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.
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.
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.