A YEAR WITH AN ” 1,100 ” FIAT ” BALILLA “
Last November Harold Biggs told of experiences with his “500″ Fiat. Here B. FitzPatrick tells of a year’s hard motoring with the”500’s” big brother.—
Ed. • *******……………*************• IPURCHASED my ” 1,100 ” Fiat for economy reasons some nine months ago, since it seemed that my 1,750c.c. Alfa-Rorneo was using an unnecessarily large amount of fuel for war-time condi tions. I am one of those fortunate people whose duties in connection with ttero engines still enable me to put in some
20,000 miles a year by road, and since this great blessing has been granted me, I considered that the least I could do was to economise in fuel. I had no previous experience of this type of Fiat, lint had driven sonic short journeys in a Lancia ” A prilia ” belonging to a friend and was fully converted to a desire for a car light in wei!2-111, having
good independent front suspension, and having reasonable road-holding, steering and safety qualities. My first short drive in the ” L 100 ” model Fiat showed me that this car leal all these qualities in a satisfactory degree, and whereas it could not be eon-mare(‘ to the Lancia ” I considered that
it was better value for money, for whereas my 1938 Fiat cost £120, 1 could not get a decent ” Aprilia ” for twice that 541111. The first impressions I got of the Fiat were its good acceleration, good seating
position and the excellent field of vision. On the 130-mile drive home the car’s ability to get round corners, the light steering and the good braking also became C’ v id e nt. During 15,000 miles’ motoring the fuel consumption has averaged, so far as I can judge, 38 M.p.g., although no effort has been made to tune the carburetter. The cruising speed has usually been around 50 not that I regard this as the ” maximum cruising condition,” but this speed has not tisually been
exceeded for tyre economy reasons. On occasions long journeys have been made at cruising speeds of 00-05 m.p.h., and the engine has showed no signs whatever of distress. The maximum speed is, I suppose. not more than 70 in although the speedo meter runs round to 80 m.p.h. at the least provocation. Oil consuniption on my engine is not so good, since the car had
done 30,000 miles before I bought it. I reckon that I put in about it pint every 100 miles at the present time.
Troubles, so far, have been few. At one period I got pronounced vibration at fairly high road speeds, and examination of the rubber discs on the transmission shaft showed that they were badly worn, allowing the shaft to run ” out,” I fitted a shaft modified by having hardy Spicer needle roller universal joints, which cured the vibration but has made the clutch very harsh when moving off from rest, so I shall revert to the rubber discs, having obtained new units from Hanover Motors. This rubber disc type of universal is one of the poorest details of I he car’s design and always gives trouble. The dimes need renewing every 121 5,01H I miles, but replacements are nut expensive. Wear in the front susiyension and steering joints and bushes is fairly pronounced at present, but this is not too bad after 45,090 miles. In a recent letter to your paper Mr. Ian Metcalfe raised this point of i.f.s. wear against the Fiat, pointing out that such wear did not occur on the vintage Bentley, but I would mention that since the Bentley front suspension remains solid under all road conditions, ,there is nothing to cause it to wear out ; the Fiat suspension does its
JO!), but some better means of protecting the bushes from road grit would be an improvement. Tyres are 15 in. by 5.90 in., and I thought that I should have difficulty in
getting replacements because Of the unusual size, but this (lid not prove to be the ease and I got a set of five brand new, pre-war Goodyears, which pleased me immensely. Accessibility of the engine is not too good, but removal of the radiator is quite easy for any major overhaul job, and the engine is light and easily lifted should removal prove necessary. The gearbox
ratios are not all that could be desired, bottom being too low to be of much use, and third does not appear to be sufficiently close to top. The engine layout is normal, being an orthodox 4-cylinder push-rod job, save for the aluminium cylinder head ‘with inserted valve seats, which is nifty admirable, and cuts out all pinking even on Pool. The borelstroke ratio of the engine is good, being 68 by 7.5 inm., but this, of course, puts up the Treasury rating to
