Fiat 1100 103

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Fiat 1100 103

1953 - 1960
4 cyl.
1100 cc
43 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
80 mph
Number Built:
3 star
Fiat 1100 103
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


In 1953 the 1100 was completely redesigned as a compact four-door sedan, with a modern monocoque bodywork and integrated front lights. The new model was called the 1100/103 after its project number, and was offered (as usual at that time) in two different versions: "economica" (cheaper) and "normale" (standard).

In October 1953 the car became available in a sporty version, the 1100TV (Turismo Veloce) with a third light in the middle of the grille and 50 PS (37 kW) rather than the 36 PS (26 kW) of the regular versions. It was also available in station-wagon version, with a side-hinged fifth door at the back.

In March 1955 the 1100/103 Trasformabile, a two-seater roadster, was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. Equipped with the mechanics from the 1100TV, the American-inspired design was the work of the special bodies division of Fiat (Sezione Carrozzerie Speciali). The Trasformabile was also available with the more powerful (55 PS/40 kW) "1200" engine.

Sturt Griffith's Road Test

A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing course to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today. While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Fiat 1100 103 review below remains as told in 1957.

Fiat 1100

A good small car is a very useful vehicle, particularly in and around the city. The four-door Fiat 1100 falls into this category, and is rated as a very satisfactory little automobile. It’s essential characteristics are maximum passenger and luggage space in relation to overall size of car, good handling and road-holding qualities, and a satisfactory performance with a moderate load. The car is built on very practical lines, by a most experienced concern. It is well equipped, for a low-priced car, with such refinements as a really good heating and ventilating system, screen washers, self-parking wipers, and lights in engine and luggage compartments. One small refinement which I have long awaited on a car is a warning light for the turn indicators which is adjustable for brightness to suit night and day requirements.


There are a few points in the car which are not quite up to standard. The handbrake, on the transmission, is fierce in action and quickly faded out entirely from overheating. It did not really recover its efficacy after cooling. Also this handbrake is located to the left of the tunnel across the front floor, where it is most awkward to reach. This is, of course, its position for left-hand drive cars, and the change-over has not been extended to this commonly used control. The driver's seat is adjustable only-through three inches, which is hardly sufficient to cope with the great variations which occur in human frames, and in choice of driving position.

The Changes

Since last tested, the 1100 has been considerably changed. The compression ratio has been increased slightly, now being 7 to 1. Power and torque have been increased in consequence of this alteration, coupled with a slightly larger choke and jet in the (new) Solex carburettor. An accelerator pump is now fitted. The brakes have been substantially increased in size, and they are remarkably efficient. The synchromesh has been improved to a high standard. The suspension has been softened a little, and the boot has been substantially enlarged.

Hill Climbing

The Fiat, with a load of 3cwt, climbs reasonably well in top. It has a third gear which I liked particularly, and in which it will climb even difficult mountain passes, such as the Scenic Hill. The gears and speeds on the test hills were:

  • BODINGTON (average grade 1 in I li): Top gear at 50-46-29 mph.
  • RIVER LETT (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 8i): Third gear in a lively climb at 40-37-48 mph.
  • SCENIC HILL (1 in 10, maximum 1 in 8): Third gear at 50-29-34 mph.
  • MOUNT TOMAH (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9): After a start in top, mainly third gear at 50-27-47 mph.
  • KURRAJONG (western side 1 in 12.5): Top gear at 50-44-27 mph.
With the test load of 3cwt, the power-weight ratio is fairly low at 42.5 b.h.p. (gross) per ton. Overall top gearing is about average, yielding 15.8 mph at 1000 rpm.

Touring Speeds

The little car has a high cruising speed in open country, and will slide along at 60-65 mph without engine fuss. At low speeds the car is not so lively and it does not hold its flexibility below 35 mph in top. The average speed over the test route was 42.2 mph, particularly easily achieved. Weather was good, with little wind.


The maximum tugging power of the engine (a torque of 52.4!b-ft) is developed at rather high speeds - 50 mph in top gear and 32 mph in third gear. In practice this is manifested by greater liveliness when the engine is spinning rapidly. For prompt overtaking, third gear should be used below 35 mph, and, in fact, this gear can be very effectively used up to about 50 mph, as it has a maximum of 65 mph. Times for acceleration were; Third gear: 20 to 40 m.p.h, in 7.1 seconds.; 30 to 50 mph in 8.2 seconds. Top gear: 20 to 40 mph in 13.8 seconds.; 30 to 50 mph in 14.1 seconds.; 40-60 mph in 16.2 seconds.


The Fiat is particularly good on cornering, showing a nice balance of adhesion as between front and rear wheels, and holding well on bends taken fast. When put into slides on loose gravel the car wound into a fairly tight turn but immediately came out in response to opposite lock. Body roll and tyre squeal on fast corners are moderate. Riding comfort is about average for conventional suspensions. It is somewhat softer than on the previous model, and this is generally an improvement. It does, however, allow the suspension to bottom occasionally on really bad potholes hit at speed. Rear seat comfort is up to that of the front compartment.

