It is 70 years since the first 1400 produced in the SEAT factory in the Barcelona Free Trade Zone, just three years after the creation of the Spanish brand as a company. The emblematic model marked the beginning of the history of the company, which later launched more accessible models to put Spain on wheels, and laid the foundations for the successful future of the SEAT SA company that we know today.
The SEAT assembly line was inaugurated on June 5, 1953, and by the end of that year 925 members of the workforce were working. Since then, SEAT SA has manufactured more than 20 million vehicles since 1953 and, at the Martorell plant alone, after 30 years of operation, more than 12 million vehicles have been manufactured, out of a total of 45 models.
Since its beginnings, SEAT has always launched vehicles designed and developed for the customer and their needs. When the SEAT 1400 was presented in 1953, it paved the way for higher levels of mobility, with the stylized image of an American vehicle and the luxury and elegance so appreciated in the automobiles of the time.
The first vehicle produced by the company offered an attractive aesthetic, with an exterior design inspired by American vehicles of the time. The rear part was rounded and very elegant, with conical-shaped taillights. Likewise, it was one of the first models to introduce curved one-piece windshields and the heating system to the market.
It offered more than enough performance for its use, mainly aimed at being an official vehicle for state authorities, as well as to provide public service as a taxi. Its 48-liter fuel tank gave it a significant range of autonomy, thanks to its fuel consumption of 10.5 liters per 100 km.
It implemented a four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1,395cc, linked to a four-speed manual transmission, which developed a maximum power of 44 HP on the rigid rear drive axle, which incorporated the differential. Thus, it reached a maximum speed of 120 km/h.
The SEAT 1400 was one of the first vehicles in Europe to use a self-supporting body – then called a “pontoon” – instead of a separate chassis with a bolted body. The chassis incorporated coil springs in the rear suspension, to generate an elastic effect that provided greater comfort, and semi-cantilever longitudinal leaf springs, which acted as tie rods or push arms, and served to give the model better anti-roll stability. For its part, a Panhard bar was responsible for the transverse positioning of the axle. This setup was very modern for its time.
At the end of initial production of the SEAT 1400 in 1954, 1,345 units had been produced, but this was only the beginning. The 1400 family continued with the introduction of the 1400 A in 1954, the 1400 B in 1956 and the 1400 C in 1960, along with a series of special versions – family, commercial and even van bodies. With each version, performance and design improvements were incorporated, helping to consolidate its position in the market and grow SEAT as a brand.
The 1400 collaborated in the great growth of the company. Although initial production figures were small, by the end of 1954 959 units had been delivered, and a year later annual production was approaching 3,000, and was produced with almost 100% domestically sourced components. In 1956, 7,000 vehicles were manufactured, and a year later the figure reached 10,000. At the end of its marketing, 98,978 units had been sold and the brand had guaranteed its position in the market, and in the history of the automotive industry in Spain.
From 1400 to León: the evolution of the automobile
The design has evolved as much as customer needs have changed. In the fifties, the use of chrome, large round headlights, discreet rear lights, or the sinuous and elegant curves of large sheet metal panels prevailed. Today, joint work between engineers and designers prevails to maximize aerodynamics, safety, dynamism, visibility, and comfort. The SEAT León provides a cleaner and more defined aesthetic, with fully powerful LED lighting and white light so as not to strain the eyes, great habitability without compromising the exterior size, and where the many technological devices hidden along the side are not perceived. length and width of the body.
Inside, the bench seats have given way to enveloping seats capable of making driving comfortable over many kilometers, always keeping the body close to the seat to prioritize safety. Likewise, the trunk of the SEAT 1400 was large, but the spare wheel took up a large part of its volume. Today, the deeper floor of the SEAT León, and the specific spaces for the spare wheel – minimized or original size – as well as for the sound system subwoofer, offer a much larger trunk capacity for the limited overhang of the its bodywork. If more space is necessary, the Sportstourer family version offers up to an incredible 620 liters – 470 in the e-HYBRID, due to the arrangement of the batteries.
Regarding the evolution of mechanics, 70 years have gone a long way. The regulations for emissions, noise, safety, and the ease of driving cars with good performance today culminate in the efficient SEAT León with plug-in hybrid technology and 204 HP of power. However, the heat engines of the SEAT 1400 and del León e-HYBRID They share their cubic capacity of 1,395 cc. A great similarity, although with enormous evolution. And the current 1.4 TSI 150 HP (110 kW) engine is combined with another 115 HP (85 kW) electric engine, implemented within the DSG automatic gearbox, allowing the SEAT León to move with electricity and without local emissions up to 64 km.