Story by Gijsbert-Paul Berk and friends
In the continuing saga of the Fiat 1100, Gijsbert-Paul Berk presents the line of 1089 cc Fiats from the 1953 Nuovo 103 to the final variant, the 1969 1100 R.
The postwar European economic boom created demand for workers in the industrialized triangle between the cities of Milan, Turin and Genoa. Around 9 million Italians moved from poor rural and mainly agricultural areas to find employment there. During those years, the Italian GPD grew with an average of 5.8% per year, very close to the German growth rate; the purchasing power of the population rose accordingly.
The development of the European Economic Community (EEC) meant a gradual switch from the postwar seller’s markets to buyer’s markets. To tempt buyers, most car European manufacturers (with the exception of Volkswagen) phased out their prewar models and introduced new and state-of-the-art designs to replace them.
To meet this demand, in 1948 Fiat updated the popular ’Topolino’ with the more modern looking 500 C. Two years later came the successor of the 1500. It was the completely new Fiat 1400 with a 1395 cc engine, a unit body construction and a full wide ‘pontoon’ shaped coachwork, clearly inspired by the styling of American cars such as Kaiser-Fraser and Ford.
1953: The“Nuovo” Fiat 1100/103
At the Geneva Motor show in April 1953, Fiat introduced its new 1100. Originally known by its internal project code name as the 1100/103, except for the engine it was a major redesign. Like the larger and up-market Fiat 1400 the new car had a unit body construction, and Fiat worked with the Budd Company in America on the new stampings. Giacosa termed the unit frame ‘bearing chassis’ and resulted in an important weight reduction at a time when cost of production was based upon weight. The Nuovo was 11% lighter than the 1100 E it replaced. Its smaller foot-print also helped. Compared with its predecessor the Nuovo offered slightly more interior space, but its wheelbase was reduced by 8 cm (3.5 inches) and its total length had shrunk with 33 cm (13 inches). Its full-wide rather boxlike body looked less elegant or if you wish, more functional than that of the four-door 1400.
Even if the Nuovo was completely redesigned, it conserved its conventional layout with a front-mounted engine and rear wheel drive through a live rear axle with leaf springs. The independent front suspension was adapted to allow the engine to be moved further forward, and again had coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers.
Giacosa, by now Chief of Fiat’s technical department, was actively involved in the development of the 103. In his memoirs, he writes that his team designed a 944 cc four-cylinder engine in V configuration for the new car. They even made a few prototypes. But the Fiat management feared serious delays caused by testing and tooling and did not want to invest in its production. So, the small V4 was shelved* and the 1,089 cc (66 cu in) OHV four-in-line, with its origins dating back to 1937, was retained. And why not? Over the years, it had proven to be a hard-wearing, reliable and economical machine. The compression ratio was raised from 6.6 : 1 to of 6.7 : 1. Equipped with a single Solex or Weber downdraught carburetor the Nuova 1100 was good for 36 HP (26 kW) at 4,400 rpm.
*Note: Lancia, the other Turinese car manufacturer that same year replaced its Ardea with the Appia. This modern family saloon had a newly designed 1089 cc V4 with overhead valves, producing 38 HP at 4800 rpm. Lancia’s Chief engineer at that time was Antomio Fessia, Giacosa’s former boss at Fiat.
Thanks to its safe and predictable road holding, precise steering and powerful brakes the Nuova 1100 was a pleasant car to drive. But a number of customers wanted more performance.
Therefore at the Salon de l‘Auto in Paris, in October 1953, Fiat presented a more sporting version of the 103, the 1100 TV (for Turismo Veloce, or Fast Touring). It was in fact the first time a major European manufacturer offered a factory tuned ‘high performance’ version of a popular family saloon. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta TI, Austin Cooper, Borgward TS, Ford Cortina GT and Renault Gordini followed later. The 1089 cc, engine of the TV, known as the type 103.006, had a compression ratio of 7.4 : 1, a twin choke Weber carburetor and developed 48 HP (35 kW) at 5400 rpm. The following year the compression ratio was raised to 7.6 : 1, which added another 2 HP. To reduce torsional vibrations caused by the increased engine power the one-piece propeller shaft was replaced by a two-piece one. With a top of 135 km/h (84 mph), the TV was nearly 16 % faster than the standard Nuova 1100. But it was also some 26% more expensive.
