A family car with a chauffeur???


By 1950 Italy was still suffering from the economic effects of World War II but there were the first stirrings of recovery. The Fiat management decided the time was probably right for a more comfortable car, but one that still could be sold at a price that Italians could afford. The result was the 1400.

This was marketed as 'The Car of Progress' and advertisements actually showed a chauffeur in uniform stacking luggage in the boot (a fair bit of salesman's licence was used in the amount it seemed to take) in front of the whole family, expensively dressed in the latest styles, watched him. How many of the people who bought one actually employed a liveried chauffeur (or could afford the latest dress fashions) has never been revealed however.

This was a more comfortable car than usual. The doors had armrests built into them, there was a radio and a cigar (nothing so common as a cigarette) lighter and a neat handbrake tucked away under the dash. For the first time Fiat employed a monocoque construction (in other words there was no separate chassis; most mass-produce cars these days are monocoque), a hydraulically operated clutch, a five-speed gearbox and the 1400 cc four-cylinder engine, producing 44 brake horsepower, was fuelled by diesel, another first for Fiat. Speaking of fuel; the theft of it from cars was by no means unknown in post-war Italy, and the fact that the filler cap was safely locked away in the boot was one more useful selling point.

This was no car for the boy racers. The intention was to create a more comfortable car but at a price; the initial 1400 cc engine could just about propel the car up to 75 mph, and acceleration from nought to 60 took nearly 36 seconds; hardly rocket powered. fuel consumption, at 24 miles per gallon or thereabouts, was not outstanding.

There were a number of different bodywork models available, and eventually engine upgrades too; By 1952 a 1.9 litre engine was introduced, giving not only more power but improved fuel consumption, then by 1954 a 1900 cc petrol fuelled engine pushed the power up to a claimed 70 brake horsepower. By the time the 1400 was discontinued in 1958 around 180,000 of them had been sold, as well as about 19,000 of the 1900 cc model.

At the time another country which was suffering from the effects of warfare was Spain. One way of aiding the country to economic recovery was to develop a car manufacturing capability but they had to start completely from scratch. A tie-up with another major manufacturer was the preferred way forward and the first car that a new company, Seat, manufactured was the 1400, under licence from Fiat, who later took a substantial shareholding in the company.

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