The Fiat 1,100 TV
Shortly after spending a pleasant week-end road-testing the Fiat 1,100 saloon, which report appeared in Motor Sport last month, we were able to try the faster Fiat 1,100 TV, or Turismo Veloce.
In the matter of controls and most of the detail this model is the same as its more sober brother and to write of these matters would be to recapitulate what appears on pages 402-403 of the July issue. It is in the engine that the 1,100 TV differs from the normal Tipo 103 model. The compression-ratio is 7.6 to 1 instead of 6.7 to 1, the carburetter is a twin-choke Weber 36DC 103 in place of a Solex, and the bearings are copper-lead indium. This results in a power increase of 14 h.p., from 36 b.h.p. at 4,400 r.p.m. to 50 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. and a claimed increase in maximum speed of approximately 12 m.p.h. In actual fact, so fast is the ordinary Fiat that we would set the difference at about 8 m.p.h.
To combat propeller-shaft vibration at this higher speed the shaft on the 1,100 TV is in two portions, with central support. In addition, the body is better finished, the test car having imitation-leather upholstery, with toffee-coloured steering wheel and control-lever knobs to match, a pale grey washable head-lining, and generous chromium-plating of trimmings and exterior mouldings. The front compartment is carpeted with moquette, with rubber footrests. The bench front seat of the normal 1,100 Fiat is replaced by separate armchair seats to afford proper driver support, these having backrests adjustable by screwing in or out two bolts. The TV is recognisable also by its central spot-lamps incorporated in the chromium-plated radiator grille and the "1,100 TV" and "Fiat Officine Lingotto Corrozzeise Speciall" motifs on the body sides. The facia motif merely reads "Fiat 1,100." The colour scheme is duo-tone, maroon and black on the test car, which in conjunction with the Pirelli Stelvio white-wall tyres looks exceedingly smart.
In practically all other respects the 1,100 TV is identical to the normal 1,100 Fiat and the same steering-column gear-change, pleasant of its kind, is employed.
The higher maximum speed is useful but the most noticeable and to our mind valuable aspect of the TV is the better acceleration afforded. The improvement is in the order of six seconds from rest to 50 m.p.h., and eleven seconds in the 0-60 m.p.h. range, with all that this implies in respect of safe passing of slower traffic and a sustained high average speed over give and take roads, an especially pleasing feature in a small saloon motor car. At lower speeds there is little improvement in acceleration, for the TV engine is one which develops its power when it is turning over fast. The increase in maxima in the indirect ratios (which are unchanged) is also not great, being 35, 50 and 70 m.p.h. against 25, 45 and 62 m.p.h., which we noted in our road-test report on the normal 1,100. The maximum in top gear is about 84 m.p.h.
The improved acceleration, however, is well worth having, even though it is achieved at the cost of appreciable engine noise and, in the case of the car tested, more than a trace of unpleasant petrol fumes.
Certainly, the Fiat 1,100 TV is in no sense a temperamental, highly-tuned car. It starts promptly from cold with a minimum of choke, idles with no sense of anxiety and uses very little more petrol than the normal 1,100, while there is no trace of pinking or running on. In a distance of 563 miles no oil or water replenishment was required.
The handling characteristics are unchanged, the suspension rather supple, yet rolling never excessive on corners, the steering heavy for parking but light enough at speed, if not exactly precise, and the brakes adequate rather than powerful and "so-so" in feel. The steering wheel is placed well clear of the instrument board, but the driver sits rather far from the screen, which, however, implies no criticism under the heading of visibility. High marks for the interior trim, appearance and luggage capacity (although the handle of the boot lid did its best to chop off one's thumb on the number plate). There were no irritating body rattles.
The price of the Fiat 1,100 TV in this country is £750, or £1,063 12s. 6d. inclusive of p.t. George Symonds, well-known supporter of FIII racing, recently took delivery of one of these Fiats and has told us that he is well satisfied with it.
A Steady Special
A 7-seater saloon car of vast dimensions doing about 16 m.p.g. may be excellent for a man with a big family, but Ronald Barker, well known for his love of old cars large and small, is a bachelor and much as he liked his 1934 Lancia Astura saloon it wasn't a very useful possession. Once owned by General Studd and fitted with numerous ventilators and air-ducts, including one to direct hot air from the engine compartment onto its owner's feet, Barker bought this Lancia cheaply because it was said to have cracked pistons and then proceeded to drive it 6,500 miles, after which he dismantled the engine — and the pistons were cracked.
He then hit upon the idea of converting this likeable car into a compact open car, in fact a "shortastura."
