Was the Vignale Gamine built as a toy car for Noddy to drive? No, with a wheelbase of just six feet it was probably too tiny even for Enid Blyton's creation. It was meant for adults to use however, even though it only had a six foot wheelbase. Who on earth dreamed it up?
Alfredo Vignale was the culprit. He was a coachbuilder dealing mainly with Italian car manufacturers; some of them, such as Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari, and Maserati were already prestgious household names and Vignale was considered to be amongst their top collaborators. Why then did he throw it all up to produce this comic cut car?
For some time he had built complete cars, using parts from the manufacturers he dealt with and based on popular models such as the Fiat 500, or the 124. These were strictly limited edition runs though. For some reason he was particularly enthusiastic about the prospects for the Vignale; so much so that he was willing to bet the company on it.
His creation came out in 1967. It was based on the Fiat 500 Nuevo Sport, complete with the rear mounted twin cylinder air cooled 500cc engine, producing a puny 21bhp. An open top body was welded to the steel tube frame. A fabric 'roof' was supportedby a metal frame with a proper roof available as an optional extra.
Under the front bonnet was a spare wheel and a petrol tank; ideally situated to incinerate the up to two occupants in the event of the car hitting anything more solid than a barrage balloon.
Performance was a little less than sparkling: 97mph was quoted as an official top speed but 60mph is a more realistic estimate. Handling was atrocious, acceleration non existant. The buying public glanced at it, looked at the high price, shrugged their shoulders and went back to dreaming of a proper motor car.
How many were built is not known for certain but a figure of about 300 has been mentioned. Certainly so few of these were actually sold as to force Vignale out of business. In 1969 he had to sell his production facilities to De Tomaso then he sadly died not long afterwards in a car accident.
His name however still lives on in several Ford models but it is his coachbuilding expertise that he is best remembered for, not his disastrous Noddy Car.