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Fiat 500, the new and affordable Fiat

You get everywhere with the little Fiat
You get everywhere with the little Fiat

In the mid-fifties Fiat commissioned a model under the Fiat 600 to design. It led to a car that is today an incredibly popular classic: the Fiat 500. In the beginning, the design of the new and affordable Fiat did not catch on. In the end, Fiat turned out to outdo itself – after some important modifications. The 500 was still embraced by a large audience.

The designers took cost savings as their starting point. They opted for a rear-mounted two-cylinder engine (vertical twin) with a minimum number of components. The designers also chose to combine as few individual sheet parts as possible within the design, which included a long (rollable) canvas roof. The Nuova 500 was presented in July 1957 and was generally enthusiastically received by the press and the public. The tiny 479 cc engine generated about 13 horsepower, just enough to reach a maximum speed of 85 km/h.

Difficult commercial start

The commercial start of the Nuova 500 was difficult. For example, the first models did not have a back seat and the power of the particularly Spartan equipped Fiat 500 did not always get together. This changed when Carlo Abarth was asked in 1958 to design a sports version that would make the 500 more attractive to a young audience. The Fiat 500 Sport with 499,5 cc developed 21,5 hp and reached a top speed of 105 km/h. The 1959 adjustments ensured the real breakthrough. In 1959 the 500 got a little more comfort. Also important was the step to increase the space in the back. This was done by changing the bottom plate and creating more space for the feet.

Various changes: the Fiat 500 D and Fiat 500 F

In 1960 the Fiat 500 D was launched, including the 499,5 cc engine that also found its way into the 500 Sport. Sales of the 500 continued to rise. Five years later, the manufacturer presented the heavily revised Fiat 500 F. The bodywork was almost identical to that of the 500 D. Yet almost all components were different. Furthermore, the 500 D received less chrome and was clearly recognizable by the doors that hinged at the front.

Dominant in sales, new customer needs

The Fiat 500 continued to dominate Italian car sales in the 1960s, but customers were becoming more demanding in terms of luxury. That is also why Fiat launched the 1968 L (Lusso) in 500. This luxury variant was distinguished by the use of tubular chromed bumper parts, other wheel covers and chrome moldings around the windscreen and rear window.

Final phase and the arrival of the Fiat 126

Although the Fiat 500 was still successful - with sales peaking in 1970 - it was working on a successor to the now aging 500. Fiat developed the angular 126, which was small in size but much more spacious than the 500. cc engine of the 499,5, the 500 cc power source was developed for the 126. And it also found – in tamed form – its way into the last 594 berlina-variant: the Rinnovata, in short the Fiat 500R. This was recognizable from the outside by the elongated FIAT logo on the front panel and the 126rims. Production was discontinued on August 1, 1975. In total, Fiat built around 3,2 million regular copies of the 500 in berlina trim.

Multifunctional: the Giardiniera

The Fiat 500 also formed an excellent basis for many variants. In the 500s, Fiat also found an answer to the growing need for space and multi-usability. It made the Fiat 500 Giardiniera, an estate version of the 500, which actually succeeded the Topolino Belvedere. The 1965 Giardiniera was especially loved by entrepreneurs. Developments continued steadily. In 500 production of the 1968 Giardiniera was transferred to the Autobianchi factory in Desio, where the Bianchina was made. It was sold under the Fiat logo until 1977, after which it was sold as Autobianchi Bianchina Giardiniera. It was built until XNUMX, also as a van version (Fourgone, without rear side windows).

License building and variations on a theme

Furthermore, the Fiat 500 was built under license in various countries and in those capacities it was given its own identity. The best-known licensed variants are the German NSU-Fiat Weinsberg 500 Limousette and the Austrian Steyr-Puchs. In the Steyr variants, different engines were installed compared to the Fiat. The Fiat 500 was also more often the basis for personalized versions: Giannini, Moretti, Zagato Lombardi and Abarth provided technical adjustments, while Vignale, Savio, Ghia, Pininfarina, Lombardi, Boano, Viotti and Allemano built unique coupé and convertible versions. The best known derivatives were Autobianchi's Bianchina models. CAP and Ferves used the 500 to make it an off-road 4×4 version. It indicates that the unique and well-thought-out Fiat 500 – despite being small in size – offered great variation options. An icon. And that's it.

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- Driving impression Fiat 600 D (1964). Little happiness, great virtue
- Fiat 126 as bycatch
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9 Comments

Give a reaction
  1. Please add to this wonderful story:
    The 1st genius behind this “mini-conical car” is Dante Giacosa who also technically designed the original 500 de Topolino.
    The 2nd genius is Carlo Abarth. Indeed, the nuova did not sell for an inch. Abarth took a 500 in hand and let the backpack drive around the Monza circuit for a week.
    The gathered press was lyrical about the performance of the car that covered almost 19.000 km in that week. traveled.
    The Nuova 500 was a resounding success, cementing FIAT's reputation and establishing Abarth's name.
    Abarth no longer had to buy complete FIATs, but could purchase them “semi” assembled, which made conversion considerably easier.
    In addition, FIAT Abarth from then on paid good money for every victory that the Abarth-FIATs achieved in races and that would be hundreds, if not thousands.

  2. I have one myself in my warehouse. Although there is still a lot that needs to be welded to the bottom. They are really nice cars. Or as I call them myself, droppies.
    All in all… Who knows, maybe mine will hit the road again one day.

  3. Love that car and the article about it.
    The 500 is often underestimated. Put a 126 engine in it, race with the wind at your back through the Po plain. 125 km per hour. Moreover, our experience to Sicily is good for 4 people.

  4. Why can't a fiat 500 be fitted with seat belts? Because it looks like you're wearing a backpack!
    Despite this limitation a top cart!

  5. The new Fiat 500 has also been a success for 14 years.
    So it was not a good decision for Fiat to discontinue it in 1975 and switch to square design.
    As always, the original has the greatest cuddliness factor.

  6. Still fairly affordable, making a Fiat 500 a good investment. It is only a matter of time before the Fiat 500, especially the models with suicide doors, will become considerably more expensive.

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