The Caravan Salon due to be held in Dusseldorf from 29 August to 7 September has been a leading date in the recreational vehicle show calendar for many years. Fiat Professional plans to mark the event by introducing the original ‘Portofino' show van based on the innovative Fiorino, the smallest model in the range. 

The new  ‘Portofino' show van, an original and explicit hymn to freedom of movement, came about in a manner very typical of the Camper sector: i.e. partly through the initiative of Vernagallo-Holiday, a conversion company that specialises in small recreational vehicles – and partly through a joint venture with SALT, a body builder that specialises in the tuning and preparation of special and exclusive vehicles. These are the ingredients of the ‘Portofino', an authentic show van that is not simply an exercise in styling but a specific interpretation of a model that was originally designed for ease of conversion by body builders.

The ‘Portofino' is a contemporary twist on the legendary beach buggy, the open-topped cars that were built onto some small Fiat models by a few imaginative Italian bodybuilders in the 1960s. At this particular point in the past, cars were not seen as badges of wealth - and luxury was a lifestyle. The roots of the ‘Portofino' show van lie in this particular tradition of Italian styling and exclusivity.

Fiat Fiorino - Portofino (2008) - picture 1 of 2
Fiat Fiorino - Portofino (2008) - picture 2 of 2

The latest addition to the Fiat Professional range is also a useful and practical vehicle, exactly as you would expect of a recreational vehicle for holiday and leisure use. Hence Fiat's decision to choose the recreational vehicle motor shows (2008/09 season) as an international stage for the ‘Portofino' show van world premiere. This is undoubtedly an unusual choice for a car-maker that would normally tend to concentrate on corporate advertising at this type of event. The decision to showcase Fiat Professional confirms Fiat's commitment to this market and its consistent interest in recreational vehicle shows where visitors can revel in the idea of freedom, entertainment and unique lifestyle choices.

All the benefits of the new ‘Portofino' vehicle

The conversion is based on a Fiorino Combi – the entry level people-carrying version of the range – from which the vehicle takes all its winning features: it can accommodate 5 people, for example, in conditions of absolute comfort and safety. Its flexibility is also assured by a 1/3 – 2/3 split rear seat that may be removed to allow very bulky items and tools to be carried. Due to its trim dimensions – approximately 4 metres long and 1.7 metres wide – and turning circle of less than 10 metres, the vehicle can handle itself with equanimity in any situation and place.

Outside, the ‘Portofino' show van is notable for certain styling traits. First and foremost, the open-topped body benefits from the original body's natural configuration with markings and grooves on the side that convincingly support the new vehicle silhouette. The passenger compartment doors have also disappeared though the rear swing doors keep their original hinge arrangement to enable them to contain the generous load compartment effectively. And more: The windscreen is original while the rollbar-like central ring, typical of a sporty off-road vehicle, gives the show van a decided appearance of sturdiness and dynamism (while also ensuring sufficient stiffness, in conjunction with the substantial reinforcements around the side member and rear).

Inside, the ‘Portofino' wastes no time in setting out its mission statement. It looks for all the world like an open-air sitting room with a nautical flavour, with lashings of innovative flair. The seats are upholstered with lively, sophisticated fabrics; natural fibres treated using a special waterproofing process. The interior flooring takes the form of a special hull trimmed with a wood finish while the original dashboard has been repainted to reflect the overall light-filled, sophisticated look of the internal finish.  A covered version will be available at a later stage for protection against sun and rain.

The interplay of colours is a sight to behold: earth tones on the inside and sun tones on the outside. This original, bold combination gives the show van a uplifting and sophisticated look. Special contrasting colours on the sides (anthracite and orange) are also repeated on the front bumpers and rear doors, to create a play of colours that reflects the same colour combination as the interiors. The reference to the exclusive seaside resort of Portofino is clear: a heady blend of style, colour, exclusivity and holidays – all in the very best of Italian taste.

The ‘Portofino' show van also benefits from all the Fiorino model versions:

*smooth and spirited engines –1.4 petrol and 1.3 Multijet units (the latter also available with DPF and CO2 levels lower than 120 g/km) – that offer driving satisfaction, outstanding performance, low running costs and also reliability and respect for the environment;

*a special ‘traction +' device that increases vehicle traction to ensure the vehicle can get out of trouble, even in sticky situations;

*a speed block system that locks the  top speed (particularly useful when driving in tourist areas);

*a Comfort-Matic robotised gearbox, plus the full range of currently available extras designed for practicality, comfort and safety.