Living in an era where automotive design is largely dictated by how air flows around the car as it moves through space—you know, aerodynamics—it’s kind of liberating to see vehicles that could not give one gilded turd about any of that fancy-ass math-laden bullshit. These trucks aren’t just not aerodynamic—they’re gleefully un-aerodynamic. Like, they seem to have been designed with an out-and-out contempt for aero. They’re Fiat/Iveco vans built by the Italian coachbuilder Minonzio.
The dramatically simple box-on-wheels look of these things has made them pop up on social media feeds every now and then, usually with the intent that they are deserving of scorn. But I don’t see them that way at all. I see a purity and honesty of design that’s so clean and straightforward that it almost feels transgressive and thrilling.
Yes. That’s right. I’m fucking excited by a literal box on wheels.
It’s actually pretty tricky to find a lot of good information about these vehicles, which seem to be designed for food truck/small mobile shop use. Minonzio, the coachbuilder, seems to have primarily used Fiat/Iveco chassis and I believe went out of business in 2007.
The most common place to find pictures of them is in ads selling them, which show off their striking features in pictures. Look at this:
This one is from 1983, and while it has an ever-so-slight curve to that front end, it’s still pretty much a brick. But look at what this thing’s party trick is—that whole entire side flips open!
I’m not exactly sure what was going on with this truck, with those ornate carved wooden doors along the wall, but it sure as hell is cool. I also like that it’s not just the cargo area that opens up—it’s the whole damn thing, as you can see the driver’s seat right there, exposed to the world.
I mean, the wheels don’t even get cutouts. That’s good for aero, right? Skirted wheels? I’m sure that makes up for having the same frontal area as a quarter of a Waffle House.
Now, it’s certainly possible these aren’t as un-aerodynamic as they seem; after all, aerodynamics is complex, and there may be mitigating factors here. I haven’t put these in a wind tunnel, though people have figured out how aerodynamic brick walls are.
I suspect with all the frontal area here, the results would have to be similar. But, consider this a caveat in case an old Minonzio designer pops up in the comments to bitch at me.
Here’s another lovely example, a 1983 one for sale:
This one shows off nicely what I think is Minonzio’s trademark triangular lower window shape, which does give the thing a certain rakishly geometric air. It’s kitted out as a very competent-looking food truck, with a generator and fryer and four stovetops and a fridge and everything you’d need, along with some handy external storage drawers.
The ad suggests this is built on a Fiat 79.13 chassis, which seems to be the Iveco Zeta platform. I’ll be up front and admit that, shamefully, I’m not as up on my medium-duty European trucks as I should be, but I am intrigued that there seems to have been an air-cooled engine option, a 4.1-liter, 87 horsepower diesel from Deutz, and it looks like you can still buy Chinese-made versions of it online? Also, it sure looks cool with that big blower:
I think the engine is housed between the front seats, in—you guessed it—a box, where it’s driving the rear wheels.
I love these things! Look at this seafood-themed one. Wouldn’t something like this make a fantastic camper? In nice weather, find your spot, open it all up and enjoy, then if it gets crappy or cold out shut all the panels and you’re all cozy inside.
I’m really taken by these things. They’re so unrelentingly rational they cross over into silly-looking, which is a pretty magical place to be in. Is there a way I can just treat one like a shipping container and have it sent over to America with a couple of Fiat 126s shoved inside it?
The dream of converting one into a camper is powerful. Alternately, it’d be fun to get one and travel the country, autocrossing it.
I may have found a suitable retirement plan.