The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

By Santosh

If you were born during the latter half of the last century, chances are you would have owned, driven, or at least ridden in a Premier Padmini. The Italian-designed car was based on the Fiat 1100 D, and was introduced in the Indian market by Premier Automobiles Limited (PAL) in 1964.

Also Read: A Tribute To The Hindustan Ambassador - The Journey Ends

Popularly known as simply the "Fiat", the car's major competitor was the Hindustan Ambassador - buyers preferred it for its more compact dimensions, fresher styling, and better fuel efficiency. Seeing the car nowadays is a bit of a rarity, except if you're in Mumbai of course, where they are still in service as taxis.

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

The story continues on the next slide.

Picture credit: Wiki Commons
Sreewave

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

The sportier alternative to the Ambassador, the 1100 D (or Delight) was introduced in India towards the mid-sixties with a carburetted, four-cylinder petrol engine that produced 40 bhp of peak power and 71 Nm of torque. While acceleration figures are sketchy, the car was capable of a top speed of 125 km/h. Whether or not you had the guts to drive it that quick was a whole other question.

Picture credit: Flickr
ninadsp

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

Some did though, as the car was raced at the infamous Sholavaram and CMSC race tracks in Chennai and Kolkata respectively, against Sipani Dolphins, Hindustan Ambassadors and Standard Heralds. The Fiat also took part in rallies; one can only imagine how difficult racing must have been in those days, especially with the column-shifter for the four-speed manual gearbox. Still, the old girl managed to hold her own.

Picture credit: Subhodeep Ghosh

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

Inside, the Padmini had a rather Spartan personality, with only basic switches and instrumentation. Sheet metal formed the majority of the dashboard, something you don't see in cars today, and you sat in the car very upright. Taller drivers could often be seen with one arm dangling out the front window - this quirky style of driving is still used by several Mumbai taxi drivers.

Picture credit: Wiki Commons
Aniyer

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

The Fiat saw its peak during the 1970s and early 1980s, but with the advent of the easy-to-drive Maruti Suzuki 800 and other newer international rivals following suit as well, the now dated lines and driving characteristics of the Padmini meant it was going to face its stiffest competition yet. A competition it would lose.

Picture credit: Wiki Commons
luc106

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

After the liberalisation of the Indian market in 1991, foreign manufacturers were allowed to begin manufacturing cars in the country. Their more modern and fuel-efficient products were no match for the more-than-thirty-year-old Padmini.

And so, despite last-ditch efforts by PAL to keep pace with the competition with the introduction of bucket seats, floor mounted gear shift, and two Nissan engines - a petrol and a diesel, the Fiat was bound to die a quiet death. Production of the car ended in 1997, when Premier sold a majority stake back to Fiat.

Picture credit: Flickr
photobeppus

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

Today, the most number of Premier Padminis are seen in financial capital Mumbai, mainly because the car was manufactured all those years ago in Kurla. Black and yellow Fiat taxis frequently still dot Mumbai's traffic though their days are numbered with commuters now preferring faster, more comfortable cars like the Hyundai Santro and the Maruti Wagon R.

While private, owner-driven examples are getting rarer and rarer, seeing one of those rare, classily restored Padminis pulling up next to you is sure to lift your traffic woes, even if it is only until you are rudely honked back to reality...

Picture credit: Wiki Commons
Greg O'Beirne

The Premier Padmini - A Short Tribute To Our Old PAL

The Padmini was preceded by the more compact Fiat 1100-103, which was imported by PAL, and sold as three models during its life cycle - the Millecento, the Select, and the Super Select. The fintails which later appeared on the Padmini first appeared on the Select in 1958. The car also had doors that opened the ‘wrong way', something that drives modern attention. However, despite the car gaining more significant ‘classic car' status in the eyes of collectors over the recent past, sourcing parts has become a hellish experience.

Picture credit: Wiki Commons
Ekki01

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