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
That happened on the 13th November 1953, just three years after the formation of the brand.
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.
The 1400 was an impressive four-door, front engine, rear-wheel drive saloon. It was equally at home as an official state authority vehicle or providing transportation to the masses as a public taxi.
Its production was at SEAT’s manufacturing plant in Barcelona. The initial workforce there consisted of 925 employees. The 1400’s technical specifications were reflective of the period. It had a 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
The car had a four-speed manual transmission. With a maximum output of 44PS, the engine gave it a top speed of 120km/h.
The chassis incorporated helical springs that produced an elastic effect on the rear suspension. It also had longitudinal semi-cantilever springs – which acted as thrust arms. The aim was 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. It had a rounded rear shape and 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).
The end of the SEAT 1400’s initial production run was in 1954. By then the production reached 1,345 units. 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.