The heavy body weighed 1,500 pounds, too much for its puny 47-hp motor

Giovanni Moretti founded his company in 1925, and started off designing and building motorcycles. The Cita, built in 1946, a tiny two-seater powered by an air-cooled 250-cc motor, was Moretti's first conventional car.

In 1949, Moretti introduced the 600, a front-engine, rear-drive car powered by a bespoke 592 cc, water-cooled four-cylinder engine. Four years later, the 600's chassis was lengthened and fitted with a 27-hp, SOHC, 748 cc motor, creating the Moretti 750.

A number of special versions of the 750 were produced in the 1950s, including a Zagato coupe, a sport Spider, and several barchettas. Some competition success was achieved in the 1950s with the 600 and 750 models.

By the late 1950s, Moretti began building cars using Fiat mechanicals and chassis. In 1957, a coupe based on the Fiat 500 appeared at the Turin Motor Show, followed the next year by a Fiat 600-based car. A number of other Fiat-based vehicles followed.

In 1965, the Sportiva emerged at the usual venue, the Turin Motor Show. It was based on the Fiat 850, powered by Fiat's 47-hp, 843 cc engine and was clothed in a body which shared many lines with the Fiat Dino.

The striking and unusual Moretti Sportiva pictured here has been the subject of a cosmetic restoration, performed on a rust-free chassis and body. It is freshly finished in fly yellow with a new black interior piped in yellow. It has been fitted with new tires and brakes, and given a thorough mechanical service. It is said to run and drive very well, and offers the opportunity for a discerning enthusiast to own an unusual Italian exotic at a very reasonable price.

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Vehicle:Porsche 356

This Moretti Sportiva sold for $17,600 including buyer’s premium, at the RM Monterey Auction, held on Aug. 16-17, 2003.

Trying to get instant credibility by using a famous name is nothing new, whether it’s the lamentable 1987 Dodge “Shelby” Charger or the “Mario Andretti Signature Edition” Alfetta of the ’70s.

Moretti’s heyday as a proud and independent firm was in the 1950s, when papa Giovanni would proudly proclaim to all who would listen (primarily sons Gianni and Sergio) that his cars did not contain a single Fiat part. Moretti was one of hundreds of small body shops making coach-built bodies and small batches of competition cars.

Early in the ’50s, Moretti designed and produced a 75-hp, DOHC, 748 cc screamer (read that as hand-grenade engine) fitted with twin Weber carburetors. The engine served as the basis for its Grand Sport. Very few small manufacturers made twin-cam engines and those who did almost always used someone else’s block. But not Moretti. In keeping with the old man’s philosophy of making almost everything themselves, even the square tube chassis was built in-house.

Ninety-six Grand Sport chassis numbers were homologated with FIA, though the actual number produced is not known. Most had a Berlinetta body designed by Michelotti, similar to a Ferrari 212. The rest were pure competition Barchettas with various body designs.

Morettis were reasonably successful in racing. None other then Ernie McAfee of Burbank raced a very quick Barchetta, and sold Grand Sports like hot cakes. (Okay, sold more than most other Moretti dealers, which wasn’t saying much.) This success came despite Moretti’s requirement of advancing half the $4,200 purchase price when placing an order, then waiting for your car to be built and shipped; balance was due on delivery.

Drunk with zeitgeist, Moretti grossly overestimated American buyers’ desire for a car whose engine had the life expectancy of a fruit fly, and decided to mass-produce its 750 single-cam powered cars, called “Tour du Monde,” for export. But the single-cam engine was so bad, it made the Renault Dauphine and Simca Aronde seem like reliable freeway cruisers. Worse, in order to increase production, work was rushed and subcontracted. Quality control, already modest, went out the window, and stateside, Moretti became just another foreign flash-in-the-pan.

By the early 1960s, Moretti was reduced to building cars based on the loathsome Fiat mechanicals.

Fiat was attempting to revive a few icons of Italian small-bore racing, so Moretti was given the order to build a car on the Fiat 850 Berlina platform, dubbed the Sportiva. And so our subject car came to be. But the heavy steel body weighed almost 1,500 pounds, far too much for its puny 47-hp motor. The only thing sporting about it was the name. Sportiva production only lasted through 1967, but some cars were imported as late as 1970.

The Moretti Sportiva sold here was visually appealing, and it was sold to a brave and optimistic bidder. We understand that it went immediately to a shop to have its brakes attended to.

It’s a legitimately rare automobile that’s bound to attract attention when parked at any Italian car show. But its relationship to the fabled Moretti of old is about as direct as that of the Pontiac LeMans to the race course of the same name.-Raymond Milo

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