I always say how great it is to be receiving e-mails from Fiat 1100 owners and enthusiasts from around the world. Last week, I published a readers e-mail from Australia.
The reader kindly followed up with some more details about their cars, and the Fiat 1100 in Australia:
I’ll come clean now and tell you I am an absolute Fiat 1100 nut. I have the following:-
1953 1100 103 series. This was made in the first few months of production and you are right. They are nice and light and they go extremely well. Much better acceleration than the later cars. I found this car in Canberra, capital city of Australia and about 800km from where we live. It was a garden ornament for 10 years just collecting leaves and rust unfortunately and it was given to me free of charge if I would restore it. I got it running but still have not finished the body.
1958 1100 TV Spider. I imported this car from Mexico and it is being restored at present.
1959 Stanguellini Formula Junior racing car which was based on Fiat 1100.I imported this one from France. Car 40 in the photos above.
1959 Moretti Formula Junior racing car. I imported this from Florida.
1959 Fiat 1100 Export… bought in Brisbane and cleaned up carefully. I had to travel 4000km to collect it and bring it back. It is a 70,000 mile original car. I use it in events.
1962 Fiat 1100D. I only got this a month ago… 39,000 miles from new and just fantastic. I have attached an article I wrote about getting it.
You are right about the nostalgia. Every time I drive an 1100 someone will come up and say “I learnt to drive in one of those”, or “we went for our honeymoon in one of those”, etc.
I might also tell you I have a large collection of other Italian cars but I really enjoy the Fiats. We used to have a farm where I had lots of sheds and could store cars. The Australian climate is reasonably favourable provided they are covered. When we sold the farm I bought a factory in the city to store my cars and to restore them.
Owner of a 1960 Fiat Super Select, Damodaran holds the key to Premier Padmini’s past
In the pantheon of timeless Fiats, the 1100/103 occupies a minor throne. It can’t be mentioned in the same breath as the Alfa Romeo, the Grande Punto, not even the Il Topolino. The 1100/103 was among cars Fiat S.p.A began to make for third-world markets in the 1950s. Functionality was the watchword. The frills were kept to the minimum.
But the Italian automobile major tried to make the 1100 as nice-looking as a limited budget would allow. A spurt of models from 1953 to 1960 is evidence of this effort. These models differed from one another in a minor way.
The changes primarily involved the grille, the rear lights and the car’s overall shape, which gradually moved from slightly round to strikingly rectangular.
Introduced in India in 1954, a year after its launch, the 1100 was known by many names, depending on the changes. So, we had the Millecento, Elegant, Select, Super Select, 1100 Delight, Premier President and Premier Padmini.
When the Premier Padmini was in production, it was easy to maintain the older 1100s. Owners used mechanical parts manufactured for the Padmini. Padmini’s meters also made it to the dashboard of these cars.
K. Damodaran’s 1960 Super Select does not use a tape, but a pointed needle to indicate speed. Not just the speedometer, the car has borrowed the whole dashboard from a Padmini.
Damodaran bought the Super Select in 1990 and sourcing a Padmini dashboard, complete with the meters, was not a challenge. As he runs an automotive garage and consultancy, fitting in the alien piece and making the corresponding alterations were not difficult either.
He has given the driver’s corner a makeover — the sporty wooden steering and a cabinet are some of the elements of this alteration.
In his defence, he has preserved certain features that are highly characteristic of this model. They include the side beadings, thinner than those of a Padmini. The car retains its emblem — a stainless steel rod that bisects the bonnet and is crowned by the shape of a bird. Most 1100s such as the Elegant have emblems that are not crowned by any intricate artwork in metal.
These features, together with the front-opening front doors, the less pointed taillights and the convex grille with checks, help you distinguish this Super Select from any of its closely resembling cousins, older and younger.
This most recent e-mail from a reader of this website came from Australia – making it three e-mails from three continents. I’m thrilled already at the responses I’m getting from people about the little Fiat 1100. This e-mail came from quite a Fiat nut in Australia. This was the first part of our correspondence:
I found your web site today and wanted to let you know I have several Fiat 1100s in Australia. From 1959 through to 1962 they were imported in knocked down condition and assembled in Sydney.
They were quite popular here but you never see them now. My earliest is a 1953 103 model and just recently I have purchased a 39,000 mile one owner 1962 model.
I have a very large quantity of new parts if you need help. I will be happy to send you details and photos of the cars if you wish.
Following on from the story I found about the Fiat 1100 on The Hindu website / newspaper, I checked out to see if there were any more. And, given the prevalence of the Fiat 1100 up until more recently, it’s no surprise there’s more stories available from that publication.
