The car that launched SEAT is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. The SEAT 1400, a luxurious and elegant saloon, marked the beginning of the brand’s story and formed the platform for its future success.
The first SEAT 1400 – with registration plate number B-87.223 – rolled off the production line at the brand’s Zona Franca factory in Barcelona on the 13th November 1953, just three years after the brand had been formed.
Priced at 117,000 pesetas (around €705 or £616), the production rate was just five vehicles a day during the first year, but that number would rapidly climb.
Conceived as the vehicle to build the foundations of SEAT’s business, the 1400 was an impressively executed four-door, front engine, rear-wheel drive saloon, equally at home as an official state authority vehicle or providing transportation to the masses as a public taxi.
Performance to impress
Built at SEAT’s manufacturing plant in Barcelona, with an initial workforce of 925 employees, the 1400’s technical specifications were reflective of the period: longitudinally mounted petrol engine at the front with power delivered to the rigid rear axle which incorporated a differential.
That engine was a four-cylinder unit with a displacement of 1,395cc, linked to a four-speed manual transmission and with a maximum output of 44PS, giving it a top speed of 125km/h.
The chassis incorporated helical springs that produced an elastic effect on the rear suspension, and longitudinal semi-cantilever springs – which acted as thrust arms – to give it anti-roll stabilisation. A Panhard rod ensured the lateral positioning of the axle. This setup was ultra-modern for the time.
The 1400’s exterior took its design cue from American vehicles of the time, with a rounded rear shape extenuated by conical-shaped rear lights, but it also introduced curved, one-piece windscreens and a heating system to the market.
As well as appealing aesthetics, the SEAT 1400 also offered more than sufficient performance. Its 48-litre fuel tank gave it significant range thanks to its fuel consumption figure of 10.5 litres/100km (27mpg) and it would glady cruise at 100km/h (62mpg).
Manufactured for success
By the end of the SEAT 1400’s initial production run in 1954, 1,345 units had been produced, but that was just the beginning of the car’s life. The 1400 family continued with the introduction of the 1400 A in 1954, the 1400 B in 1956 and 1400 C in 1960, along with a number of special versions.
With each version came improvements to the performance and design, helping solidify its position in the market and grow SEAT as a brand.
The 1400 helped SEAT’s growth skyrocket. Initial production numbers were small, by the end of 1954, 959 units were delivered, however a year later annual production was tipping towards 3,000 – and the 1400 was produced with nearly 100% nationally sourced components.
In 1956 7,000 vehicles were manufactured, with that number hitting 10,000 a year later. By the end of its life, 98,978 units had been sold and its place in history was guaranteed.
|Number of cylinders/valves||Four-cylinder/Eight valves|
|Bore and stroke||82mm x 66mm|
|Carburettor||Solex or Weber downdraft with manual choke|
|Cooling||Liquid cooled, belt driven fan. Water pump|
|Transmission||Four-speed manual, reverse|
|Chassis||Front: Independent, deformable trapezium with springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Rear: Rigid axle with springs, telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers and longitudinal leaf springs
|Tyres||5.90 x 14|
|Brakes||Front and rear drums|