Luxury, Sumptuous Appointments and 100 m.p.h. All for £1,263
ITALIAN CAR, ENGLISH VILLAGE.— The Fiat 2300 outside the thatched Post Office at Lasham in Hampshire, which will no doubt be remembered by personnel posted to Airfield during the Second World War.
HAVING to write this last-minute road-test report on the eve of the Festive Season, I was reminded irresistibly of those parodies of motor journalists in “The Autocar-Biography of Owen John” (Iliffe, 1927). Proceeding along these lines, but substituting Fiat for the fictitious Boomje that Owen John introduces, I could write :—
“In the course of a few days’ testing all manner of road conditions were encountered, but so noiseless was the 6-cylinder engine, except for a certain constrained suggestion of eagerness, so well-sprung the vehicle, that all roads and pace were alike. No departure from ordinary useage has been considered necessary in the number of road wheels, and the gear lever is on the steering column. England may be congratulated on the new arrival which will, we doubt not, become speedily popular.—The Daily Wail.
Or: “The Lampriedi-designed, Weber-carburetted Tipo 114B Fiat 2300 engine has a bore and stroke of 78 x 79.5 mm., 2,279 c.c., and inclined o.h. valves actuated by an ingenious push-rod mechanism from a base camshaft. The rear suspension has abandoned coil-cum-quarter-elliptic leaf springs for half-elliptics and the all-synchromesh gearbox provides forward speeds of 13.82, 8.17, 6.03 and 4.3 to 1. The car was shod with 6.40 x 14 Ceat DR52 nylon whitewall tyres.”— The Motocar.
Or, continuing to parody: “Oh! Michael! Michael! Carry me ‘ome to my rocky nest ere I burst with enthusiasm. All right! All right! You know I never look under a bonnet but I know a well-upholstered seat when I see one. And I sat on one all the way to Hampshire, praising this car—I think its called a Fy-hat—until if it had heard half the nice things we said it would have cracked its brake discs with conceit.” —The Monday Distress.
Enough! But all these things would be true of the Fiat 2300, which is a remarkable combination of compact, fully-equipped, high-performance luxury car at a very modest price. It seats six on its bench seats and the front squabs adjust right down to the horizontal, bed position. Wembley is very proud of the imitation leather upholstery but, although very comfortable, to me it has a beach-ball texture inferior to real hide. There is lavish use of lights (10 in all) on the facia, indicating hand-brake on, lights on, choke out and low fuel supply, as well as the usual ones, but Fiat make cosmopolitan cars and this will go well in America, as will push-buttons for lamps, heater-fan, facia-lighting and wipers. In any case, there are clear dials for oil pressure, dynamo charge, fuel contents and temperature, below the horizontal ribbon thermometer. Also, an accurate electric clock.
The gear-lever works satisfactorily of its kind and a long r.h. stalk controls lamps and daylight dipped flashing, a short one above it the turn-indicators, both operating lightly and with precision.
This Fiat, although selling here for £1,263 5s. 5d., tax paid, is well-finished, has doors that shut like a symbol of luxury and good-living, and is lavishly equipped with side and rear window de-misting; quarter-windows all round, the front ones with wing-nut handles; dipping mirror; boot and bonnet illumination; front and rear courtesy roof lamps; lockable illuminated glove locker; safety belt fittings; under-facia shelf; parcel-nets, grab-handles and dual ash-trays on the back of the front seat squabs; roof grab-handles; full horn-ring; and that very excellent toot control of washers-cum-overlapping, efficient screen-wiper blades. Another sensible detail is a subdued flood of light over the cigar-lighter and controls for the very good heater whenever the exterior lamps are in use. A hand-throttle is provided.
A reversing lamp is fitted but this came on when I rested my hand on the gear-lever in top gear—I apologise humbly to the Zephyr driver who pulled out all the stops along A30 and finally stopped me in Sunningdale to inform me of this dangerous fault. . . .
In keeping with its luxury demeanour, the Fiat runs quietly, save for wind-noise round the front quarter-lights, has a very flexible engine, quiet gears, and stops with power and precision without effort, thanks to Girling disc brakes on all wheels, the servo of which functions with only the slightest lag.
The engine develops 105 net b.h.p. at 5,300 r.p.m. on an 8.8-to-1 c.r., making many sports car engines seem puny. Fuel consumption was checked under highly unfair conditions, mostly in London, where in spite of Marplean vapourings, the jams are still notorious—has the M.O.T. tried driving the length of the Embankment at 6 p.m. or entering the City over London Bridge on any week-day? Even so, 23.4 m.p.g. was obtained; the engine preferred Esso premium (not 100-octane) to Shell petrol, pinking on the latter. There is a lockable flap over the filler of the 13.25-gallon tank. In 360 miles no oil was used.
From a luxury saloon, performance comes as a surprise. Top speed is 101 m.p.h., with 73 available in 3rd gear, and 0-60 m.p.h. takes 14.5 sec., 0-80 m.p.h. 27.5 sec., the s.s. quarter-mile 19.3 sec. Such acceleration makes light of congested traffic.
The rear suspension may have been changed but it is, still too soggy and, in conjunction with steering that is not particularly precise and low-geared at over 3 turns lock-to-lock of the large, high-set steering wheel, the handling is a disappointment in what is, after all, a fast car. When I get older and enjoy straights rather than corners I shall have nothing but praise for this Fiat 2300. In detail it is reasonably similar to the 2100 of which I wrote very enthusiastically in Motor Sport in August 1960, but dual headlamps now blend well with the modern Farina styling.
Anything else you wish to know will doubtless be supplied willingly by Fiat (England) Ltd., Water Road, Wembley, Middlesex, and I will conclude this Christmas-eve report by asking, where else can you buy a too-m.p.h. luxury saloon of similar specification for such a small outlay ?—W. B.