When Fiat introduced its first new post-war model in 1950, there was no hint of sportiness. The 1400 saloon was stodgy in every way, but it was an important car for Fiat as it was the company's first model to feature monocoque construction, and as the 1400 was cheap to build it meant that it was also cheap to buy.
As the 1950s progressed Fiat decided to move away from being known as a maker only of rather dull family transport, with the brand's reputation boosted somewhat by a multitude of Abarth-tuned Fiats which were notching up racing wins across Europe. So when Fiat introduced its next new model, the 'type 103' 1100 of 1953, it intended to create a sportier image for itself.
Fiat had introduced an 1100 in 1937, but the Nuova 1100 that came in 1953 was an altogether different proposition. It was modern, light and fun to drive, carrying nothing over from its predecessor aside from the basic engine, which was completely overhauled. Just like the 1400, the 1100 featured monocoque construction and with 36bhp on tap, this compact four-door saloon was capable of a sprightly 72mph.
Just six months after the Fiat 1100 had been unwrapped at the 1953 Geneva Salon, an 1100 TV (Turismo Veloce) edition made its debut at the Paris Salon. The 1100 TV was the work of Fiat head designer Giovanni Zoboli in conjunction with Esparsa Comprenelli, who came up with an appealing hot saloon. This time the 1089cc engine put out a zesty 53bhp which was enough to take the 1100 TV all the way to 85mph. Perfect for city driving or a weekend run in the country, the 1100 TV was also a useful road racer, especially in the Mille Miglia where it dominated its class for years.
It was the 1100 TV that would provide the basis for the car shown here, the 1100 TV Trasformabile, or cabriolet. Unveiled at the 1955 Geneva Salon and designed by Pininfarina, this fabulously stylish two-seater drop-top looked like a shrunken Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider, a car which was also designed by Pininfarina and which made its debut just a few months earlier…
The 1100 TV Trasformabile used exactly the same platform as the 1100 TV saloon, with the same engine, suspension, gearbox and brakes, but there was an all-new monocoque bodyshell. The wraparound windscreen led to quite a few raised eyebrows, as did the twin-nostril grille, but they were perfect for US buyers and it was on the other side of the Atlantic that this car was aimed.
Controversial the 1100 TV Trasformabil's styling may have been, but its 88mph top speed was very enticing; its perky performance led to it being nicknamed 'Diavoloetto', or little devil. Despite the 1100 TV Trasformabil's attractiveness, few were built as production ended in 1957 when it was replaced by the 1200 Spider, which looked much the same but featured a new 1221cc engine. With 55bhp on tap the 1200 Spider could get all the way to 89mph and this model proved significantly more popular as Fiat records showed that 2363 examples were made. This compares with just 571 copies of the 1100 TV Trasformabil according to Fiat (most of which were sold in the US) – although Pininfarina claims to have built 780 bodies. So who knows how many were actually built?
||Front-mounted, 1089cc, 4-cylinder
||4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
||53bhp at 5400rpm
||54lb ft at 4300rpm
- The Fiat 1100 TV pictured was sold by Hyman Ltd, and thanks are due to Hyman for the use of these images.