Nevertheless, the TV became the favorite of many sporting drivers who needed a four-door family car but liked to participate in races and rallies. Such as the team Perdisa / Masetti Zanini who drove their 1100 TV to 3rd place in the 1300 class in the 1954 Mille Miglia.
1956: The 1100 103 E
In 1956 the 1100/103 received some attention. The new model was coined the 1100 103 E, and it got a much-needed boost in horsepower, from 36 hp to 40 hp in the standard saloon, and from 50 hp to 53 hp for the TV models.
The single headlight (foglight) that helped to quickly identify the TV now became standard, but the performance model continued to be sold as the TV. The 1100 E would continue until the introduction of the 1100 D in October of 1957 after roughly 115,000 were built.
The TV Convertible
Along with the 1100 E series came a significant step for Fiat, the introduction of a small sports car, the 1100 E TV Trasformabile, or convertible in 1955. Although designed with the new U.S. market in mind, the 50 hp engine was not powerful enough to propel the 2,280 lbs. car in a sporting fashion. The body was developed by Fabio Luigi Rapi for Fiats own coachwork department that also took care of its production. Only 571 were constructed before morphing into the 1200 Convertible in 1957, then into the remarkable and definitively Italian 1200 Pinin Farina Spider. The concept eventually evolved to become the Fiat-OSCA 1600 with a much better power to weight ratio.
1957: The 1100 D
In October of 1957, the 1100 D was introduced, and the TV was upgraded to the 1221 cc engine, and the name changed to “1200 Granluce.” The 1100 D, which retained the 1098 cc engine, took on a more modern look and the braking system was improved.
Thanks to the Roosevelt Fiat distributor, The 1100 D was imported to the U.S. in relatively large numbers. The 1100 D series lasted until 1960 when over 150,000 were produced.
1959: The 1100 103 H
The 1089 cc engine, which dated from 1937, just wouldn’t go away. The Deluxe H version came online in 1959 with 50 hp at 5200 rpm. It sported a new grille, rubber inserts in the bumpers and two-tone paint job. This model was offered to fit between the 1100 D and the new 1200 Granluce models.
The Nuova Fiat 1100 would become one of the first ‘world cars’, being produced or assembled in no less than seven countries on five continents: Asia (Mumbai, India), Australia (Melbourne), Europe (Turin, Italy and Neckarsulm, Germany), North Africa (Casablanca, Morocco and Teheran, Iran) and South America (Caseros, Argentina).
NSU and Fiat had a license agreement in place since 1934, which permitted the NSU factory in Neckarsulm, Germany to build Fiat designed cars. After WWII, this agreement was renewed and the cars were marketed as NSU-FIAT and later under the label Neckar.
In the late fifties the Vereinigten Fahrzeugwerke AG Neckarsulm produced the Fiat 500 (Neckar Weinsberg), 600 (Neckar Jagst) and 1100 (Neckar Europa). All of them slightly modified, often more luxurious finished and sometimes sportier than their counterparts made in Turin. But they were also more expensive as a result of the strong Deutschmark and high labor costs. In total 159.731 units of the 1100 Neckar Europe were produced.
When NSU resumed manufacturing motorcycles and also developed its own small car, the NSU Prinz, targeting the same market segments as the Fiats, the Italo-German marriage ended in a divorce.
1966: The 1100 R
By 1962 the range of 1100s with a 1089 cc engine had just about disappeared, replaced by the healthier 1221 cc engine and the cars branded as “1200s.” But even then, the 1089 cc engine was not quite dead yet.
In 1966, it was decided revised the old 1100 body and equip it with the 1089 cc powerplant. This model was originally designed to be built in Pakistan, but was instead made in Italy. It had a floor shift, the same output as the 1221 cc engine, and the body was looking a lot like the new 124. It was billed as the 1100 R (for revised) and a whopping 340,000 were built before the end of production in 1969.
But wait, there’s more. In 1992 the Fiat 1100 was reincarnated, of course in India. The story of the Padmini coming up in VeloceToday.