Rumblings, May 1955
Round-the-Houses in a Fiat 600
On March 23rd an important function took place at the “Bull,” Gerrard’s Cross, when Dr. Prosio of Fiat (England) Ltd., held a Press viewing of the new Fiat 600. The invited journalists came in diverse ways, Laurence Pomeroy of the Motor in his immaculate 1914 “Prince Henry” Vauxhall, Dudley Noble of Milestones and party in a couple of vast Daimler-Hire Daimlers, while the Editor of Motor Sport was the only journalist to comply with the dictum that the correct place for your car’s engine is at the back !
After lunch Dr. F.P. Prosio announced the price of the new baby Fiat to be £412 10s. in this country, or £585 10s. inclusive of p.t., reminding us that this had to include import duty and higher commission to British dealers than Fiat has to pay to Italian dealers. Laurence Pomeroy, replying for the guests, said it is interesting to find that although the three largest European producers use rear engines, their politics differ, the State owning Renault, Volkswagen being owned by no one, while Fiat owned the State ! He concluded with sonic choice stories which cannot be committed to print.
We then had an opportunity of riding in and driving one of four demonstration Fiat 600s for a brief spell in and around Amersham.
Impressions are that the expected oversteer is practically unnoticeable, that the rear-engine location results in very quiet running (no doubt the Fiat designer, Ing. Giacosa, employed water-cooling for this purpose) and that the little car seats four full-size adults comfortably, with width to spare on the rear seat. The speedometer needle climbs quickly to an indicated 60 m.p.h. and stops there, and a smooth start is possible in second gear.
Visibility all round is exceptionally good, the ride is comfortable, apart from some shake, over atrocious surfaces, the brakes are adequate and the gearbox a delight to use. The rigid little remote gear-lever is a trifle far back, but this isn’t really inconvenient; the hand-brake is accessible between the front seats and little levers on the floor operate starter and choke, as on the Renault 750. The front seat squabs are a little inadequate; the doors amply wide for entry and egress. There is a narrow but wide luggage space behind the back seat which would accommodate shallow suit-cases and space beside the under-bonnet fuel tank, not very large we thought. There is also spare space beside the engine on the nearside, where the exhaust pipe runs, so that a smell of frying eggs and toast could indicate that mother has chosen this spot in which to stow the picnic basket !
The engine parts were laid out for inspection in a marquee behind the hotel and the generous size of the short con.-rods and ample bore (60 mm.) of the pistons could be appreciated. Fiat apparently believe in plenty of heat for the mixture, for not only is the inlet manifold integral with the cylinder head but the air-cleaner picks up from a funnel over the exhaust manifold.
There is an oil-filter in the lubrication system, the chassis has only six greasing points requiring attention every 1,000 miles and repacking of the wheel bearings with grease every 6,000 miles, while a maintenance scheme on fixed charges covering basic services at 1,000, 3,000, 6,000 and 12,000 miles will operate and service units will be available on an exchange basis.
The price of the Fiat 600 in this country exceeds that of British economy cars, but does include all-independent-suspension, and heater, etc. It undercuts the cost of the equivalent Renault 750 by more than £14, and between these two makes, both of which are water-cooled, rear-engined, all-independently-sprung economy vehicles, the Fiat “square-rigged,” but with four-speed gearbox, the Renault more aerodynamic, but with a three-speed gearbox, we forecast a sales “battle royal.” Performance figures, especially those for m.p.g., are awaited with interest.
Easter with a Renault R1063
The Easter holiday was enlivened by the use of a very eye-catching Renault 750, the fast R1063 model as used in rallies by R.W. Fursdon and J.N. Carleton-Stiff, whose names adorned the tail of this little saloon, vividly finished in two shades of green and bearing the word “Viva” on its off-side flank.
The normal Renault 750 is a very quick car through traffic and along winding, narrow roads, where small dimensions pay good dividends. The R1063 naturally retains this advantage, matched by a very considerable performance which renders it a fast car on main roads.
The modifications from standard are too numerous to list in detail, but include a special cylinder head with different valve gear, 8 mm. holding-down bolts, 30 mm.-dia. inlet valves of P3 steel, 26 mm.dia. exhaust valves of X20T steel, special inlet and exhaust manifolding in conjunction with a twin-choke, downdraught Solex 30 A.A.I. carburetter and an S.E.V. ignition distributor with hand advance and retard control. In addition there are shell-bearings for the connecting-rods, stronger valve springs, a 5 1/4 pint sump (full of Mobiloil on the test car) and 54.5 mm. bore Monopole cylinder liners. The chassis modifications embrace stronger clutch, additional Allinquant rear shock-absorbers, special wheel hubs and a small Jaeger rev.-counter reading to 8,500 r.p.m. and driven from the rear of the camshaft.