The wheelbase was reduced to 8 ft. 1in. from 11 ft. 10 in. by cutting the chassis, the rejoined rear portion being set at an angle to provide the fashionable downward rake to the rear ½-elliptic springs. Mostly the chassis otherwise remained unaltered, gearbox and axle ratios remaining the same (with a final-drive ratio of 4.27 to 1) but the brakes were converted to hydraulic actuation, using wheel cylinders from a 1927 Chrysler with larger pistons for the trailing than for the leading shoes, all the trailing shoes having softer linings than the others. Lockheed actuation is used at the back and a Clayton vacuum-servo motor is employed, using the existing linkage. At the back of the chassis an additional box-section cross-member is used behind the seats. Girling shock-absorbers from a Morris Six damp the back springs while the normal Lancia coil-spring i.f.s. is naturally retained.
A modern all-enveloping body shell was made for the car by A. G. Shaw of Sandgates, the bonnet, which hinges forward to give access to the engine, being ex-DB2 Aston Martin, but the front mudguards remain in place when it is raised.
Barker could easily have played off this imposing-looking motor car as a "special" but instead the Lancia grille, cut down a foot, graces the front of the car. The radiator core is adapted from a Morris van and has a modified Ford Ten header tank above it, the cooling being rather too adequate, normal temperature range being 70 deg. to 80 deg. C.
The interesting 17 deg. V8 3-litre engine was stripped and rebuilt, and considerably smartened up in the process. Martlett pistons have raised the compression-ratio from 5.4 to 1 to 6.0 to 1. Barker purposely keeping the compression-ratio low, as one day he intends to apply a mild boost with a G-type Centric supercharger. The inlet valves were increased in diameter, but the normal valve-lift and timing are employed. Likewise, carburation is standard, with a Zenith twin-choke downdraught carburetter, although slightly bigger jets are used and the tiny chokes changed from 23 to 25. Normal Bosch twin-contact-breaker coil ignition is retained. Originally this engine developed 82 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m. and, slightly bored out to dimensions of 75 mm. by 85 mm., it now achieves 5,000 r.p.m. in top gear, its output being estimated as about 95-100 b.h.p.
As the weight of the Lancia has been reduced from 37 ½ cwt. to 8 ¼ cwt. with full tank, the performance is naturally exciting, being sufficient to win a race at the V.S.C.C. Oulton Park Meeting at 67.2 m.p.h.
Barker intends to install an overdrive but for the present he compromises with 17 in. by 6.00 in. back tyres, the front wheels being shod with the original 16-45 covers and the spares, which lie flat in the tail, being 16 in. by 6.50 in.
On the occasion of the V.C.C. Silver Jubilee, finding ourselves in Cheltenham, and having located Barker ("Steady" to his friends), darting about in his diminutive 1922 Baby Peugeot on time-keeping duties, we persuaded him to take time off to show us the Lancia, which we were able to sample.
Brief acquaintance with this modified Astura explains why Barker was loth to scrap the car. The gear-change, by an absolutely-rigid, man-sized central lever, is sheer delight, cog-swopping being a matter merely of moving the left hand as quickly as possible. The clutch is absolutely complimentary, the pedal being beautifully light and balanced in action, yet with no trace of slip.
The brakes are powerful, with a sort of self-wrapping feel, and on corners you take great handfuls of steering wheel, for the Lancia wheel is of generous proportions and kick-back is evident over bad surfaces. The H.W.M. racing seats seem lost in the width of the body, so that driver and passenger have bags of elbow room. The view over the wide bonnet is imposing, the driver protected by a curved Perspex screen, the passenger by an aero-screen, although this is a temporary arrangement, as a full-width screen made specially by a Worcester firm proved to be half an inch higher one side than the other when delivered! Smarter seats will be fitted in due course and the car finished in Italian racing red. We hope, too, that a better silencer will figure in the specification, as at present the noise is shattering in the extreme.
A small speedometer calibrated in k.p.h. showed that 60 m.p.h. is safe in third gear and in top a maximum of 90-10 m.p.h. is obtainable along brief stretches of straight road. We made a very casual 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration check and the time came out at 13.8 seconds. Corners taken fast produce not an iota of roll, but call for some effort in manipulating the tiller.
Altogether this special Lancia Astura is enormous fun to drive and it is a car possessing very real, if stark, performance for a not excessive expenditure of money, and to the tune of about 20 m.p.g. It seems to us quite the best fate that could have befallen an unnecessarily large 1934 saloon.