love. Will I ever own an early Porsche 911 or Lancia Delta Integrale? Or, for that matter, say, a Voisin or Figoni et Falaschi-bodied Delahaye? Probably not…

Here's Plan B: C-tier coachbuilt specials from Europe. I'm not talking about Pininfarina-bodied this or Bertone-bodied that, but icons from the gutter: Monteverdi Safari. Sunbeam Venezia. Lloyd Alexander TS 600 Coupé by Frua. Renault Le Car Van by Heuliez (my article). 

A Moretti Sporting…why not? 

These vehicles, for the budget-minded collector, can often found (when they're found, mind you) for less than the price of a mid-range Volkswagen Tiguan. Collecting vehicles isn't exactly the most rational way to spend time or money, but if you've got some stacks to spend, why not get something that's rare? 

Moretti is older than Ferrari, founded in 1925 to build motorcycles and, later, its own car designs. Its customer base grew because of design; to my eye, some small Moretti city cars look like they could have been clothed by Cisitalia — high praise.

With generally gorgeous curves and simple underpinnings, I can fully understand the attraction to early Moretti models. After the Second World War, the company stopped making their own designs and began to use FIAT underpinnings to design a series of essentially mainstream coachbuilt cars.

Keep in mind that these cars were generally tiny — Road & Track noted in its review of the 750 Grand Sport Berlinetta by Ghia that "Getting in is not easy and there is no need (or possibility) of wearing a hat…"

Silver linings: it was fitted with Plexiglass side windows. In 1954.

Daring and futuristic bodywork was applied to Fiat mechanicals, including designs that started with very ordinary 127, 128, 123, and 132s.

Through the late 1960s and early '70s, as customer tastes changed, its market share began to decline precipitously: Moretti made 3,292 vehicles in 1973 but only 1,071 in 1974. It was time for a change.

Though other makes had dabbled in car-based off-roaders, Moretti attacked the genre with gusto, changing nearly all of its existing sporting coupes into chunky-ish off-ish road-ish machines. The Midimaxi, for instance: Moretti turned Fiat 127 bits into a weirdly compelling soft roader.

By the late 1970s, Moretti's strategy had worked, keeping the company afloat for a few more years. Time for a new model.

Launched in 1979, the Sporting has obvious similarities with the two-door Mercedes-Benz G Class, 3-door Land Rover Range Rover, and other period "luxury" off-roaders.

Based not on a compact car but on the Italian military's Fiat Campagnola — today a collectible in its own right — the Sporting took the seriously capable 4x4 underpinnings of the donor truck and topped it with a modern body and luxurious interior.

The Sporting was in the hunt to snare wealthy Italian outdoorsmen, and successfully predicted the SUV-filled future of motoring.

With the Campagnola's largest 2.5-litre 4-cylinder diesel fitted, the truck made 72 horsepower and 108 lbs-ft of torque. Besides four wheel drive, the Sporting retained the Campagnola's novel MacPherson strut suspension: two struts for the rear wheels and a single for each of the front wheels—six in total. These pieces were identical and could be used interchangeably, useful in a war zone or, I suppose, while out pheasant hunting.

I'm not certain if the Sporting could also wade through water 70 cm (2.3 feet) deep as the donor Fiat is rated for, but it's likely Moretti's modifications wouldn't have reduced the original machine's capabilities too much.

Passengers? Up to eight(!)

Made for just two years, the Sporting was rare in its day and has to be close to extinction today; if you like it and have the means, I can think of no better way to completely confuse fellow enthusiasts at your next local car show.

See also: “Moretti Sporting 4×4 : un SUV arrivé trop tôt” via (2019, French)


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam G., Sam L., Wiley H.