On the test car this rev.-counter was matched by a Jaeger water thermometer, the normal thermometer being disconnected. Otherwise the interior arrangements were standard, with the grouped instruments, convenient steering column lights-switch and diminutive central gear-lever and pedals, although a spot-lamp and Lucas “flame-thrower” lamp were fitted, and the fascinating floor-located levers operating starter and choke were joined by a third which controlled the ignition advance and retard.
We took over this Renault R1063 on the Thursday before Easter, and any doubts we had as to its freedom from temperament were dispelled after negotiation of the holiday-bound traffic from the Metropolis. Leaving the office at 4 p.m., it became evident that the wonderful traffic-light system along Oxford Street, which is said to be more intelligent than any human policeman, had failed dismally to live up to this reputation. The human cops were out to help and the congestion was appalling. This continued all through London and was encountered again at Staines. But our “hot” little Renault showed not the slightest sign of distress, keeping calmer than its driver, and the water temperature not exceeding 90 deg. C. during the long halts.
Renault Ltd. had given us no special instructions in the operation retarding the spark for starting (once under way the engine isn’t sensitive to ignition setting and we never made it “pink”) and not opening the taps until the thermometer recorded at least 60 deg. C.
The performance of the R1063 was quite astonishing. It would be cruising at over 60 m.p.h. when you imagined you were doing 40, and the speedometer soared to over 70 m.p.h. with consummate ease, accompanied by a decidedly fruity exhaust note. The car had the normal back-axle ratio of 4.86 to 1, the usual 15-in. Michelin tyres and the usual three-speed gearbox. In France they fit a five-speed gearbox to further enhance the performance, but this is deemed too expensive for us, although Renault speak of introducing a close-ratio four-speed box. As it is, the ratios are rather widely-spaced, and this, in conjunction with a feeble synchromesh and very decisive clutch, makes silent cog-shifting a matter of some considerable skill. The clutch is consequently apt to be abused, but seems fully able to withstand such treatment; the brakes are adequate.
The RI063 is geared in this form at about 15 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top. The engine is a glutton for revs, 6,000 r.p.m. coming up habitually. In first, 6,700 r.p.m. equals 30 m.p.h. and 6,500 r.p.m. comes up in second, equal to 57 m.p.h. In top we attained 5,100 r.p.m., equal to 76 1/2 m.p.h. A happy cruising speed is 60 m.p.h., or 4,000 r.p.m., although at this speed there is considerable exhaust resonance, which could prove tiring to the all but hyperkeen on long journeys. A rough check of acceleration gave 0-50 m.p.h. in approximately 14.3 sec. Low-speed pick-up was rendered jerky by the presence of the Solex “fiat-spot.” We have praised the excellent steering and handling of the Renault 760 on numerous previous occasions and the additional damping on this particular car further improved matters, rear-end breakaway being absent and oversteer not pronounced on dry roads, although on wet roads it was as well to be prepared for it. The very excellent steering lock, permitted by the rear location of the engine, must be an asset in special rally tests; a throttle-setting device was fitted to obviate engine-stalling under these conditions.
In conclusion, this quick version of the Renault constitutes a remarkable and fascinating 750 cc. vehicle. The Champion R-10 plugs never misfired in all the varied miles (totalling 562) which we drove 4CMT and fuel consumption seemed to work out at approximately 33 m.p.g. Normal water temperature was 80 deg. C. and about 2 1/2 pints of water were required; we had the “blind” in a winter setting, and this was the old unpressurised cooling system.
The R1063 in full rig costs £1,148 12s. 6d. in this country, inclusive of import duty and p.t., but the numerous conversions are separately listed, details being obtainable from Renault, Ltd., at Acton.
Sports plugs at four shillings each
Wico Pacy are to be congratulated on selling excellent sparking plugs at 3s, 6d. each, which gives the lie to the idea that such articles cannot be marketed for less than 6s. They have now added a sparking plug suitable for sports-car engines to their range; these new Wipac plugs. the P90 standard reach and P9OL long (in) reach, being priced at 4s. These plugs are intended only for arduous conditions in h.c. motor-cycles and car engines; they carry the usual Wipac 10,000 miles’ written guarantee.
We feel that this low pricing of sparking plugs is a gesture to be supported. In case of difficulty in obtaining Wipac plugs you should apply to Wico Pacy Sales Ltd., Bletchley, England, asking for the name of your nearest dealer.