12 h.p. by our ridiculous It.A.C. formula. Surely it is time that this stupid method of taxing ears was abolished. A good feature of the construction, for maintenance purposes, is the use of Anchor nuts at all points where the usual nut and bolt would be inaccessible to a spanner, but the layout that makes it necessary to remove the rear shock absorbers for ” topping up ” is very poor. An anti-roll bar is fixed across the rear
shock-absorbers and seems to do its job. The pillarless saloon body is good for loading up bulky packages (I have had a
number of complete car engines alongside the driver’s scat when the passenger’s seat has been removed), but gives rise to rattles. The body lines generally are good, with reas(111a ble streamlining, and the rapidly-sloping bonnet and deep windscreen enable one to sec clearly where One is going, and arc esi>ecially appreciated in tin’ blackout or in fog. The finish of the bodywork generally is poor, but the great thing is that it is light in weight : there are no great ashi formers and baulks of timber that kill acceleration and braking on the usual saloon. The dashboard is Of pressed steel and poor in quality, and the same can be said of the rest of the interior fittings, but I am afraid that bodies fitted up like the lounge of a gin palace (I() not appeal to me. The function of a body is to protect the occupants from the weather, and this purpose should be served by the mininturn weight of material possible. The Fiat is by no means ideal in this respect, for the doors are heavy and the cheap cost price (1198) prohibits the use of light alloys, but it is better than most
in ” all-up ” weight considerations. The chassis frame is lightened throughout by large holes through the central web of the side and cruciform members.
The low first cost must be considered in relation to the poet’ quality of’ the internal fittings. Whilst on the subject of bodywork I would point out that I really prefer an open body, although I do like decent side screens for really rotten weather, when one has to cover some 300 miles on a business journey in the depth of winter.
Another instance of the cheap fittings LS to be found in the ” tin ” sump, but, again, it is light. A beautifully cast aluminium sump may look better on a stationary engine that is not required to accelerate along a road, but it is heavier than ” tin ” and breaks up just as easily if one hits a rock. Electron would, of course, suit all conditions, if you can afford this material. As an engineer I appreciate the desire that many people show for a mass of costly and intricate machined fittings On their motor-ears, but, since the first purpose of the vehicle is to move along a road and not to be a sort of museum of engineering, I think that the first and only consideration should always be how to save weight ; let ns hope that plastics will help towards this after the var.
My own car is sadly in need of a new engine at present, lad this I hope to rectify soon, having acquired a complete spare chassis and another, almost complete. that has done only 7,000 miles, so the best of these engines is being overhauled for installation at an early date. In summing up I would say that for its size the Fiat is the best car that I have ever QwrICT1, the safest, most comfortable, and most economical and, without doubt, the most useful for ordinary A-to-B mOtoring. It is the first of what I call the modern-type cars that I have
owned, my previous cars having included a 1,750-c.c. Alfa, an 11-h.p. and a ” 14.’60 ” Triumph, a speed model open 2-litre Lagonda, a blown ” Ulster ” Austin, a blown F.W.D. Alvis, a ” 12,60 ” A Ivis, a 2-litre 0.M., a T.T. M.G. Magnette, an Austin Twelve, and a ” Hyper ” sports Lea-Francis. So I am not entirely ignorant of the ways of vintage motors. It must be remembered that. the Fiat is not a sports car—it is a small, cheap, family man’s saloon, but how incomparably better is it than the Austin Tea and I fillman ” Minx ” of our usual choice for a motor of this class! But do not consider the Fiat is (ml y a family man’s saloon ; onc aims to do a bit bydieing
it can hold its own with most sports cars of its capacity, and will usually have them well behind in a country with plenty of hills and lots of corners to negotiate. Finally, do not encourage people to compare the Fiat with the I [B.G., Squire, Aston-Martin, Frazer-Nash or other such 12-h.p. sports cars, because they are of greater capacity and cost a good deal more. Mitch less should the vintage Bentley or ” 3098 ” Vauxhall be used for comparison. Compare the Fiat with the Austins, Hillmans and Standards, or such like cars of its own type and class, and then you really do begin to see that the Fiat has ” got Something,”