Jayaram and his sons patiently sourced one part after another to give their Fiat Millecento a fine makeover
In the 1950s, the Fiat 1100/103 was subjected to a series of changes and re-launches. Despite the redesigning frenzy, the models were not radically different in their core design. Yet each variant has special features which attract serious collectors, who generally have preferences for one model over another. Knowledgeable collectors, Jayaram (in picture) and his sons Srikumar and Jaikumar love the Millecento more than any other 1100.
“In contrast to any other car in the 1100 family, the Millecento supports the spare wheel on an L-shaped bracket in the boot. The upper and lower portions of a taillight are uniformly red. In the Elegant, the upper portion is orange and the lower, red. We also loved the triple slat grille and the dashboard which sported a Millecento badge,” says Jaikumar. “We resisted offers of Selects and Super Selects for Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 30,000 and waited for a Millecento.”
They found their car in Puducherry; but the 1956 Millecento displayed signs of capricious maintenance.
“A square lattice Super-Select grille had taken the place of the triple slat grille. The dashboard was studded with Ambassador Mark IV meters. The knobs on the dashboard were not Millecento’s. All lights, on the front and back, had been replaced.”
Patiently, the men sourced one Millecento part after another. “Millecento knobs are of ivory colour. We sourced from eBay knobs that come close to the original.”
From paint to upholstery, the Millecento underwent a thorough change.
When Jaikumar and Srikumar went to Puducherry recently on a rally, the mechanic who had sold the car to them was stuck with disbelief. “He took our permission to take the Millecento and show it to his friends.”
They consider this the best compliment they have ever received.
The Premier Padmini is what the Fiat 1100 is known as in India. It is a story from The Hindu website / newspaper. Even in India, where the 1100 was made for years after it was discontinued elsewhere, it seems that finding spare parts is as much of a problem as it is for me here in Ireland.
Praveen sent his Premier Padmini to the scrap yard to free up space in his garage. Today, he regrets that hasty decision. Many can relate to this. Premier Padminis and other Fiat 1100s have become a rare sight; and those gripped by nostalgia for these cars can’t easily get hold of one. The situation is not unique to Chennai. Every other metro has been registering a sharp fall in Fiat 1100 numbers. To protect and cherish this Fiat, a synonym for car travel to generations of Indians, exclusive 1100 clubs have been formed in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Lucknow and Hyderabad.
Among their objectives is preventing these cars from going to the scrap yard. After saving the Fiats from this familiar fate, these clubs face the challenge of providing support to owners in restoring these cars.
“Sourcing Fiat 1100 parts is becoming an uphill task. The body and rubber trims are impossible to get,” says C.S. Ananth, who has a 1989 Premier Padmini. “Morris Minor, which is found in plentiful numbers around the world and has humungous owners’ clubs, is helped by companies prepared to make their parts. Because they are considerably fewer, Fiat 1100 don’t evoke a similar response from auto parts manufacturers. Even in Mumbai, where a small number of Padminis still ply as taxis, such help has not come for the 1100.”
“A few parts that are being specifically made for the Fiat 1100 are not of a quality that matches the original. A North-India based company has made 1,000 Millecento taillight lenses available. A pair of this lens sells for Rs. 400 to Rs. 1,500 around the country. While such products may not meet high standards, the underlying attempt to provide parts for the 1100 is heartening,” says Jaikumar, owner of a 1956 Millicento.
Only if the 1100 goes up considerably in the estimation of classic car collectors, production of parts specific to them can be expected. At present, except for the Elegants, the Millecentos and other 1100s from the 1950s and early 1960s, a Fiat in running condition fetches a price somewhere between Rs.20,000 and Rs.30,000. Ananth says a well-restored Fiat 1100 will fetch an attractive price. “People are slowly waking up to the ‘classic’ value of the 1100.”
Jaikumar strikes a less optimistic note. “Only the earlier 1100 models evoke considerable interest. It will take some more time before all models appear equally interesting.”
Among positive signs is the fancy for the S1, Premier Padmini’s swansong. This car, which was manufactured in the second half of the 1990s, is desired due to some of its unique features. “It came with the 118NE’s gearbox. It had the stock 1098 cc engine, but got a new head that was made in collaboration with an Austrian company,” says Jaikumar. “The coming generations will find it more interesting than we do. But the Fiat’s future lies in our hands.”
