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SNAPSHOT 341: 1954 Fiat 1100 Familiare

The Fiat 1100 (Model 103) was a small family car produced from 1953 to 1969 as the all-new monocoque replacement for the chassis-built 1100 E, which in turn descended from the pre-war Fiat 508 C Balilla 1100. This new 1100 developed steadily until replaced by the new Fiat 128 in 1969. The 1100 and its larger sister car the 1950 Fiat 1400 were the two first truly new post-war Fiats; both had modern three-box pontoon bodies. But the engine of the 103 1100 was not new. First seen in 1937 in the 508 C Balilla, the 1,089cc overhead valve four-cylinder was fed by a single Solex or Weber downdraught carburettor, and put out 36 PS at 4,400 rpm – only one horsepower more than on the 1100 E. The 4-speed manual transmission had synchromesh on the top three speeds and a column-mounted gear change, fashionable at the time. The car’s top speed was 72 mph.

The Familiare version was launched at the 1954 Geneva Motor Show. It was a 5-door estate, named 1100 Familiare on its home market but variously called the 1100 Family, 1100 Familiale, 1100 Kombiwagen or 1100 Familiar in English-, French- German-, and Spanish-speaking markets respectively. The tailgate was side-hinged, and the vinyl-covered rear bench could be folded down to form a flat loading surface, able to carry a load of 300 kg. A third row of two forward-facing jump seats could accommodate a fifth and sixth passenger; they folded level with the boot floor when not in use.

The Familiare was identical to the saloon apart from taller tyres – which means that the car in our Snapshot must be the more luxurious Tipo B, with the clearly visible chrome exterior trim. The Tipo B also came with bench front seats, heater and ventilation, and a choice of paint colours and interior fabrics. Despite its appearance at this Concorso d’Eleganza with obligatory beautiful young lady, this particular example did not have the optional factory-fitted whitewall tyres – but may have had the optional radio.

A final distinguishing feature of the 103 is the hinging of both doors on the centre pillar; this would not change until 1960 when the 1100 adopted the more modern bodyshell of the 1200 saloon.

There were other versions of the 1100. The 1100 TV was the Turismo Veloce (Fast Touring) with 12 and then 14 more horsepower – and a two-piece propeller shaft to dampen torsional vibrations from the increased engine output. The 1100 TV Trasformabile, a two-seater roadster, was introduced in March 1955 at the Geneva Motor Show. And from 1954 to 1956 Pininfarina independently built and sold a 2-door 2+2 coupé based on 1100 TV mechanicals, in a small series.

As the years passed there were many more versions of the 1100, with more powerful engines and modified exterior appearance – but all were developed from the dependable and stylish original from 1953.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

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