A-Z of Marques: No. 23 Innocenti

The marque: Italian interpretation of British Leyland's finest, and more.

The history: Steel tubing was the 1931 starting point for Ferdinando Innocenti's company, its fortune arriving through a scaffolding patent. The Second World War wrecked that, but post-war government grants allowed Innocenti to set up scooter production in Milan's Lambratte district. The Lambretta scooter was launched in 1946, and Italians had mobility.

In 1960, Innocenti made a deal with the British Motor Corporation (by then wedded to Pininfarina's Italian styling) to build cars under licence. First was the Combinata; it was based on the Austin A40, but one model had the proper lift-up, full-height hatchback the UK versions perversely never had. Next came a pair of sports cars based on the Austin-Healey Sprite/MG Midget twins but with unique styling by Ghia.

The 1100-based Innocenti IM3 of 1963 stayed close to the BMC original, and in 1965 Innocenti began to make Minis. Innocenti died in 1966; his son took over, but lost money and British Leyland bought the company in 1972.

The Bertone design house then created a modern, angular hatchback based on Mini components, and it was launched in 1975. The same year, De Tomaso bought Innocenti and by 1982 the Bertone Mini had a Daihatsu engine. By 1993 it was all over after the company's sale to Fiat in 1990, but the name lived until 1996 on cast-off Fiats imported to Italy from Brazilian and Yugoslavian outposts.

Defining model: Bertone Mini 90 and 120, the modern hatchbacks British Leyland never had.

They said: A little added style goes a long way.

We say: Strange that the Italians built better British cars.

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