Eighty years ago, in November 1937, Fiat introduced its first 1100 cc four-cylinder engine with overhead valves. This small, mass-produced engine not only powered a great number of Fiat’s bread and butter automobiles, but also became the heart of many exciting Italian and French specialist sports and racing cars. This article covers the years 1937 – 1940.
Story by Gijsbert-Paul Berk
In 1935 Italy was in the middle of a controversial colonial war in Abyssinia. In Turin that same year, Antonio Fessia, the manager of Fiat’s engineering department, asked the thirty-year-old engineer, Dante Giacosa, to develop a successor to the popular Balilla model. Giacosa had earned the respect of the Fiat management for his brilliantly designed 500 model, nicknamed Topolino (little mouse). Fessia explained that the new car should fill the gap between the small 500 and the recently introduced flagship of the Fiat range, the modern six-cylinder 1500 model.