Thursday August 16, 2018
The passing of Sergio Marchionne on the 25th July had many of us thinking about Fiat and how he was instrumental in the marque’s future and even survival. It would be easy to create a “Top 10” or even a “Top 100” of the company’s finest vehicles and still have room to spare.
Instead, I decided to write about my all-time favourite car to hail from Fiat – the 2300. We have already briefly encountered the saloon version earlier this year and the range predates the Marchionne era by decades, but the 2300 family is a reminder of the tradition that the industrialist helped to preserve and maintain.
In the late 1950s Fiat were planning to replace their 1400/1900 models with a new range of saloons and estates that would have equal appeal to the Italian professional and the affluent young American customer.
Dante Giacosa created the six-cylinder 1800 and 2100, the perfect cars for those who wanted the ethos of the new Mercedes-Benz 220 “Fintail” but who did not quite have the budget. In 1961 the 1800 was replaced by the more powerful 1800B seen here in truly jazz-tastic form -
while the 2100 was succeeded by the 2300, which was instantly recognisable via its twin headlamps -
This PR film strongly suggests that the new Fiat was almost too elegant for mere mortals while the all-disc braking and the hand throttle (!) appeal to would-be F1 drivers. In the UK the saloon was priced at £1,417s 17s 9d which meant it competed with the Humber Super Snipe Series III/IV and the Jaguar 2.4 Mk. 2.; Autocar remarked that ‘it bears the burden of import duty extremely well’ while Motoring Which even thought that it was a better all-rounder than the car from Browns Lane. The coachwork was chic without being overly flamboyant, the interior contained such clever details as a hand throttle and separately adjustable backrests on the front bench seat.
The 2300 was also available as a very chic station wagon and as a Coupe, a vision of 1960s elegance that Motor magazine described as ‘the sort of car you put on like a good set of clothes’.
It debuted at the 1960 Turin Motor Show as the 2100S and entered production two years later in 2300 or the high-powered 2300S forms, the latter featuring an Abrath-tuned engine with twin Weber carburettors and a modified camshaft.
The floorplan was from the Berlina while the exquisite coachwork was created by Sergio Sartorelli of Carrozzeria Ghia. Inside there was a foot brace for the front passenger, Veglia instrumentation, a Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel and even alarm bells connected to the gauges for water temperature and oil pressure plus the warming lights of the choke and handbrake.
This was the Fiat for any motorist who craved a car that was the four-wheeled embodiment of La Dolce Vita. In the UK the asking price was £2,944, making it £1,000 more expensive than a 4.2 litre E-Type, but, as Motor Sport concluded, the cost would probably not deter ‘Those who appreciate 120 mph cars which possess much character, plenty of performance, go well with motorway driving and are pleasant to control and contemplate’.
Fiat phased out the 2300 range in 1968 and their next prestige car was the 130 of 1969, which would occupy an even more elevated position in the Italian car market. Any surviving example is guaranteed to draw crowds at the NEC or at any other car show – especially from anyone of my age who never forgot that red 2300S in Department S…