There is a gathering in Scottsdale on the first Saturday of each month called Cars and Coffee. This informal car show is open to all makes and models of vehicles, so you never know what might roll in.
It was here that I first spied the Hudson Italia, not knowing how rare or valuable it was. I kicked myself later for not taking more pictures of it. Well, I made the same mistake with this car. Not recognizing it, I foolishly took a single picture and moved on. Now I wish I had taken more!
This huge sedan is an Iso Rivolta S4 Fidia, and its claim to fame is that it briefly held the title of “World’s Fastest Four-Seater” in the late 1960s. Only of these cars 192 were built, so it’s pretty damn rare!
There was definitely a trend in the 1960s and 1970s of European-bodied cars using American engines. The DeTomaso Mangusta, the Hudson Italia, the Facel Vega, and the Stutz Blackhawk were all built this way. Well the Fidia played this game too, with its Chevrolet 327 cubic-inch V8 engine. The 300 horsepower engine propelled the 3,582-lb (1625 kg) car to a top speed of 133 miles per hour. This prompted the “World’s Fastest 4 Seater” campaign from Iso’s marketing department.
In spite of its proleteriat powerplant, the Fidia carried a bougeois price of $14,500. That may not seem like much today, but consider that in 1965, the median income for an American family was just $6,900 per year.
To better put this in perspective, a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan had a base price of $3,762. A supremely wealthy businessman might have purchased a 1965 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow for $10,505 dollars. Only someone completely off their rocker would have paid $14,500 for the Fidia! It was an obscenely expensive car for its time.
If you can make it past the sticker shock, you might have time to admire the car’s unusual shape. The body was penned by legendary Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro who also did the the Maserati Ghibli, DeTomaso Mangusta, the Lotus Esprit, and the DeLorean DMC-12. You might say that the man was a master of the “wedge shape.”
Viewed from the front or the rear, the car actually looks pretty cool. Its quad round headlamps and subtle, slightly tapered rear look quite normal. From the side though, it’s a bit of a freak show. The huge wheelbase makes it look ungainly, as if it has the turning radius of an aircraft carrier. The vertical vents on the front fenders seem like a necessary addition for cooling rather than aesthetics. At over 16 feet long and just under 4.5 feet in height, the Fidia’s body looks stretched out relative to its height.
There are plenty of 4-door luxury sedans on the road today: Maserati Quattroporte, Aston Martin Rapide, Porsche Panamera, Jaguar XJ, and the usual offerings from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. However in the late 1960s, there wasn’t much to choose from in the way of a sporty Italian car with room for 4. This car was very unique for its time and I’m glad to have run across it…though next time, I will try to take more pictures!