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Fiat 500 (1957 - 1975)

Last updated 6 September 2013

 
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Model Timeline

July 1957
Fiat 500D replaces Topolino

The successor to the legendary pre-War Topolino, the Nuova 500 was Fiat’s most famous people’s car. Relatively quick and frugal, the handling was efficient and boasted wonderfully direct steering – a recipe that won it millions of fans in car-loving Italy.

This 'Nuova 500' was technically similar to the 600 - a rear-mounted engine drove the rear wheels, and the car featured all-round independent suspension with rear-hinged 'suicide' doors. A first for Fiat was the air-cooled engine, which was a two cylinder 479cc unit producing 13bhp in basic form. A four-speed gearbox with a floor-mounted gear lever was precise and fun to use.

However, initial sales were slow, and that led Fiat to launch two new versions, the 15bhp 'Economica' and the 'Normale'. Essentially, the 'Economica' was the original car but with a more powerful engine and lower price tag. The 'Normale' also had the uprated engine plus various other upgrades that made the car easier to live with.

January 1958
500 Sport introduced

In 1958, the 'Sport' model was introduced as a result of a spate of track successes, such as a first, second, third and fourth in class at the Hockenheim 12-hour race. This model was fitted with an uprated version of the standard engine, enlarged to 499cc, with a revised camshaft, valves, cylinder head and fuelling. As a result, it now produced a very creditable 21.5bhp. With a distinctive red stripe down each side, the Sport was difficult to miss. Another feature was its solid roof, compared to the canvas roll-back roof found on standard production cars. The Sport was offered with an open-air option from 1959.

January 1960
Giardiniera launched

A 'Giardiniera' estate version was introduced for 1960, which rode on a stretched wheelbase and differed from the saloon by having a horizontally mounted engine. Later that year, the 500D arrived with a 499cc engine from the discontinued Sport, but with a reduced power output of 18bhp.

January 1965
Fiat 500F introduced


The 500D was replaced by the 500F in 1965, where the most noticeable changes were the overdue adoption of front-hinged doors and a revised transmission. In 1968, the 500F was joined in production by the Lusso, which offered several touches of big car luxury including reclining seats and even carpet.

There were literally dozens of 500 spin off models – as well as the famous sporting Abarth-tuned models, some of Italy's most famous coachbuilders transformed the 500. Vignale's Fiat Gamine was a smart little roadster, while the Ghia Jolly had the roof removed. Siata built a miniature open-topped classic car.

The 500 was also a genuine world car, built by SEAT in Spain, Motor Holdings in New Zealand, while the NSU-Fiat Weinsburg 500 from Germany Teutonically styled version.

January 1972
Fiat 500R introduced


The final version emerged in 1972 as the 500R, which used a new 594cc engine from the 126, with a reduced output of 18bhp. The R also had the floorpan from its successor and adopted the new Fiat logo, with different wheels and a few other changes. However, the basic drum brakes were never updated, while the 'crash' non-synchromesh gearbox provided lots of noisy entertainment.

January 1975
Production ends

The final Nuova 500 tolls off the line after a run of 3,427,648 examples.

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