Owner of a 1960 Fiat Super Select, Damodaran holds the key to Premier Padmini’s past

In the pantheon of timeless Fiats, the 1100/103 occupies a minor throne. It can’t be mentioned in the same breath as the Alfa Romeo, the Grande Punto, not even the Il Topolino. The 1100/103 was among cars Fiat S.p.A began to make for third-world markets in the 1950s. Functionality was the watchword. The frills were kept to the minimum.

But the Italian automobile major tried to make the 1100 as nice-looking as a limited budget would allow. A spurt of models from 1953 to 1960 is evidence of this effort. These models differed from one another in a minor way.

The changes primarily involved the grille, the rear lights and the car’s overall shape, which gradually moved from slightly round to strikingly rectangular.

Introduced in India in 1954, a year after its launch, the 1100 was known by many names, depending on the changes. So, we had the Millecento, Elegant, Select, Super Select, 1100 Delight, Premier President and Premier Padmini.

When the Premier Padmini was in production, it was easy to maintain the older 1100s. Owners used mechanical parts manufactured for the Padmini. Padmini’s meters also made it to the dashboard of these cars.

K. Damodaran’s 1960 Super Select does not use a tape, but a pointed needle to indicate speed. Not just the speedometer, the car has borrowed the whole dashboard from a Padmini.

Damodaran bought the Super Select in 1990 and sourcing a Padmini dashboard, complete with the meters, was not a challenge. As he runs an automotive garage and consultancy, fitting in the alien piece and making the corresponding alterations were not difficult either.

He has given the driver’s corner a makeover — the sporty wooden steering and a cabinet are some of the elements of this alteration.

In his defence, he has preserved certain features that are highly characteristic of this model. They include the side beadings, thinner than those of a Padmini. The car retains its emblem — a stainless steel rod that bisects the bonnet and is crowned by the shape of a bird. Most 1100s such as the Elegant have emblems that are not crowned by any intricate artwork in metal.

These features, together with the front-opening front doors, the less pointed taillights and the convex grille with checks, help you distinguish this Super Select from any of its closely resembling cousins, older and younger.

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