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Old 10th January 2017, 10:16   #1
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Default The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Much has been discussed about the Premier Padmini estate/station wagon built by Starline in Mumbai in the 70s and 80s (?) - more commonly just called the 'Fiat Safari'. Unfortunately it is scattered across many different threads. This is an attempt to consolidate information and reference into one place - for what I like to think was an iconic model, even if they don't have much of a fan following.

From my understanding Premier Automobiles Limited would sell something called a drive-away chassis - i.e. without the rear portion of the body, so that the customer could build a utility vehicle as per his requirements. I believe Starline Motors was a prominent dealership in Bombay at the time, and they built custom bodies on said drive-away chassis'. Naturally, smaller scale production meant the cars suffered from quality control issues (not that the Padminis themselves were aces at the time ) and most of these wagons just fell apart, mainly with build and rust issues. As a result survival rate is very poor, and most people are happy about it! However all said and done I believe that it was a laudable effort to create a niche product at a time when options were so limited. We Indian's usually don't take a fancy to station wagons even today, and back then the demand was probably even lesser - though all three players at the time made similar efforts, including Hindustan's Traveller and Standard Motors' Companion.

The idea here is to document as much as possible on these small milestones that everyone forgot about. Day by day fewer and fewer people are around who would have first hand accounts. Our dear Behram had left these nuggets of information for us.

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/post-...ml#post3829741

Quote:
All Premier Safari bodies were built by Starline Motors. Some were with the Padmini tail lights and some were with the horizontal tail lights. Some were with the slightly less raked rear door and some were with more raked rear door. By the way (I think I had mentioned this somewhere on the forum before also), the very first Premier Safari was built in 1973. It was blue in color and was delivered by Deepak Chopra to the film actor Shatrughan Sinha from the Starline Motors showroom which was opposite the Tardeo Air-conditioned Market. I was standing next to the car when it was delivered, so I know. This means that the very first Premier Safari was made on the Premier President base car, because the Premier Padmini came into existence only in 1975. By the way, the color of the first Premier Padmini delivered in Mumbai was green, its number series was MMB but I do not know the numbers.
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/post-...ml#post3828765

Quote:
Dear Gowtham - this is the quintessential "Premier Safari"! It was made in Kurla plant as "PDA" (Premier Drive-away Chassis) with a half roof and only primer with no paint, and the body was made by Starline Motors at their Bhandup workshop. Starline Motors was owned by Deepak Chopra, an avid rallyist and my very good friend. You can see that the rear bumper is fitted inverted, this was done to allow the side opening tailgate to work! . Anything sold in those days but those were the days! Things have changed, but not necessarily for the better!
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/vinta...ml#post1547021

Quote:
Dear Karl / Harit - PAL never (repeat, never) extended the Padmini wheelbase, nor did they make any prototypes of extended wheelbase cars (HaHaHa, how could they ever?????). These cars were all extended by Deepak Chopra of Starline Motors only. He had also reduced the wheelbase of one car (MMH2600) which he used for the MASA rally of 1983 alongwith his navigator Shyam Punjabi (team "fox jackal"). The onky other dealer who dabbled in extending the Padmini wheelbase was Maha Auto but they did only one car, MAP1600, a cream coloured PP Standard. I had tested it in 1986, so I know. The whole car was absolutely atrocious, including totally wonky handling. MAP1600 had front bucket seats which could rotate by 90 degrees for ease of getting in and getting out. Essentially, all these projects were for "shine maroing" to the management and had nothing to do with any genuine attempt at vehicle development.

Just for academic information, we had also made Padmini prototypes with increased windshield rake angles. Two cars were made. Both looked horrible. They were never registered.
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/vinta...ml#post1547048

Quote:
Dear Harit - the "half" cars were called PDA (Premier Drive Away) chassis and they DID have rear doors, but they were normal size doors. Rear fenders were there but the dicky was not there. Also, the sheet metal behind the rear seats was not there. There were 2 cross pipes in place in this area to keep the structure in place. There is no way PAL could have supplied longer rear doors because there was no tooling (they had a huge problem with tooling of the normal cars as it is). The half cars did not have paint also. The cars left Kurla plant in primed body condition.
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/post-...ml#post1442876

Quote:
Dear Arun1100 - the car in the photograph is the "Premier Safari". As per the factory BOM, (Bill of Material), the model code was "PDA" (Premier Drive Away) chassis. It had doors but no dicky. It had a half roof, reinforced at the back by two pipes. As delivered from Kurla plant, the body was primed but not painted. The body was built by Starline Motors in Bhandup in suburban Mumbai. The Safari started in 1973 and the first car had an absolutely vertical tailgate and looked very ugly. This car was ceremoniously handed over the actor Shatrughan Sinha from the showroom of Starline Motors in Tardeo Mumbai in 1973. I was standing next to my friend Deepak Chopra who owned starline Motors. I am attaching one picture of a Premier Safari which I took in 2007 in Ahmednagar.