Steering and Brakes

The worm-and-roller steering mechanism is quite satisfactory, being light in operation and quick enough for accurate piloting (three turns lock-to-lock). There is virtually no reaction felt in the hands on bad roads. The turning circle of 34ft is rather large for the size of the car. The new brakes (still of Fiat-Baldwin design) have the large lining area of 148 sq. in, located in heavy turbo-finned drums. Their pedal pressures are so light as to suggest (contrary to the fact) that there is some power assistance. Any heavy pressure on the pedal will bring startling results. The brakes were free from fade and are up to the best modern standards. The handbrake is poor. It is awkwardly placed and was not reliable as an emergency stopping means on the test.

Fuel Facts

At an average speed of 42.2 mph over the test route, the Fiat yielded 41.8 miles per gallon. This is rather less than recorded for the previous model, at the same average speed, but is quite satisfactory. Bringing the loaded weight into the calculation this gives 42.4 ton-miles per gallon. The fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g. x average speed) is 1,790. Both of these figures- are good. At this rate of consumption the fuel tank is large enough to give a most convenient fast-cruising range of about 345 miles.'

Driver's Layout

The seating is reasonably comfortable (bench seat) and is rather upright, with the wheel placed comfortably and well raked. Three inches of seat adjustment is hardly sufficient for all needs. The pedals are well spaced, but are a shade high. The gearshift has a short and precise movement and operates through an excellent synchromesh. It is a good example of the type. The instruments are before the driver, and the numerous switches and controls (all of which have some function) are well within reach. The controls are spread about the dash to avoid confusion and facilitate tion by touch. The speedometer is of linear-ribbon type, and is very steady. A fuel gauge is accompanied by a warning light it one gallon. Other warning lights are fitted for generator, oil pressure, high beam and turn indicators. The latter is (commendably) adjustable for brightness. Drivers will appreciate screen washers and self-parking wipers, but not a side window that requires five and a half turns of its crank for full movement.


Access to engine ancillaries, such as distributor, fuel pump and filter, is not as good as we commonly find today. The engine room (with heater system) is rather crowded. Bore and stroke are 68 x 75 mm. a dry-felt air filter is fitted, and the oil circulates through a by-pass filter. The suspension is double wishbones at front and semi-elliptic leaves at rear. Anti-roll bars and telescopic dampers are used all round. Gear ratios are: top 4.3, third gear 6 and second 10.2 to 1.


The interior is spacious for the size of the car. The bench seats are covered in a synthetic material, and measure 48 and 49 riches wide, respectively. The intrusion of the wheel arches into the rear seat is only slight. The windows are plain, but each is fitted with a Fiat type “draught excluder”. Screen and rear window areas are moderate. The fascia has a tiny glovebox and there is a small map shelf beneath it. A parcels net is recessed into the back the front seat. The heating and ventilating system is good, as usual with Fiat. It supplies ample quantities of hot or cold air under ram or fan pressure, to the front floor or to the demister ducts, or a little to each.

Leg and head-room are reasonable for a small car. From seat to roof measures 34 inches in both seats, and there are 11 inches of knee-room in rear, with the front seat in mid-position. The boot has a flat floor, with a depth (front to rear) of 39 inches. Its width varies from 37 to inches. and maximum height is 16 inches The spare is housed beneath the root floor.


The Fiat 1100 is an efficient small car. Within its modest compass it affords ample accommodation for four and reasonable weekend luggage. Due to its enlightened body design the car makes maximum use of its available power. A genuine speed of 80 mph from an 1100cc engine commendable in a four-door saloon. The car climbs well enough in top gear but at town speeds third gear had to be used for lively overtaking. Third gear is an excellent ratio. The car handles well on the touring highway and it affords average comfort on country roads. In the city it is as convenient as most cars in the smaller category. The car tested was made available the distributors, McLaughlin Motors Pty Ltd.

Between 1956 and 1960 the new 1100 underwent several slight changes in fittings and details, e.g. newly designed grille, more rectangular profile, dual color dressing, and eventually small fintails with spear-shaped backlights. A special version, the 1100 Granluce (i.e. "Large light"), without suicide doors, launched in 1959, had both fintails and wider windows. As an option it could be fitted with a new powerful 1,221 cc engine.

About this Car

PRICE: £1,070 (inc. sales-tax).
SIZE: Four-seater, good boot. Wheelbase, 7ft 8in; overall length, 12ft 10in; track, 48in; clearance, 6 3/4 in; tyres, 5.20 x 14 in; fuel tank, 8.3 gallons; unladen weight (tank full), 1cwt; laden weight as tested, 20 cwt.
MECHANICAL: Four cylinder, overhead-valve engine of l,089ce capacity, developing 43 gross horsepower (R.A.C. rating, 11.7 h.p.); four-speed gearbox; integral construction.
FUEL CONSUMPTION AND AVERAGE SPEED: 41.8 miles per gallon at an average speed of 42.2 mph over the test route.
MAXIMUM SPEEDS (in touring trim): Top gear, 80.6 mph; third gear, 65 mph; second gear, 43 mph.
Fiat 1100 103

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