|Vehicle:||1954 Fiat 1100 TV Sports Saloon|
|Number Produced:||About 250,000 (both TV and Normale)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$350|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped in firewall, ID plate|
|Engine Number Location:||Intake side of block on boss|
|Alternatives:||1953–63 Lancia Appia, 1948–60 Peugeot 203, 1953–59 DKW 3=6 Sonderklasse|
This car sold for $173,338 (€1.00=$1.15), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Zoute Sale, Knokke-Heist, BEL, on October 5, 2018.
When I received the assignment to write a profile of this Fiat sedan, I was elated. It’s not often that I have the opportunity to graphically and dramatically prove a point that I make on an almost daily basis.
I am frequently asked a question that goes something like this: “How much does an [X] go for?” To which my response has almost always been, “They don’t go for anything — this one went for that.”
Which is to say that in the past decade, in an almost linear fashion, the market has moved steadily away from commodity pricing to extreme specificity. I find that in my work as an appraiser or as a consultant, it has become almost impossible to arrive at an opinion of value or an estimate of value range without very carefully considering many specific attributes of value and weighing their importance to potential buyers.
An Italian ’55 Chevy
This is particularly visible when it comes to a car such as the Fiat 1100/103. It is a fascinating vehicle and a great example of what makes a desirable collectible in today’s market.
The Fiat 1100/103, launched in 1953, can be considered a kind of Italian ’55 Chevy or ’32 Ford V8. Eminently tunable, the 1,089-cc inline 4-cylinder propelled family sedans as well as custom-bodied miniature GTs and competition cars.
All the great names of Italian performance worked their magic on the Millecento — Abarth, Siata and Stanguellini primary among them. But, as was so often the case in the 1950s, an Italian driver didn’t need to have dual carburetors, a free-flow exhaust system, a hot camshaft or a sexy 2-seat body to compete in events at the highest level.
Just as Alfa Romeo 1900 and Lancia Aurelia sedans acquitted themselves well in competition in the early 1950s, Fiats were not far behind.
Fun to drive
Driving an 1100 is always entertaining — in the manner unique to Italian cars of all sizes and shapes from 1950 to 1970. They have a way of transforming a trip to the grocery store into the Targa Florio.
The handy size, excellent power-to-weight ratio, great visibility and secure handling give them a sporting feel not often found in a family sedan. When you look through the entry list for the Mille Miglia from 1954 through 1957, the number of Fiat 1100 sedans entered is astonishing.
Almost anyone who has the chance to drive one — a good one — is likely to be impressed.
Mille Miglia history is key
Now to the heart of the matter, the result realized for this example. As I wrote above, I have a soft spot for the Millecento. In fact, I once owned one, a 1955 sedan. I bought it a few years ago, semi-sight unseen, for $7,500. I happened to be in one of my working stays in Italy and was actively searching for one.
All examples I came across were preciously expensive — with asking prices for an 1100 TV, the factory higher-performance version, in the $35k–$40k range. On the lower end, standard-spec 1100 sedans in suspiciously tarted condition hovered at around $10k.
When I saw an ad for a standard sedan for sale near Atlanta, GA, I immediately began spending the money I had just saved on shipping. A good friend, an experienced collector who lived in the area, went over to look at the Fiat for me. In fairness, he reported that while it seemed like an okay car, it clearly wasn’t up to the level of the cars he knew I owned.
Nevertheless, I plunged ahead, figuring that it was an inexpensive way for me to obtain a pre-’58 event-eligible car. I won’t elaborate, but to quote W.S. Gilbert, it turned out to be a case of “modified rapture.”
I rather quickly sold the car, revealing all its manifold faults, at only a $2k loss. The new owner got a very good project car at an appropriate price.
That car was worlds away from our subject car. I have many clients who no longer ask me to help find them a Mille Miglia-eligible car. Instead, they want “a Mille Miglia car.” The difference? In this case, about $120k.
It’s still possible to find a nicely preserved or older restoration on a genuine TV for $45k–$50k. Obtaining an entry to the Mille Miglia Storica with one is theoretically possible — but a long shot.
Any car that has documented and provable history of having run in the original, or “Mille Miglia di velocità,” is granted automatic entry. The new team responsible for running and developing the event has clearly and loudly announced their intention of creating and maintaining a database and registry of surviving Mille Miglia cars — and to actively seek them out for participation.
There are no guarantees in life, but buying this particular car comes close if your goal is to run the Mille Miglia.
The key is “documented” and “provable.” There are lots of cars around with drawers full of documents. When they line up with an uninterrupted history, the value differential can be substantial. Before paying such a premium, all dotted and crossed letters must be exactly so. If they were for this sale, the price was right. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)