Now this is why I collect. To you it may not look like much at all. A vague car shape with thick, messy paint and no detail whatsoever. But to me this is gold. This is a grail car. This is the Mercury Fiat 1400.
The Fiat 1400 was introduced at 1950 Geneva Motor Show and became Fiat’s first unibody vehicle. Engine choices were limited to a 1.4 petrol with 44bhp or a 1.9 diesel with 40bhp and over 179,000 were sold before the Fiat production run ended in 1958. License production was also undertaken by SEAT of Spain badged as the SEAT 1400, Zastava of Yugoslavia as the Zastava 1400 BJ and Austrian company Steyr as the Steyr 2000. The Zastava built 1400 BJ was the last of the line to remain in production, with the final cars leaving the Kragujevac factory in 1961.
Readers of my posts should be no stranger to Italian diecast brand Mercury. In July 2020 I showed a Ferrari 250 and Porsche Carrera 906 that I had dug out of a shop in Milan and later that year a Fiat Campagnola arrived in my collection and had me won over with its simple, boxy looks. This Fiat is a little smaller than both of those but this is from an era where Matchbox would actually fit in a match box, and I’ve covered a couple of those before now. The scale of this is around 1/80, which will probably lose 3 of the 5 people who’ve got this far through my post. But this is firmly part of diecast history, the epitome of what keeps me collecting.
It’s part of Mercury’s “Micro Mercury” range that was aimed equally toward diecast collectors and HO scale model railway enthusiasts. As part of the slant toward railway modellers a range of locomotives and rolling stock also appeared, with car transport wagons that could carry the Micro Mercury cars. The range of vehicles included a Lancia Aurelia, a Lancia Aprilia Farina Spyder, Fiat 500C, Studebaker Commander, Cisitalia 1100 racing car and Fiat trucks with various attachments such as a tipper bed and crane. Models in the range are very thin on the ground now and can fetch hefty prices, often north of £50 and sometimes way into three figures. At the time of writing the only other Micro Mercury Fiat 1400 on Ebay is listed for over 160 Euros. Luckily for me a late night search found this listing priced at barely a fifth of what I have seen others listed at.
There’s not much to it whatsoever: body, base, axles and wheels. All are solid metal and for something so small it has a real weight to it. The Fiat 1400 logo on the base is a cool touch too.
As you can see it’s been over painted, which probably has killed a lot of it’s value. The original colour would have been a very pale green and vestiges of it are still visible. My thought is that the original paint had all but vanished when the over-painting was done, this is after all a 60 year old plus toy that has made it’s way to the UK at some point. It’s not the best paint job but nor was the factory paint, and it kind of suits it. And whether it leaves purist collectors recoiling or not I don’t really give a damn. The casting itself is superbly rare and interesting and another piece of true tranquil collecting.
(Find the Mercury Fiat 1400 on Ebay)