The Italian Job

Donec egestas diam arcu, id auctor turpis porttitor ac. Nulla feugiat justo mauris ( Photo by: jont dore )


February 15

For a country still deprived of proper hot hatches, we have to look up to Fiat and thank them for the Palio 1.6. It was a sensation back in 2002, when Fiat launched the 1.6GTX with its revvy twin cam, 16v, 100bhp motor and suddenly everyone could afford to go fast. And ten years later, we still don’t have a hatch that is this exciting- the discontinued 1.6 versions of the Polo and Fabia included. With its jewel of an engine and sharp handling, the Palio 1.6 was for connoisseurs of speed. It is rare, but if rarity is what you are after, you can do better by buying an S10.

The S10 was the result of the association between Fiat and Sachin Tendulkar. Only 500 of these were ever made and they all came finished in Canary yellow, sporting Tendulkar signatures all around. But it was more than a cricketer endorsed special with new velour upholstery and a leather gearknob. The Palio S10 had a revised gearbox with shorter ratios in third, fourth and fifth to make better use of the engine’s strong midrange performance. It also came with special alloy wheels, side skirts and a wrap around rear spoiler. And each car came with a special plate with its number stamped on it. That way we knew it was car number 149, 377, 379 and 422, that were with us today. It is like names, you know who you’re talking to. And that gives it personality. So when the four of them came to see me, we decided it was time to finally pay tribute to the cricket legend retiring this month.


This yellow and green S10 reminds me of ‘The Mask’ every time I see it. Nowhere else has this contrast been so obvious but I have to say, it makes the S10 even more interesting.  It is quite low slung, riding on heat treated springs. The looks are further enhanced with new lips, a debadged front grill and silver finish mirrors. The blacked out tail lamps and a few decals complete the styling.

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Mohammed Shameel bought this car six years back from a friend, when he was contemplating buying a 1.6 GTX. We had featured it earlier in our ‘Old School Heroes’ issue when it was more or less looking stock, but it still had a Raj Hingorani exhaust, K&N air intake and iridium spark plugs. Next up on his list is a full engine upgrade and some racing seats. Let’s see how well he can pull it off.


That is what its owner Sunil T Chandran likes to call his S10. This is his second S10; the first one he sold it for buying a City VTEC. Then later when car number 422 showed up in Bangalore, he grabbed it. That was probably a great decision, because when he took it to the Fiat Meet in Ooty, a few weeks back, he was christened the ‘South Indian Fiat Star’ from sixty odd Fiat cars, diesels mostly.

As soon as Sunil got his car, it was stripped down completely for a full respray of the original Canary Yellow. It could have been a tough job recreating the Tendulkar signatures and the original logos, but originality was high on Sunil’s list, right from the beginning. And those teal coloured Lenso 17inch wheels are a very original idea. On the performance front, he has a Green cotton filter and an exhaust system from Raj Hingorani. Lowering it on custom suspension is next on Sunil’s mind as is anything that would make his car better.


When it comes to limited edition hatchbacks, Akhil Vishnu has not one, but two precious gems in his garage. You might remember his black & orange brawler from our three door Zen special issue. Well, the Palio isn’t as loud with its wheels and styling, but then, with that yellow paint, you don’t need to get any louder with an S10. The 17inch HR 5 spoke wheels are finished in dull chrome to give it a subdued bling effect. The Italian Flag sticker on a solo spoke is a unique touch. Another Italian touch that isn’t so obvious is the rear view mirrors- the outside two are painted red and green, while the inside mirror is finished in white.

There is a story on how Akhil bagged car number 377 with just 7500km on the odo, about seven months back. This car was driven by an elderly man whose son left it with him when he went abroad. And though it was not being used very frequently, the family didn’t want to part with their son’s beloved possession. Akhil became a regular visitor to the house and after a year of talking them through it, they handed over the keys to him. The ‘baby yellow devil’(BaYeDe), as he likes to call his S10 has ever since been giving him smiles and thrills.


Named after his favourite muscle car from Dodge, Jayadev Gopakumar’s S10 is a little different from the others here. It was built as a fun car for weekend drives around the MMRT but the quality is enough to land it on a show floor than thrashing it on a race track. The only car to come with racing seats, the track ready modifications in Jayadev’s S10 are evident right from the beginning. The rims are proper 15 inchers wearing 205/50R15 tyres giving it a slightly wider track, reduced unsprung mass and adequate bump absorption. And they are the last of the 15inch BBS RWs in the Fiat specific 98 PCD. The engine has been given a Green Storm cold air intake, a free flow exhaust and a lightened flywheel. The suspension, Jayadev says has been custom built to suit his driving style. He also has a set of custom slotted rotors and performance brake pads to improve the braking in his car.  It even has a valve that brings down the exhaust noise for road use. What next and he has told us to expect a surprise. Looks like we’re revisiting it again next year.

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