Save the Fiat 1100

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.

Save the Fiat 1100

The Hindu

May 11th, 2010

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.

The Hindu | Fiat 1100

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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.

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Readers e-mail from Michigan, USA

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.

Readers Fiat 1100, Michigan, USA

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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.

Readers Fiat 1100, Michigan USA

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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.

Readers Fiat 1100, Michigan, USA

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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.

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Readers e-mail from Pune, India

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.

Readers Fiat 1100, Pune, India

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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.

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Website updates coming in the next couple of weeks

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.

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New Road Test Added – Motoring Life, February 1958

Back in the 1950’s the enthusiast’s source of car news was the Irish magazine, Motoring Life. The Autocar and The Motor were around, but it was well known that they were never openly critical, especially of British cars of the time. 

I have just published the first section of my commentary on the Motoring Life road test for the Fiat 1100, published in 1958.

You can read that by clicking here.

I’d love to know your thoughts on that – come back here after reading the road test and post your comments.

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Welcome to FIAT1100.net

This website is about my car, one of the few surviving examples of an almost forgotten family car that was popular in Ireland from the late 1950’s to the mid-1960’s.

It is also about the FIAT 1100 in general, known as the Millecento, and referred to in Fiat’s advertising of the day as “the magic Millecento”.

My name is Dermot MacShane and I am the owner of the FIAT 1100 that is the focus of this website, Fiat1100.net. The car, SYI 67, was purchased in 1959 by my father and has remained in the family ever since.

One of my main reasons for setting up this website is to try to find anyone, particularly in Ireland, who may have a similar Fiat 1100. I’m very interested in hearing from you to share stories and information.

I’d also love to hear from you if you’d like to share any memories or stories that you may have about the Fiat 1100.

Finally, I’d also be interested in hearing from anyone who may have any stock of spares for the Fiat 1100.

If you match any of those categories, please check out the Contact Page and drop me an e-mail – I’d love to hear from you.

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