A rush of memories
For many, the Fiat 1100 is imbued with nostalgia. This is especially true of those who were into car rallies a few decades ago; and also car racers at Sholavaram. C.S. Ananth used to rally and race in a 1971 Fiat, which he gave up when Maruti 800 came on the scene in the Eighties. Ananth preserved the past by keeping all the special equipment, indispensable during rallies and races. Three years ago, Ananth picked up a 1989 Fiat and modified it into a rally car. The preserved parts, including a Halda special pilot, roll cage, a circuit breaker, and a sump guard, went into the new Fiat.
Ranjit Pratap, who has some of the choicest classic cars, is specially attached to his 1957 Fiat Elegant for the torrent of childhood memories it brings. Ranjit took a lot of trouble restoring it. When he went to inspect the car in Salem, there was nothing in it that he could write home about. After setting it on its four wheels, he faced the headache of sourcing parts unique to Fiat Elegant. It is customary for owners of Fiat 1100s to make do with parts from other Fiats within the 1100 family. Instead of taking the path of least resistance, he made arrangements for sourcing Elegant parts from various places in the country. For a few others, he made contact with Fiat associates in Italy. The restoration took two long years. For a car that now takes him decades back, says Ranjit, this was not too big a task.
This Fiat 1100 in Michigan, USA, must be a very rare car. It was brilliant to get this e-mail from a fellow Fiat 11oo state side.
Hi, I just found your website. I also have a 1959 1100 Millecento, not as nice as yours, but it spend most of it’s life in a barn here in Michigan, USA. Most of our cars rust away, but this one is pretty solid.
I have only driven it about a 1/2 mile since I bought it last year, I hope to drive it a bit further this year. I have fixed the brake master cylinder and front brakes, I am having trouble getting the rear brake drums off, but hope to replace the rubber parts in the rear brakes, and the driveshaft rubber joint soon.
It’s nice to meet another 103D owner.
I asked a few questions about the car, and what work was being done to it. The reader kindly responded again, and sent on a few photographs as well.
Yes, my Millecento is rare in these parts, I don’t believe I ever saw one before. I found it for sale on the side of the highway and since I did not recognize it, I almost had to buy it.
I have been working to make it mechanically sound and hope to drive it around a bit this summer. I have been working the brakes but so far have not gotten the rear drums off, and I certainly do not want to damage them. I have a couple of pullers that I have used on other cars, but they do not fit the bolt pattern on the Fiat.
My current plan is to drive the car a little bit with the big nut that holds the brake drum on loosened up a couple of turns and see if that does not break the drum loose from the axle spline. If not I will have to come up with a different puller. And different bolts, on my car the left side wheel bolts are left hand thread.
My car has surprisingly little rust, I think it spent a lot more time in a garage or barn than it did on the road. The speedometer cable is disconnected, but it only reads 10,583 miles. I doubt it has 20,000 actual miles on it. I spent many years working as a mechanic, so I am pretty well equipped to deal with it.
I do have a service manual for it, but getting the master cylinder off was a bit of a challenge. It is very difficult to find any spare parts for the car. So far I have obtained front brake cylinder seals from Australia, brake hoses from Argentina, and I repaired the master cylinder using repair parts for a Wilwood racing master cylinder, only slight modifications were needed to make it fit.
I have attached a few pictures that I took when I first bought it, I hope to have some better ones soon, at least a little bit polished up.
This was the first e-mail I received from a reader of this website. It’s great to hear from a fellow owner. The car in the picture they sent looks in fantastic condition as well.
I was surfing online for more info on Fiat 1100, and was delighted to find your excellent page.
I’m from Pune, India (100kms from Mumbai), and a keen 1100 enthusiast myself. I’m sure you would know of the Indian connection with the 1100 – they were made in various guises from 1954 to 1997 in Mumbai. Mumbai city still has around 40,000 of them running as cabs, but they will soon be ordered off the road.
Between me and a dear friend, we plan to own every model of the 1100 available in India, and we are quite close (14 cars so far – only one to go!). Only a couple are presentable though all are runners.
Your car really looks like it has been well looked after, and I see you’ve owned it from new. Was this the original colour? Would you have any literature/spec sheets on the original colours and upholstery options supplied?
Attached is a picture of my friend’s prize winning 1957 1100 ‘Elegant’ (as it was called in India). He also owns a 61 and I own a 60, both identical to your car.
It’s been a few months since I did the original work on the website, but I have some updates planned now over the coming weeks. I’ll be publishing some great e-mails received from some readers, and some interesting Fiat and vintage car related stories from newspapers and across the internet.
Remember, if you have a Fiat 1100 yourself, or any stories or connections with a Fiat 1100, or just want to share your memories of the car, please drop me an e-mail via the contact page. I’d love to hear from you.