Fiat 500 Topolino
1936-1955, 519646 produced. (all types)
Saloon,2 doors,2 seats(Fixed Head)
Convertible,2 doors,2 seats(Saloon)
Van,2 doors, single seater(+ 2 rear doors 500)
Van,2 doors,2 seats(+ 2 rear doors 500B. 500C)
Station Wagon,2 doors,4 seats(+ 1 rear doors)
The front-engined, water-cooled FIAT 500, produced in Italy and various other countries between 1936 and 1955, was arguably the most popular, stylish and best loved small car of it's time. A total of 519,646 cars were produced during it's 19 years lifespan.
The Italian nickname, 'Topolino' (little mouse) caught on very quickly and it is by that name that it is known the world over.
FIAT had thought of producing a small car in 1919 , but although catalogues were printed, the apparent lack of interest so soon after WWI meant that plans were scrapped. But in the mid-1930's, Senator Agnelli, the head of and one of the three original founders of FIAT, thought that the time was right. He visualised a car suitable for all classes and capable of transporting two adults in comfort, together with 50kg of luggage with a selling price of around 5,000 lire.
The project was given to the Aeronaughtical Division of FIAT because of their knowledge of working with lightweight materials without compromising strength. Heading this division was a brilliant engineer/mathematician named Antonio Fessia. On Fessia's staff was a 28 years old designer named Dante Giocosa, who had joined FIAT in 1928. Giocosa was chosen to create the new car based on his dedication to his work and his strong self-discipline. He was given a blank sheet of paper and his task would cover the mechanical content of the car, chassis, transmission and engine. Working in conjunction with Giocosa was Rudolpho Schaeffer, FIAT's own coachwork stylist who would design the two-seater body.
The final chassis and the body were light and floppy and only capable of being tested when they were bolted together to produce a strong, rigid construction. Giocosa, who had looked at air cooled German designs and knew of FIAT management's dislike of front wheel drive, decided on a conventional layout.
The new car would have a front mounted, water-cooled engine and rear wheel drive that fitted in with current FIAT production models. His chassis design was in the form of an 'A' frame similar to the Austin 7 of the time, but made from heavily drilled 'C' section for lightness. A clever arrangement of transverse front spring and wishbones created the independent front suspension and radius rods positively located the rear axle which had quarter eliptic spring suspension. An excellent hydraulic braking system operated on all four wheels and a transmission drum brake was installed at the back end of the gearbox.
To allow for a streamlined sloping bonnet and to give more passenger footroom, the engine was mounted infront of the front axle, but in reverse. This rather cleverly put the radiator just infront of the scuttle and the rearward facing fan blew warm air into the car, obviating the need for a heater.
The bonnet of the car had two large louvered lift-up panels that also allowed air to blow onto the windscreen - useful in icy weather. The offside panel lifted to gain access to the cap of the fuel tank and the nearside panel covered the electrical cut-out box in a space large enough for a small tool roll. The carburretor was gravity fed from the 4.5 litre fuel tank mounted under the scuttle over the driver and passenger's feet, a feature that would be very much frowned upon and possibly illegal these days.
The engine design was given to Virgilio Borsattino who specialised in aircraft carburretors and interestingly, the size was about the same as the last carburretor that he had designed. Access to the engine for normal maintenance was made by unfastening two spring loaded clips on the sides of the front pressing and pivotting it open from the top. For more extensive engine work, the front could be quickly lifted from two pivot pins and removed completely.
Two prototypes were made and were given the name 'Zero A'. Zero being the name of the first FIAT production car in 1912 and 'A' because it was designed by the Aeronaughtical Division.
Their headlamps were blended into the front wings in Volkswagen 'Beetle' fashion, but this was dropped in favour of free standing lamps because it was thought that the original design limited the range of the headlamp beams. To keep the car 'in proportion', 15" wheels were chosen rather than the 17" used on other small cars.
FIAT 500 'Topolino's' were produced in three ranges that had two different body styles and two different engines, the second and very short lived 500B being a hybrid of the other two.
The Topolino Van: the first (500) Van had one seat, two side doors and two back doors. The later Vans (500B + 500C) had two seats, two side doors and two back doors. The STATION WAGONS - Giardiniera and Belvedere each had four seats, two side doors, but only one rear door.
All Topolino's had 12 Volt electrical systems.
|569cc||S4 SV||52mm x 67mm|
|569cc||S4 OHV||52mm x 67mm|
|Publication||Practical Classics April 2002|
|Indie 500s - Fiat gave the tiny 500 just 17.5bhp to play with. By adding the right parts you can treble that figure and have the time of your life. John Simister shows how.|
Classic Cars November 2001 pg 103
|Publication||Classic Cars November 2001|
|The people's cars. Fanfare for the cars of the common Man; Fiat Topolino.|
Buyer's Guide - Fiat 500
|Publication||Classic Car Weekly 4 April 2012|
|Buyer's Guide - Fiat 500 - Bellissimo! The quintessential Italian city car still takes some beating today. For frugal fun, the Fiat 500 makes a lot of sense, says BEN WANKLYN.|
|Publication||Classic & Sports Car April 2008|
|Bella Bambina- Autobianchi's Bianchina was an upmarket take on Fiat's 500, ideal for a froic uner the Meriterranean sun. Graeme hurst falls for the charms of a cute little two-pot.|
|Publication||Classics Monthly September 2007|
|Friendly fire - Fed up with bad advice from so-called experts, Nigel Cripps taught himself car modifying and created a Fiat 500 with massive munch.|
Your Classics - Fiat 500 - Simon Grand
|Publication||Classic & Sports Car November 2004|
|Your Classics - Fiat 500 - Simon Grand - Grand designer loves baby Fiat.|