FIAT 500


While the main attention in Turin last week surrounded the global launch of the new Fiat 500, more than 800 gleaming examples of the historic 500 model rode into town, the tiny cars cruising into the famous Piazza Vittorio Veneto under a glorious sky as part of 500 meets 500, yet another of the many initiatives to surround the new 500 launch held last week. There they filled the huge historic piazza, which runs down to the River Po, in spectacular long rows.

The little cars were mostly drawn from Fiat 500 owners' clubs from around Europe, while some had come from even further a field, one red example had actually travelled overland all the way from Australia driven by seasoned adventurers Lang and Bev Kidby. Almost every example was represented in the piazza including rarer versions such as the 'Giardinetta' (estate) and the chunky off-road 500/600-based Ferves Ranger.

Fiat 500 1957-1975

Introduced in July 1957, the successor for the 'Topolino', the 'nuova 500' (Fiat project number 110) used a layout similar to that seen on the 600 with a rear mounted engine drivng the rear wheels and independent suspension on all four wheels. A first for Fiat was the air-cooling of the engine, a two cylinder 479cc unit with 13bhp. Ths was coupled to a four speed manual gearbox with a floor mounted shift. With initial sales much slower than Fiat had expected, later in 1957 (at the Turin Motor Show) they at introduced two versions, the 'Economica' and the 'Normale', both with an engine giving 15bhp. The 'Economica' was effectively the same as the original version (except for the more powerful engine) but at a reduced price, whilst the 'Normale' had the revised engine plus various other small changes, such as opening door windows, and a 'proper' rear seat. The following year, 1958, saw the introduction of the 'Sport'. After finishing first, second, third and fourth in class at the Hockenheim 12 hour race, Fiat began sales of the car.

FIAT 500

Part of 500 meets 500, another of the many initiatives to surround the new 500 launch held last week, saw the historic 500s filling the huge historic piazza which runs down to the River Po, in spectacular long rows.

FIAT 500

While the main attention in Turin has surrounded the global launch of the new Fiat 500, more than 800 examples of the historic 500 rode into town, cruising into the famous Piazza Vittorio Veneto.

It was fitted with a development of the original engine which, enlarged to 499.5cc and with a revised camshaft, valves, cylinder head and fuelling, managed to produce 21.5bhp. As well as a red stripe down each side of the car, it also had a solid roof, unlike the normal production cars which had canvas roll-back items. The Sport gained this latter feature in 1959.

The next major version to be released was the 'Giardiniera'. Introduced in 1960, this was an estate version, with a stretched wheelbase and a horizontally mounted engine. Later in the year the 500D was released. This brought the 499.5cc engine into general usage (rather than just in the Sport, which was discontinued) with a power output of 17.5bhp. A few other detail changes (such as a revised fuel tank) were also made.

Production of the 500D continued until 1965 when it was replaced by the 500F, the main changes being the adoption of front-hinged doors and a revised transmission. In 1968 the 500F was joined in production by the Lusso which had revised internal and external trim and details, most noticeably the addition of tubular 'extensions' (a form of bull-bars!) to the front and rear bumpers.

The final version emerged in 1972. The 500R used the new 594cc engine from the 126, with a reduced output of 18bhp, adopted the new Fiat logo, had different wheels and a few other changes. It continued in production until 1975 by which time a total over 3,678,000 examples of the 500 had been produced.

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Australian adventurers, Lang and Bev Kidby are on an expedition to drive a 1969 Fiat 500 Bambino 35,000km around the world - the smallest car ever to undertake such a challenge

Fiat 500 History: CarFromItaly / 2007 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed