One of the most popular cars in olden days was the Premier Padmini. The car had a good design and was loved by most buyers. Even today in Mumbai, some of the taxis are of the Premier Padmini make. The car was in circulation between 1964 and 2000 and was manufactured by Premier Automobiles Limited which was a part of the Walchand Group and was licensed under Fiat. The car was initially marketed as the Fiat 1100 Delight and in the beginning of 1973; it was introduced in the market as the Premier Padmini. The initial competitors of the car were Standard Herald and the HM Ambassador. The latter continued to be in production till some time ago.
Most buyers called the Padmini “Pad”. The car was named after the Rajput Princess Padmini who lived back in the 14th century. The name’s literal translation is the one who sits on a lotus and is another name of Goddess Laxmi. The name is quite popular among Indian girls.
The Fiat 1100D which was launched in 1973 was modelled on the GranLuceBerlina Fiat 1200 which came to India in 1964 with a 1089cc carburetor 4 cylinder engine unlike the 1221cc diesel engine that was fitted in the GranLuce available in Italy. With a compression ratio of 7:8:1, the car produced maximum power of 30kW or 40bhp available at 4800 rpm with maximum torque of 71Nm available at 3000rpm. The original gear transmission was through a 4 speed manual gearbox which does not have a synchronized first gear which powered the rear tyres through a live back axle. The car has been provided a shifter which is column mounted along the left side of the steering wheel. The car weighed around 895kilos and with the engine provided, the car could go at a maximum speed of almost 125kmph.
The Premier Padmini was manufactured by Premier at the company’s Mumbai plant based in Kurla till they sold off a major stake in September 1997 to Fiat SpA. The vehicles were first manufactured as Fiat 1100 Delight. For the model year of 1972, the car had been marketed as Premier President but it was renamed as the Premier Padmini later on. During its peak days in 1970s and 1980s, the car had received immense popularity among young buyers, women and celebrities compared to the HM Ambassador because of its modern design, fuel efficiency and ease of driving.
During the early 1980s, higher powered version had been launched that offered 44bhp which was available at 5000rpm. The Premier Padmini began to be offered with AC systems and tinted glass that were thought to be luxury back then in Indian cars. Till 1996, the Premier Padmini was available in petrol versions only and after that a diesel version was introduced in the market.
The entry of fuel efficient and cheaper and compact models from Maruti Suzuki began eclipsing the popularity of the Padmini from the middle of 1980s. The freeing up of India’s economy back in 1991 allowed foreign car makers to begin their operations in the country hammered the final nail in the coffin of the Padmini. The Padmini could not compete with the value for money, modern and fuel efficient vehicles which were manufactured by Hyundai, Honda, General Motors, Ford and Daewoo.
In the year 1996, Premier had introduced four shifting gear boxes, bucket seats, more fuel efficient and powerful variant (S1) that had Nissan’s gear box and petrol engine for reviving the sagging sales of the Padmini. The diesel variant 137D had also been introduced and its engine was borrowed from the Nissan. The maximum speed of the car was near 140kmph and its fuel efficiency was around 24kmpl. The production of the car finally stopped in the month of November in 2000. When production ended, only the 137D was in production.
There are still quite a few taxis in Mumbai that use this car model. In fact, Mumbai’s taxis are iconic because they used the Padmini, quite similar to Kolkata’s taxis for using the Ambassador. The use of the Padmini is reducing in Mumbai as a taxi because the government has enacted a regulation in 2013 for disallowing cars and other vehicles to ply on the road if they are more than 20 years old. A lot of taxis in cities operate on CNG because of fuel economy and environment friendliness.
Even though Premier built all its cars in the four door sedan format, smaller companies too did some body work, particularly as estates. Even though the original design of the Fiat 1100D did not change,some details in the form of grill facelifts and removal of front doors vent windows were reworked. These were implemented at some time in the 1980s.
The Premier Padmini is available in the used car market under Rs 1 lakh or so. However, finding recent versions of it would be difficult and getting the car serviced too may be tough. If you have some sentiment value attached to the car, then only it makes sense to opt for it. There are quite a few people selling their old Padmini’s online. You can simply enter the name of your city along with the specifications of the car that you are looking to buy. You can filter the results according to your wish by enter the year of make, numbers of kilometers covered and other details.
If you are thinking of buying the car, then you must be prepared to spend a good amount getting it repaired. Finding a Padmini in its working condition may be quite difficult now. There are no official service centers left for the company and you would have to get the work done by local mechanics. You may have to get several parts replaced in order to make it compliant with the standards of today’s pollution control board. Prior to buying the car, it would be best you take along a mechanic with you who would be able to provide you with an estimate of expenses that you will incur on the car.