Title: Fiat/Orlandi Meteor, Italy's new approach to grand tourism.

Pages: 40 - 43


Author: Andrew Lucas

Text: Fiat/Orlandi Meteor, Italy's new approach to grand tourism
Andrew Lucas describes an Italian luxury coach which is planned to give maximum comfort and safety to the often arduous business of long-distance tourist travel.
A section drawing of the Meteor, above right, shows how Orlandi use the new rear-engined Fiat chassis. The corridor, recessed into the chassis at the front to minimise the number of steps up into the coach, slopes up over the engine at the rear. Passenger baggage is carried in a long locker under the centre. The interior plan, right, has forty passenger seats with a separate courier area at the back.
Extra roof height is needed at the back of the coach, right, to accommodate the raised seats over the engine. Designers Alberto Rosselli and Isao Hosoe have made it into a splendid pavilion with panoramic views through the roof. The passenger door, left, has a window to increase the driver's visibility.
Traditionally, British coaches are streamlined and rounded, with plenty of full-bodied moulding. Current angular product styling has had little influence, for example, on Plaxton's latest Panorama Elite (DESIGN 245/65). By contrast Italian coaches tend to be uncompromising slab-sided blocks, with vertical ends and right angle corners. To British eyes the Fiat/Orlandi Meteor looks sharp and taut; its designers, Alberto Rosselli and Isao Hosoe, see it as a subtle, more homely version of the conventional rectangular box.
The Meteor, a 43 seat touring coach, is due for production at the Carrozzeria Orlandi next summer on a Fiat chassis and engine. This chassis, built on a narrow central beam, has pneumatic springs, smaller than average wheels, and carries the engine slung behind the back axle rather than between the axles. Because it is low-slung there are only three steps up to the front entrance; roof height has also been reduced, with the corridor recessed into the chassis, but the coach has a deliberately raised 'truncated tail' at the back, topped by a splendid, bold pavilion-type
This is because the designers thought that the backs of other coaches looked depressing, and also because extra height was needed to take the engine compartment below and the air conditioning plant in the roof - previously a box stuck in above the back seat as an afterthought. The rear seats have a gentle, theatre-like rake. In the front slope of the rear pavilion roof a wide windscreen gives panoramic views, and an enormous flat back window (tinted to reduce headlight glare) helps to prevent the end of tunnel feeling usually experienced from rear seats in conventional coaches.
There is a minimum of decoration on the exterior. The front has no chromium and no mascot - just an anodised aluminium grill with headlights behind flush glass panels. Sides are plain, apart from extruded aluminium rubbing strips, and the rear is ordered and rectangular. Luggage, carried in a tray under the centre of the coach, is accessible from both sides, and the engine is serviced through the door at the back. This is much more sensible than the usual British arrangement where luggage is stored in a single rear boot - causing congestion - and the engine
has to be reached through panels in the floor. Internal design aims at comfort over long journeys and in hot climates. The driving position is high and forward, over a built up wrap-round dashboard, and there is a window low in the offside door for extra visibility. Next to the driver is a backwards-facing fold away seat for the courier, with a microphone nearby. All other sound system gadgetry - stereo radio, amplifier, record player, tape cassette players and call signals-is above the courier's rear seat. A first aid box, bar and refrigerator are alongside. Opposite this seat there is space for a toilet compartment, or alternatively a long curved banquette seat for drinkers, or two ordinary seats.
A thick layer of insulation between the engine compartment (which also carries the air conditioning evaporators and fans) helps keep interior vibration and engine noise low. Solar glass is used throughout, and the side,
rear and roof windows have concealed roller blinds. The seats are a one piece polyester moulding mounted on a reclining linkage mechanism. Cushions are removable and reversible, with different fabrics for summer and winter, and headrests can be adjusted for height or removed for short sightseeing trips. The luggage racks hold the fresh air ducts, and, on their padded undersides, individual air outlets and courtesy lights. Hot air can be blown out from under the seats.
The Fiat/Orlandi Meteor is a coach designed for the top end of the tourist business turismo e grandi itinerari turistici and, as such, it presents many new ideas. Some of these, like the small wheels and the recessed corridor giving easy access, are logical developments which will surely be followed elsewhere. However, the moulded polyester seats with snap-on cushions will need to be carefuIIy assessed in service.
The driving position, far left, is built up, giving excellent visibility and maximum physical and psychological comfort. Controls on the raised dashboard are arranged in functional zones. Beside it is a rear-facing foldaway seat for the guide on sight seeing tours. The interior, left, is deeply carpeted, and padded for safety in accidents; radio equipment is above the courier's seat at the back of the coach.
Every seat, right,has an individual fresh air duct Windows have heat excluding glass and roller sun blinds, held half way down by the hook on the window pillar. The reclining seats are in moulded polyester with individually adjustable headrests and reversible cushions. The back of the coach, left, is simple and logical.



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