1950 Fiat 1400 Cabriolet August – October 2023 Cover Story

Journey of a Grand Old Lady
My restoration journey of what could be described as an “Elegant Old Lady” began on 21 March 1998 when from my remote location in Brisbane I bought, over the phone, one Fiat 1400 Cabriolet in as-is condition via an auction in Adelaide.

Following my successful bid the car was shipped to my address at Albany Creek where it remained parked and under protective covers for 14 years. In January 2012 the car was again uncovered, and so began a ten-year journey of dismantling, repairing, replacing, restoring and reassembling.

The car had been built in 1950 and according to some reports was one of seven cars imported into Australia with the aim of evaluating its viability in the local market, where its sibling, the Fiat 1400 sedan, was already on sale. It is said that the cabriolet first appeared at the 1951 Adelaide Motor Show. It appears that my car was sold at the motor show to Geoffrey Dutton, a South Australian farmer on a property known as “Kardjna”. The car appears to have changed hands two or three times, and it was last sold to Alan “Butt” Whibley. The car apparently spent its entire life in South Australia until its move to Queensland in 1998. The original SA number plates and its last 1961 registration label seem to confirm this. The car is said to have travelled to Alice Springs and possibly even to Darwin. Its speedometer registered 72,188 miles. The condition of the car, with the bush repairs carried out on it, point to a hard life for a car never designed for the Australian outback, where the only highways were corrugated dirt roads.

Mr Whibley seems to have bought the car before 1961, and on 30 November that year deregistered it and stored it in a farm shed pending an eventual restoration which sadly never eventuated. His grandson, Bradley Paton, later inherited the property and its contents but was not interested in the huge array of items which had been collected. Consequently everything was offered for sale by auction on 21 March 1998 in Adelaide, one of 1,362 lots.

The car was relatively rust-free, quite complete and still covered in the original lead paint. From a restoration point of view, the project was as ideal as one could wish for.

The restoration
A total ground-up restoration began in 2012 and took ten years. The journey took far longer than expected, and by the end of 2022 all earlier budgets had become a distant memory! Along the way many asked “are we there yet?” But how do you explain that there are virtually no spares to be had and that any part required had to be recreated by an elusive “someone” with the skills, dedication and willingness to do it? Anyone who has walked this path knows only too well that those special and talented craftsmen are gradually becoming a thing of the past. This proved to be but one of many obstacles.

Now that the project is finally finished I can look back, absorb the view and appreciate the final product for what it is, all with an abundant sense of satisfaction and justification, both for me and for those who urged me on along the way!

As a celebration my son Danny and I took the car to Auto Italia in Canberra, where it was well received by the many visitors on the day.

The journey produced many challenges, and there were times when I had to do some serious soul-searching on whether to continue or not. I owe sincere thanks to those supporters who encouraged me to persevere. They were my ongoing source of mental positiveness, and I can’t thank them enough.


All complex projects require the assistance of individuals with special skills in specific areas, and so it was with this project.
To those individuals who over the years helped me to bring the project to completion I “tip my hat” for their assistance, their special talents, their dedication to their work and for the friendship that ensued because of it. For their special skills and efforts my whole-hearted gratitude.

My thanks also go to those individuals who, although not directly involved in the day-to-day rebuild, were always there to show an interest and to offer valued encouragement and a reason to continue, especially during dark moments! To these special friends and especially my wife and family I also say thank you. This project is undoubtedly a personal achievement, while capped with a sense of satisfaction to see it through to the end in the face of the obstacles and challenges met at every corner.

Summary: FIAT 1400
• Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1950
• 1400 Cabriolet launched at the same time
• 1400 Diesel released in 1953 (first diesel car built by FIAT)
• first car with load-bearing body built by FIAT
• production ceased in 1958
• total production run of 180,500 cars
• about 2,300 cabriolets were produced.

Source : “The Bayside Vehicle Restorers Club Inc. Magazine”