Veteran - Edwardian - Vintage ., December 1978

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

A section devoted to old car matters…

A rare Fiat:

At the 1919 Olympia Motor Show, Fiat showed two new models. There was the excellent Tipo 501 10/15 h.p., which turned out to be one of the most reliable and popular of small cars. Also shown, was the large 20/30 h.p. six-cylinder Tipo 510. One of these was a Berline on an 11′ wheelbase, but there was also a sports model with a well-shaped V-radiator and very clean lines. This was the 510S, with a 10′ wheelbase. Unfortunately, no pictures of this model were shown, and over the years, photos of this very attractive car have been conspicuous by their absence.

My interest in this Fiat, with its V-radiator, began in the 1920s when my parents, after a succession of Zeros, bought 510S, usually two at a time, in 2-seater, 4-seater, coupé, and saloon forms. We also had one particularly smart aluminium-bodied 501S.

With the schoolboy’s usual avidity for catalogues, I gratefully accepted from H. J. Jones & Co., who were the local New Zealand agents, those showing the larger 505 15/20 and 510 20/30 Fiat models, which they, and I, hoped my parents would buy.

The 510S with its V-radiator and beautiful Italian body was looked on as almost the ideal carriage, and it was well up to any of the other more-complex luxury models shown at this first post-war Show. No price was mentioned for the Sports model, but the 11′ wheelbase open four-seater touring model was priced at £1,500 and no doubt the 510S was approximately the same price. At this time, the 40/50 h.p. Rolls-Royce chassis was priced at £1,550. I note, however, that in 1920 the price of the large Fiat five-seater tourer had been reduced to just under £1,000.

This sports version, really a fast tourer, had a bore and stroke of 75 x 130, and a capacity of 3,446 c.c., side valves, a c.r. of 5 to 1, a double-choke Fiat carburetter of fine appearance, and a Marelli magneto. It developed 53 h.p. Maximum speed was quoted in the catalogue as 60 m.p.h., so its cruising speed would be 50-55 m.p.h. It must be remembered that the 3-litre Bentley at that time only claimed 70 m.p.h. with its 65 h.p.– so the Fiat was not far behind, and I am sure that it was a much more comfortable and reliable vehicle than the complex and noisy Bentley, with its sketchy body.

Before raising the ire of Bentley owners, I freely admit that the Bentley went on to much greater things and that the Fiat was handicapped by very low 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears, no doubt good for Alpine passes, but poor for main-road hills. I am the owner of a Bentley, but of the civilised Crewe variety. I am told The Motor  tested a 501S once and reached 70 m.p.h., but I have not been able to find the article.

The Italian body — designated a “Torpedo Sport Luxe”, is described in glowing terms in the catalogue — “a straight-lined body with streamlined bonnet and scuttle, four seats, special inclined-shaped windscreen, double extension hood with rear lights, side curtains carried up to the windscreen and provided with lights. The hood, when down, concealed in rear of body. Upholstery of antique leather, cabinet work on back of front seats. Map pockets. Luggage carrier. Petrol-tank protector. Two toolboxes.” The finish was claimed to be “extra special luxe”.

From 1919 to 1925 414 of this model were made, the last ones having four-wheel brakes. Quite a number of these came to Australia and New Zealand, but only five are now officially known to exist, two in Australia, two in New Zealand and one in Kilkenny.

Those coming to New Zealand were mostly imported as chassis and fitted with quite handsome locally-made bodies, rather similar to some English bodies fitted to this chassis. Open two and four-seater coupés were produced. I know of no saloons here, but the Queen of Siam had a rather unattractive limousine, illustrated in the Bolaffi Fiat catalogue.

My own car, of 1921 vintage, is the oldest 510S officially known. It has a body by Richard Mann of Kensal Road, London, and has been converted to well-base rims and front-wheel brakes from a  520. The latter were an optional extra, anyhow. It has a long history of owners, but was mechanically restored by David Barker of Palmerston North, from whom I purchased the car. Subsequently I arranged for a Fiat carburetter to be fitted (2nd Series) and for complete restoration of the upholstery, dashboard, and I fitted a rear windscreen. The car was then painted Torino red.

Driving this car is pleasant, once on the move. Cruising speed is 45 m.p.h., but not much more than 25 m.p.h. is safe once reduced to third. The steering is very high-geared, one turn from lock to lock. It is not, therefore, a car for vintage gymkhanas. Once on the move, however, a few degrees of movement get you round the corner.

Petrol consumption is 15 m.p.g. as claimed in the catalogue, and oil consumption is negligible. The gear change needs some practice but is soon mastered and the engine is commendably smooth.

The other 510S in New Zealand belongs to Mr. Alton Harrison of Levin. He has recently had the car smartened with a new coat of paint and general refurbishing. This car has the original beaded wheels, and a V-windscreen similar to the Italian sports model. It is much faster than mine, having been fitted with twin SUs. It is a 1922 model and it has had the radiator stripped down to bare copper, which gives it a rather striking appearance.

Both 510S’s competed in the International Rally held in the South Island in 1972. My car suffered from a defective magneto and it was expedient to stop at the top of a hill, or near another competitor who did not mind giving you a tow. I also had some difficulty with the fuel supply, due to a defective float chamber in the dashboard tank. In this model there is a mechanical pump which creates positive pressure in the rear tank. This forces the petrol into the dashboard tank, whence it goes by gravity to the carburetter. The defective float in the dashboard tank led to a terrifying experience every now and again, heralded by a strong smell of petrol. On opening the bonnet, petrol could be seen spraying plentifully over the hot engine. For some reason no fire ever occurred. This fault has been corrected and the car is now very reliable. (I have heard of this inflammatory tendency on a 40/50 Fiat — Ed.)

Fiat made many famous sports cars in the past, including the 75/90 h.p. Taunus of 1908/09, the S61 of 10-litres in 1911-1913, the 519S of magnificent appearance, and the 8V of 1952-1954, not to mention the Ballila. Many still consider the Fiat Dino as the most attractive sports saloon.

I have no doubt that they all gave as much pleasure as I get, trundling along, perched high, behind that V-radiator, with the wind whistling round me, giving a much greater impression of speed than the 45 m.p.h. indicated on the speedo of my 510S Torpedo Sport.

Graham B A Cowie

 

 

You may also like

Related products