The Fiat 500 was the name given to two very
different and popular cars dating back to 1936. The first Fiat 500
named the Topolino (meaning mouse) was one of the smallest cars in
the world at the time of its production. Three models were
produced until 1955 all with minor mechanical and cosmetic
changes. Nearly 520000 models of the Topolino were sold. In 1955
the mid size rear wheel drive Fiat 600 was launched by Fiat that
would become the design basis for the new Fiat 500, the 500 Nuova (or new). Often called
the bambino it was one of the most popular cars to ever leave
Italy and has become an Italian cult icon.
First launched in 1957, the Nuova 500 was
totally designed by Fiats chief designer at the time,
Dante Giacosa who had earlier designed the Fiat
600. Where the Topolino was a
front engine rear wheel drive car, Giacosa
wanted to find a way to pack more into a smaller space and he
convinced Fiat that the best way to do this was by using a rear
engine car. His design for the 500's engine differed from the 600
model and used a two cylinder air
cooled unit, this provided a much lighter design and with only
13.5 hp as much weight as possible was needed to be shaved off to
get the tiny car up to the top speed of 85 km/h.
In 1958 the first improvements were made to the bambino, this
included an increase of power up to 15 hp, a bit more chrome and
for the first time side windows that wound down. A sport model was
also launched that year that increased power to 21.5 hp something
that helped the tiny car keep up with the traffic.
More minor improvements are made to the car during the years 1959
to 1963 the car is now known as the 500D and has a 17.5hp engine.
Other improvements include points for fixing front seat belts,
redesigned seats and trunk space as well as an improved instrument
The most popular improvement came in 1965 when the now 500F
received redesigned front doors that opened like a normal car
rather than the previous suicide doors, also this year the engine
received yet another boost in power to 19 hp giving it a top speed
of 95 km/h.
In 1968 the 500 L was launched and more improvements were made to
the levels of interior comfort. a new steering wheel, instrument
panel, reclining seats and carpeting were installed. The later two
were a first for the 500.
1972 saw the launch of what was hoped to become the 500's more
successful replacement the Fiat 126. The 126 was based on the 500
design of a small rear engine car but looked like a more modern
version of the 500, it had more power and was a bit more comfortable, but
never sold as well as the 500. The final series of the 500 (called
500 R) was sold between 1972 and 1975 alongside the 126, this
series shared a new engine and wheels with the 126 and was
possibly the best performing 500 ever sold.
in 1975 production stopped on the Fiat 500 with 3.6 million cars
sold during it life, the 126 production had already been
outsourced to a Polish company called FSM who made both the Fiat
126 and the identical FSM Nikki for limited markets until 2000.
The rear engine Fiat 126 was replaced by a more modern front
wheel drive car in 1993.
In March 2004 Fiat released a concept car that mimics
the Fiat 500 styling in the same way the new VW Beetle is styled after the
old. The new car called the Fiat Trepiuno
is a high tech front wheel drive design. A new Fiat 500 based on the
Trepiuno concept was debuted in March 2007 with sales due to start late
2007. The new Fiat 500 shares its chassis with the next generation Ford
Ka and is expected to be cheaper than retro rivals the VW Beatle and