Incidentally, Deepak used to rally alongwith his friend Shyam Punjabi. Their rally team was known as "Team Fox Jackal". He had reduced the wheelbase of his rally prepared car and was it converted to a 2 door model. Its registration number was MMH2060.

My uncle had a dark blue Premier Safari MMD1045 which he gave to my brother-in-law who sold it in Aurangabad.

There used to be one more PAL dealer in Mumbai ny the name Maha Auto in Kalina near Kurla. Maha Auto had extended the wheelbase of one Premier Padmini car. Its registration number was MAP1600. It had the front seats which could be rotated by 90 degress for getting in and getting out. I tested it so I know. The handling was atrocious.

Best regards,

Behram Dhabhar
Here is some literature for the driveaway chassis

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The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-03.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-04.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-05.jpg

BHPian KKVaidya had posted these pictures earlier of his family Safari. It appears a separate booklet was issued for these vehicles compared to the sedan. Wonder if it applied to the owner's manuals as well.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-08.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-09.jpg

Incidentally I have a 1973 Premier President that still has the original Starline Motors keychain

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-06a.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-07a.jpg

Last edited by karlosdeville : 11th January 2017 at 09:45.
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Old 10th January 2017, 15:21   #2
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Default re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

While most of these PDA vehicles got bodies from Starline, I am sure a couple of other small players also existed, besides even later local conversions. Here are pictures of what I suspect must have been these type of cases.

Note the rear door window frame curves like the Padmini saloon in most cases.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-10.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-11.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-12.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-13.jpg

This was spotted in Goa, and is an attempt at a proper panel van / goods carrier with no rear side glasses.

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http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/post-w...ml#post3880519 (The FIAT 1100/Premier Padmini Technical Information thread)

Here (The FIAT 1100/Premier Padmini Technical Information thread) is one dating from 1982, built by the Jaipur dealer Kamal Automobiles

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-24.jpeg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-25.jpeg

This was the strangest one I ever saw many years back in Pune. While it shows some features of the Starline models, I'm not sure who made it. There were a couple of strange badges on the front and rear which unfortunately I didn't take a better picture of. Note the roof rack. The car is registered around 1981/82 perhaps.

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Another strange one was this conversion seen in Bangalore I think - though very heavily altered/upgraded.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-26.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-27.jpg

Coming to the more popular styles, these seem to be the earliest ones, starting with the Premier President, so around 1972. These continued to have the standard characteristic taillights

What is probably a publicity shot.
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Note these sport a vertical, sharp and flat rear hatch, hinged to the side.
The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-19.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-20.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-21.jpg

Good looking these were not!
The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-22.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-23.jpg

Compare these to the original concept on the Fiat 1100 Delight in Europe - naturally far more neatly integrated, though they never sold officially in India.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-familiare05.jpg

Last edited by karlosdeville : 10th January 2017 at 19:20.
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Old 11th January 2017, 09:55   #3
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Default re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

As Behram mentioned earlier, there were two distinct concepts - these were probably later models, with the sloping hatch and vertically hinged tailgate. From my memory it seems there were two types of taillights offered too - one had quad circular units, and the other had bulky rectangular ones with a chunky black frame - I remember these use to fall apart in most cars. So over the years most cars had some alteration to the taillights.

The 4 light arrangement
The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-28.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-29.jpg

The thicker unit arrangement - note the roof rack and side stripes. More later.
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A few survivors - almost all cars have some aftermarket taillight conversion
The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-31.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-32.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-33.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-34.jpg

Also I vaguely recall seeing a badge on the right side of these cars stating Premier Starline - luckily we found one survivor for reference. And just by sheer coincidence, yesterday I was following a bus that must have had a body built by Starline, with what seems to be the same badge. I assume it only came on one side since the other side has the petrol filler flap.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-35.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-36.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-37.jpg

There seems to have been a further evolution of this concept as well, with an attempt to modernise the appearance quite heavily. Admittedly it does look strange, but to put it into context of 1980s India it may have had some fans It was called the SAB 25 XL, and marketing as a premium hatchback rather than an estate.

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Note the same Starline script badge on the front grille this time.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-39-1984-starline-sab-25-xl_03.jpg

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Bucket seats, floor shift, and even a modern armrest on the doors.

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Another ad shared before.

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Last edited by karlosdeville : 11th January 2017 at 10:20.
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Old 11th January 2017, 10:26   #4
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Default re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Here is one of the best cars around, a 1982 model in the same ownership from new, belonging to BHPian parthmehd. It is commendable that the car is still well maintained and largely original after so many years. Note the very cool roof rack, which parth tells me was fitted on the car as it was a demo car at the showroom.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-43.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-44.jpg

Another very original though neglected car that I used to see regularly in Pune many years back. It is also a 1982 model

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-45.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-46.jpg

Happily enough, this car has been recently restored, and looks to be a well done job. One obvious alteration are the rear lights, but I guess there isn't much of an option available.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-47.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-48.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-49.jpg

Last edited by karlosdeville : 12th January 2017 at 10:15.
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Old 12th January 2017, 10:57   #5
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Classic Car Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 12th January 2017, 11:42   #6
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Thank you for the nostalgic article about the Fiat Safari. This was one of the childhood cars fresh in my memory as my Father had owned one. I remember going to Marina Beach in this car. It was a classic station wagon. We had a white colour Safari which we took delivery from TVS. Later when I was a teenager we had bought a second hand Safari for a year or so. This was the first car I learned to drive in the service road of Marina Beach. If my memory serves right it was around 1990!I had a few photographs of this beauty. If I find those I shall post it.

