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Lot 456: Fiat 500L Saloon

Exceptional Collectors' Motor Cars, Bonhams & Butterfields (6 June 2010)

In the early 2000s Top Gear asked a series of celebrities what they considered to be the best car ever built. Perhaps one of the more unlikely responses came from Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. A noted car connoisseur for decades, known for his stable of automobiles that could cite no lesser machinery than a Ferrari 512S and 250 GTO, it was another Italian automobile that was his choice, the diminutive Fiat Cinquecento. One hardly needed a better endorsement of the 500, and the sincere enjoyment could be seen on his face as he drove a similar example to this and stated his claim for that title, is something that has been shared by millions across the globe. The modern Fiat company are surely wise to have updated the Cinquecento with such faithfully retrospective styling and when the new version starts selling in the States again it is sure to give birth to a new generation of 500 fans.

As a replacement for Fiat's much-loved 500 'Topolino', the Nuova 500 had debuted in 1957 and brought with it the move to unitary construction and an engine in the rear. The basic 500's austerity was not well received, prompting the introduction of a revised and better equipped version endowed with refinements such as wind-down windows, upholstered rear seat, column-mounted switchgear stalks and hubcaps. This process of step-by-step improvement would continue throughout the 500's life. Introduced in 1960, the 500D used the 499.5cc engine of the 500 Sport in de-tuned form. In 1965 it was superseded by the 500F, the latter's altered bodywork incorporating front-hinged doors and a shortened sunroof, while mechanical improvements included a strengthened transmission. Maximum power increased to 22bhp and the top speed to within a whisker of 60mph.

Introduced in 1968 alongside the standard 500F, the deluxe 500L, while mechanically identical, came with exterior cosmetic enhancements and an improved interior with new instrument panel, seats and floor covering. Naturally a 500 saloon was a perfect fit for the collection being pure nostalgia as they recalled so many of their friends having had 500s when they had passed their driving tests in the 60s and 70s. Of all the possible options for a Nuova 500 in the collection, the owners opted for the 'L' as they liked the juxtaposition of the simple automobile with luxury touches.

The car that they chose had been delivered new to Roberto Pagani in their home city of Milan in January 1969 as recorded in the copies of the car's original registration document. This paperwork lists all changes of ownership over the next two or more decades, all this time remaining in the Milan area until it was sold to the current owners in 1996. The 500 was subsequently shipped to America and would later undergo a complete restoration to correct specification to bring it to the condition that it is today. By now very familiar with the possible mechanical enhancements that could be made to the 500, they equipped this car with a more powerful 126 engine, although the originals remain with the car and are included in the sale.

A fine example of the definitive Cinquecento.

Lot Details
Auction Exceptional Collectors' Motor Cars
Bonhams & Butterfields, Greenwich, Connecticut
TypeCar
Lot Number456
Estimate$12000-$16000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$12000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$14040
Year1969
Condition rating0
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number2013945
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors