Produced by the legendary Italian carmaker Fiat, the compact 1100 was produced from 1937 through 1969. The 1100 began its life as an updated version of the 508 'Balilla' and a dual identity as the 508C. With similar looks to the 1936 Fiat 500 'Topolino' and the bigger 1500, the 1100 featured the characteristic heart-shaped front grille and styling by up and coming designer Dante Giacosa.
Under the hood was a 1,089 cc four-cylinder overhead-valve engine and drive arrived at the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox. The 1100 was praised for its comfortable ride, impressive performance for the time and exceptional handling. The 1100 underwent a substantial redesign that involved a revamped front end, new streamlined window-shaped louvres and a new name, the 1100B. The redesigned model also received the nickname '1100 musone' or 'big nose'. Once again the 1100 received a new moniker following WWII in 1949 when the car was redesigned with a curvy trunk and the name 1100E. Used mainly for vans and taxis, the 508C and 1100B were available as the long wheelbase 508L.
Entirely redesigned as a compact four-door sedan in 1953 the 1100 received its new name, 1100/103 after its project number. Along with modern monocoque bodywork, the 1100/103 featured integrated front lights and was available in two different versions; the 'economica' and 'normale'. The 'cheaper' and 'standard' models were joined with a sporty version in the fall of 1953, the 1100TV (Turismo Veloce). This sporty sibling featured a third light in the middle of the grille a bumped up 50 PS (37 kW) in place of the normal 36 PS (26 kW) of the regular models. Drivers could opt for the station-wagon version also with a side-hinged fifth door at the rear.
Debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 1955 was the 1100/103 Trasformabile. A two-seater roadster, the Trasformabile took its design from America and was created by the special bodies division of Fiat (Sezione Carrozzerie Speciali). A total of 571 of these first series were produced and were equipped with the mechanics from the 1100TV. A more robust engine was introduced in 1956 with an additional three more horsepower and an updated rear suspension. 450 more of these updated models were built. The following year the model came with an even more powerful 55 PS (40 kW) '1200' engine with 1,221 cc. Until 1959 production continued with a total of 2,360 of the 1.2-liter Trasformabiles constructed. The biggest difference with the 1.2 was larger headlights and slight modifications to the front and rear design.
Various updates occurred between 1956 and 1960 that included a newly designed grille, dual color dressing, a newly designed grille and small fintails with spear-shaped backlights. Introduced in 1959 was the 1100 Granluce ('Large light'), a special version without the rear-hinged doors featured both fintails and wider windows. One could outfit the Granluce with a new powerful 1,221 cc engine. From 1955 through 1958 the Fiat 1100/103 was also assembled by Premier Automobiles Limited (PAL) in India at its Kurla, Bombay plant. Millecento was the designation of the older model, and the Elegant featured the center light on its front grille. The fintail model debuted as the Millecento in 1958, closely followed by the Select, and then four years later the Super Select arrived in 1962.
The third generation of the 1100 was introduced in 1962, the 1100 D (Delight). Comfortable and plain, the four-door sedan shared many similarities with the Granluce but featured a new simpler rectangular front end and more basic sides. During the early sixties the 1100D was a popular Italian standard. The 1100D had its own Estate or Family car version and a Deluxe model that featured a healthy high performance of 50 PS (37 kW), front bench seat with two reclining back, carpet floor mats and additional side moldings. Until 1966 these vehicles continued on without any major updates. It wasn't until the arrival of the revolutionary 124 that the 1100 had to step it up style-wise.
Premier Automobiles Limited manufactured the Fiat 1100D under license in India in 1964. Originally the car was marketed as the Fiat 1100D, as the Premier President for 1972, and the Premier Padmini from 1974 until 2000 when it was discontinued. A diesel version with a 1366 cc diesel engine was badged as the Premier Padmini 137D in 1993. This version was produced in collaboration with FNM from Italy. Premier Automobiles manufacturing plant closed down in 2000.
The final 1100 model was the 1967 Fiat 1100R (Rinnovata). Featuring similar front styling as the Fiat 124, the 1100R arrived on the scene longer and sleeker with a squared back. The vestigial fins were designed much more hidden than before and the vertical form rear light cluster from the 1100D was replaced with the simple round ones from the Fiat 850. To avoid an overlap with the 124 the 1100R was only available with the senior 1,089 cc engine. With an output of 48 bhp (36 kW) the engine had a compression ratio of 8:1. Though the clutch and gearbox remained the basically the same, a floor mounted gear lever returned and was situated between the front seats and connected to the gearbox with a rod linkage system. Fiat enthusiasts praised this update. Between the differential and the gearbox the propeller shaft was now separated into two parts and three couplings.
Another thankful change for the 1100R was the expanded trunk due to the car's overall lengthening. The fuel tank was placed in the right rear wing and the spare wheel was now found under the floor. For an additional £8 in the UK, reclining front seats could be an option. In 1969 the new middle-class Fiat 128 replaced the 1100R.
In 1957 the 1100T was available as a pickup, van and bus. Powered by an in-line engine with 1,089 cc (type 103 D.007) with 38 PS (28 kW) at 4800 rpm, the 1100T had a top speed of 56 mph. The Fiat 1100 T2 replaced this vehicle in 1959 and featured a boost of power with a 45 PS (33 kW) 1,222 cc engine). Production of this range continued on smoothly until 1971 when the production of the 1100 T4 ceased.Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson