My Car Quest

February 24, 2019

The Small Scale Miura – The Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

Written and translated from Italian by Giacomo Arosio

1966 was a very important year in the italian sports car scene. The new Lamborghini Miura represented a true revolution and it shook up the technical principles of the time. The engine was moved to the center of the car (behind the driver), following the mechanical layout used by Formula 1 cars which introduced this feature in the late 1950s. The Miura, however, had a transversely-mounted engine.

Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

Actually, the ATS 2500 GT and the De Tomaso Vallelunga were the first mid-engined Italian cars, but they were uncommon models produced in small numbers and they did not influence the market like the Lamborghini.

Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

Neri & Bonacini, two sports car experts

The Lamborghini Miura debut inspired a new sports car with similar features but on a small scale. Just like a “little Miura”, someone said…The men behind the project were well known personalities in the sports car world: Giorgio Neri and Luciano Bonacini.

They were both former workers of the Maserati racing team and they established a coach built factory simply called Carrozzeria Neri & Bonacini. They were used to working on exotic cars like the Ferrari 250 Breadvan raced by the Scuderia Serenissima or the Strale Daytona 6000 GT, a one-off based on the Iso Rivolta GT commissioned by a luxury car dealer.

After spending years working for other factories, in 1966 Neri and Bonacini tried to build a brand new car to be sold with their trademark Nembo, a sort of acronym of their surnames. The main feature of the new car was the mid-engine layout, as the new technical trends required.

The 1960s were the golden age of the Italian sports cars – things changed drastically after the 1973 Oil Crisis – so Neri and Bonacini assumed that a small granturismo would have been a successful car and they started to work on the Nembo GT.

Brand-new chassis and Lancia Flavia boxer engine

The Nembo GT had a monocoque chassis matched with front and rear subsidiary spaceframe chassis. The bodywork was made of aluminum and it showed some resemblances with other cars. It was most likely inspired by the Miura, especially in the rear: the fenders, the back window and the black grille in the rear panel looked very close to the Lamborghini.

On the other hand, the Nembo GT could predate some of the stylistic features of the AMC AMX/3, a 1970 American sports car prototype that did not go in production. After all, the new Italian car looked good except for the long wheelbase that seemed a bit out of proportion.

Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

One of the most significant features of the Nembo GT was the engine. Neri and Bonacini chose the boxer 4-cylinder of the Lancia Flavia Sport Zagato. Fitted with twin carburetors, it had a maximum power of 105 hp. Thanks to the low weight (less than 1,800 lb), the car had impressive performances and a top speed of 125 mph.

Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

The boxer engine allowed for a lower center of gravity and we can assume that the car had a very good handling. The Lancia Flavia was a front wheel drive car with longitudinal engine, therefore the axle shafts had exactly the same length. So the engine was simply installed in the center of the car with no major modifications, the gearbox was oriented toward the rear.

Just two cars built as prototypes

The first Nembo GT made was a mule car and it had only essential trim. The bodywork had no paintwork, with bare aluminum panels.

This particular car had squared headlamps placed in the front grille. The tail lights were very large, but they were likely composed of many small lights placed side by side. In both cases the manufacturer probably used mass-produced parts, easy to find and inexpensive.

The second car received some improvements and it was a bit more comfortable, almost ready for a small series production. The cockpit looked quite simple, but the standard equipment of the car featured a radio with a speaker between the seats and the floor was covered with moquette.

Also the bodywork was upgraded and now the car had pop-up front headlamps, while the tail lights were the same used by the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan, easily adaptable and available as common spare parts.

Only the paintwork was odd: the second Nembo GT had a red livery with too many decorative stripes and black door sills.

Apart from the questionable paint, the Nembo GT met all the requirements to become a regular production car and the engine supply was the main issue. At first it seemed just a formality but it became the reason for the Nembo GT failure.

Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT

Lancia did not agree to supply the Flavia engine, so Neri and Bonacini stopped their work because it was a insurmountable obstacle for such a small manufacturer. Their dream to build a sports car ended and the Carrozzeria closed soon after: Neri went to Piero Drogo factory, while Bonacini moved to De Tomaso.

A very interesting project stopped too early

The reasons behind Lancia refusal weren’t clear. We can assume that Neri and Bonacini request came at the wrong time: Lancia was at a turning point and just two years later it was taken over by the Fiat. Probably the decision wasn’t influenced by marketing reasons, because a sports car made in small numbers couldn’t be considered as a competitor for Lancia cars.

Both the Nembo GT still exist today and they weren’t damaged or scrapped over the years, but it was a sad ending for a car with a strong potential.

Oddly, Neri and Bonacini encountered a similar circumstance just a few years before. In 1964 they designed the spaceframe chassis for the Condor Aguzzoli, a mid-engined sports car fitted with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta engine, that was extremely advanced for the time.

There were great expectations for this car and it entered some races driven by skilled drivers like Ernesto “Tino” Brambilla, one of the protagonists of the very competitive italian F3 championship. The owners counted on technical help from Alfa Romeo itself, but the Milanese manufacturer was busy with the Giulia TZ development. Despite the potential, the Condor production stopped after only two cars. Three years later it was the same for the Nembo GT.

Coincidence or destiny?

About Giacomo Arosio

Giacomo Arosio

Giacomo Arosio

Born in 1982, Giacomo Arosio is first and foremost a classic cars enthusiast. After spending about 4 years in a well known Italian internet company based in Milan, he chose to follow his main interest and founded Auto Classiche, a website entirely focused on vintage cars. He usually writes articles and reviews about classic and collectors cars published on his own website and occasionally on My Car Quest.

His other articles for My Car Quest are here.

You can contact Giacomo by email at giacomo@auto-classiche.it

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Summary
The Small Scale Miura - The Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT
Article Name
The Small Scale Miura - The Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT
Description
The Neri & Bonacini Nembo GT could have been a great sports car.
Author

Comments

  1. What about the Nembo Spider? What’s the story on those?

  2. Thom Ollinger says:

    And what of this Strale 6000 Daytona GT?

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