Thanks again!
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Old 12th January 2017, 12:13   #7
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Thanks Karl for this thread. The Safari has always been a grey area for me! Not anymore now

Some pics of a Safari owned by Mr.Rathinavel in Pollachi. He had recently restored this.

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-img20170112wa0011.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-img20170112wa0010.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-img20170112wa0013.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-img20170112wa0008.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-img20170112wa0009.jpg

Also, so long, I was of the impression that the safari was the desi version of the Fiat 1100 station wagon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post
Compare these to the original concept on the Fiat 1100 Delight in Europe - naturally far more neatly integrated, though they never sold officially in India.
This is one beautifully maintained wagon (owned by Mr Durai in Annur) that I have seen in the Ooty/Pondy vintage shows.

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The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-p_20150131_181215.jpg

The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon-p_20150131_181235.jpg

It is a left hand drive version with a FIAT 1200 badge. Did FIAT make them or was it something similar to the Safari? Would like to know more on this from you since you mentioned that they were never officially sold in India

Last edited by h14 : 12th January 2017 at 12:21.
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Old 12th January 2017, 12:48   #8
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Quote:
Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post

Incidentally I have a 1973 Premier President that still has the original Starline Motors keychain
Renovation does not directly imply preservation.
We see a lot of wannabe restorers simply plonking money and patting themselves in the back. However, to maintain a key chain from 1973, that needs passion which money cannot buy. For that alone you have a very great admirer in me.
Keep up the good work.
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Old 12th January 2017, 14:12   #9
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Quote:
Originally Posted by h14 View Post

This is one beautifully maintained wagon (owned by Mr Durai in Annur) that I have seen in the Ooty/Pondy vintage shows.

Attachment 1594488[/center]

It is a left hand drive version with a FIAT 1200 badge. Did FIAT make them or was it something similar to the Safari? Would like to know more on this from you since you mentioned that they were never officially sold in India
2 things here.
1. Left Hand Drive
2. This looks like a factory finished model with perfect alignment.

This is most definitely an import as a station wagon, not a conversion to station wagon.
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Old 12th January 2017, 14:37   #10
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Quote:
Originally Posted by vinit.merchant View Post
2 things here.
1. Left Hand Drive
2. This looks like a factory finished model with perfect alignment.

This is most definitely an import as a station wagon, not a conversion to station wagon.
Yes Vinit, I got that point. But my query was more on whether FIAT made them at the plant or was it a drive away chassis type.
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Old 12th January 2017, 14:53   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post
A few survivors - almost all cars have some aftermarket taillight conversion
GAA 6165 (Gujarat regn.?) would sadly not be a survivor unless twas lucky at the 11th hour- had actually taken that pic. at a local scrapyard where it'd come, nearly 10 years ago (can't believe tis that long!)
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Old 12th January 2017, 15:27   #12
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Amazing thread Karl!! We used to own 2 of these Premier Station Wagons in the 80's (one red and one blue). Don't have any pic of it though :(
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Old 12th January 2017, 17:16   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h14 View Post
Yes Vinit, I got that point. But my query was more on whether FIAT made them at the plant or was it a drive away chassis type.
I think this should answer your query. It is the last picture in post no 2 of this thread by Karl. I think this one and the picture you posted are identical.
Quote:
Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post

Compare these to the original concept on the Fiat 1100 Delight in Europe - naturally far more neatly integrated, though they never sold officially in India.

Attachment 1593970
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Old 12th January 2017, 17:25   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h14 View Post
Yes Vinit, I got that point. But my query was more on whether FIAT made them at the plant or was it a drive away chassis type.
PAL never made LHD station wagons. There was a 1967fiat 1100 LHD station wagon in Trivandrum till recently.it had floor shift gear, plastic dashboard etc,It was imported from WashingtonDC and a very original car
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Old 12th January 2017, 18:53   #15
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Default Re: The Premier Padmini Starline 'Safari' Station Wagon

Wonderful thread Karl, brings back so many childhood memories. Even though we never owned the station wagon, we had the standard 1100 for many many years. Believe it or not, my dad had bought it as a third hand car and it stayed in the family for 17 years! It was the car in which I learnt to drive, so it always holds a special place in my heart.

I guess Fiat always retained that special place, so when I could afford to buy my own car I went ahead and got a Punto!
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