Fiat 500 History

 
 

 

Pictured above; Fiat 500 " the Bambino"

 
 
 
 

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 panel.

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 Mini.
 

  Fiat Trepiuno
  Fiat 126
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Did You Know?

A high performance version of the classic Fiat 500 was called the Fiat Abarth 500, it had good success in motor sport racing.

 

 

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