MY MOTHER WOULD ONLY drive Fiat cars. Because they were made in Italy, a country with many hills and mountains, she believed that they must have been built with powerful engines. So, we owned first a Fiat 600, then an 1100, and lastly a 1200. These memories were stimulated by seeing a Fiat 600 on the heart of Panjim in Goa.
Fiat began licencing car making factories outside Italy long ago. In 1964, the Premier Company began manufacturing an Indian version of the Fiat 1100, which was marketed as the ‘Fiat 1100 Delight’, which was renamed the ‘Premier Padmini’ from 1974. These cars looked almost identical to our old family Fiat 1100. Padmini means ‘she who sits on the lotus’.
The Padmini remained a popular purchase until the mid-1980s when the more modern Suzuki Maruthi came on to the market. Decline in Padmini sales was accelerated by liberalisation of the Indian economy in the 1990s, which allowed other foreign car manufacturers to enter the Indian Market. By the late 1990s, the Padmini was manufactured no more.
The owner of the Fiat 600, which we spotted in central Panjim, told us that his vehicle had been imported from abroad by a relative some years ago. Although it looked in immaculate condition, we noticed that after it had been driven a few yards, it had stopped and its owner was tinkering about in the car’s rear engine compartment.
Original Fiat 600s are rarely seen in the UK. After more than 50 trips to India, this 600 in Goa is the first I have seen in the subcontinent.