A history of the Fiat 500
The fact you have found your way to our Classic Fiat 500 website, perhaps means you may be interested in a potted history of our favourite cars…
The Fiat 500, known in Italy as the cinquecento, was a “people’s car” produced by Fiat company between 1957 and 1975. Launched in July 1957, designed by Dante Giacosa, the Nuova 500 was a successor to the Fiat 500 Topolino models A, B C – Topolino meaning “little mouse” and marketed as a low cost town car.
Measuring just over 9 feet long and powered by a 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine, the Fiat 500 or “Bambina” is considered one of the first city cars. The post-war market required economy cars and the rear-engined Fiat 500 following the concept of the Volkswagen Beetle met this demand. Several car makers followed this design and were quite successful, but only the Fiat 500 was used as a template for other car makers in Europe. Austrian firm, Steyr-Puch produced cars based on the Fiat 500 design. Despite its small size, the fiat five hundred proved to be an enormously popular car throughout Europe during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Besides the coupe, it was also manufactured as an estate known as the “Giardiniera” or Fiat 500 K; this model featured the engine laid on its side, a full-length sunroof, and larger brakes from the earlier Fiat 600. Production of the iconic Fiat 500 ended in 1975, although its replacement, the Fiat 126, was launched two years earlier. Engines and gearboxes are sometimes used in Fiat 500 classic cars of today as they are known for their mechanical durability, higher BHP and enhanced fuel economy.
The first cars were made as an economical means of transportation without luxury and were designed as two-seaters, with suicide doors and a 479 cc, 13 hp engines, providing a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph). This initial model was not a success, so Fiat introduced two new versions in December 1957: Economica and Normale.
Both the Economica and Normale had a 15 hp engine, however the later had some cosmetic and functional improvements, such as wind-up windows, indicator controls on the steering column, chrome front light surrounds and more comfortable rear seats.
From 1958 through to 1960, Fiat promoted the Sport model. These had a 499 cc engine with 21.5 horsepower and an all-in-one metal roof (the standard Fiat 500 versions had a fold-back canvass tops). It had improvements such as the steering wheel, air filter and carburetor. The colour scheme was white with red bands on each side.
Fiat 500 N (1958)
Introduced which was much improved, with opening sunroof and affordable for the masses. Here began the success of the Fiat 500 as we know it.
Fiat 500 D (1960 – 1965)
The D looks very similar to the Nuova, however there were some differences such as the sunroof does not fold back as far), it featured an ashtray, padded sun visors and a washer pump. It also had suicide doors and rear badge Fiat 500 nuova in joined-up writing and rubber floor mats.
Fiat 500 Giardiniera (K) (1960 – 1975)
This is the estate version of the Fiat 500 family. The engine was laid under the floor in the boot area to create a flat loading surface. The roof on this model stretched all the way back and did not stop above the driver as it did on other models of that era.
Fiat 500 F (1965 – 1968)
In March 1965 saw the introduction of the F. Out went the suicide doors (due to safety) sadly for the men who then went onto complain they couldn’t look at girls legs as they got in and out of the cars!). Also the silver trim on the bonnet and the doors disappeared. The rear lights where more square and the windscreen larger to improve driver visibility. The speedo was also modified up to 120 km/h showing less numbers than the D (The horsepower was 19). Rear badge ‘nuova 500’ in joined-up letters and rubber mats.
Fiat 500 L or Lusso – (1968 – 1972)
While the F and L are mechanically very similar, the key differences were the bumpers. The L has an extra chrome nudge bar at the front and two at the rear, a more modernised interior (seats and pleated door panels), a new black steering wheel, an almost square instrument panel with plastic revised dashboard, speedometer up to 130 km/h, reclining seats and carpeting. The rear badge FIAT 500 L was in capital letters set on a silver mount.
Fiat 500 R or Rinnovata – (1972 – 1975)
Had a larger 594 cc engine, out 23 hp (similar to the fiat 126) and a syncromesh gearbox. The unique chrome nudge bars, as seen on the L models disappeared and Fiat mixed and matched the interior with the F model.
It is the slightly older models that we tend to focus on, but we are able to assist with a variety of rental options (regardless of age) if you find yourself in need of one of these great cars for any reason. Why not get in touch!