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Knowledge for all



The New 500 was officially presented in July 1957: in the final version the engine (project number "110") had a volume of 479 cc, developing a power of 13 HP. Very simplified finishes on the frame and inside, room for two people plus luggage, list price 490,000 lire. The launch of the 500 was a real failure. There are many causes: First of all, the price and positioning of the car in relation to the 600 The 500 was judged not very convenient for the public to whom it was, in the intentions of the company, addressed (especially scooter riders and owners of old "topolino"). The 600, his older sister, boasted a 4-cylinder engine and the ability to transport 4 people quite comfortably: all for 640,000 lire. In the 1950s and 1960s, in full economic boom, it was customary to resort to bills of exchange or installment systems for the purchase of valuable assets. The rather small difference in price was on the whole more acceptable if extended over time; therefore the majority of Italians preferred to save and thus be able to dream of buying a 600. The price of 490,000 lire then seemed really excessive in the face of limited space for two people and the simplicity of the finishes. The very first series, in the intentions of the brilliant designer Dante Giacosa, was the mirror of constructive rationality and economy (his motto: "I don't like to waste anything"). So nothing was granted to the chrome plating, which was very popular at the time: the wheels with visible bolts were without cups, the headlights were recessed without a frame and, on the bodywork, no embellishment profile. 


500 N 1957 '

Inside the new 500 first series, some serious shortcomings: a transparent key, in the center of the dashboard, as a switch for the indicators, instead of the normal lever on the steering column; furthermore, it was possible to notice finishing imperfections (visible screws, welding and painting imperfections, etc. etc ...); they also lacked the window cleaner, the ashtray, and, more importantly, the descending crystals. The only openings were two small side deflectors (in the very first series without stop: if completely open they prevented the normal grip of the muzzle) as well as, of course, the roof. One element, later corrected over time, which contributed to the initial failure of the New 500, was the roof of the car. To contain costs and to discourage the transport of passengers (which would have jeopardized the great success of the 600), the solution of a completely canvas roof including the rear window, made of transparent plastic, was devised. Due to the particularity of this solution, the small car was approved as "convertible", which then took the name of the pre-D versions with the roof completely in canvas. The engine deserves a separate chapter. It has already been said about how he made such a revolutionary mechanics discuss: the greatest limitation of this engine, in the face of a record fuel economy, was the low power and limited speed of the 500: 479 cc for 13 HP (SAE , therefore a calculation already in excess) at a speed of 85 km / h, was considered unacceptable by the Italian public and, in the first measures taken by Fiat to reposition the new car, there was an increase in the performance of the engine. 
In any case, it must be said that Fiat entered the market, at the end of the 1950s, with a new brand in partnership with Bianchi and Pirelli: in 1956 Autobianchi was therefore founded, in Desio (Milan), destined to produce cars characterized by a higher level of finishes, while maintaining the mechanics of the Turin manufacturer unchanged. It was with an Autobianchi car (the "Primula") that Fiat, in 1964, hitherto faithful to rear-wheel drive, experimented and inaugurated front-wheel drive.

Trasformabile 1958 02.jpg


The first Autobianchi car to be produced, from 1958, was the "Bianchina", which used the mechanical organs of the 500. The "Bianchina", better finished and with a more slender and elegant body, were presented as the "500 custom-built series "or like the" 500 gioiello "(<the small car of great class>, slogan 1958); this explains one of the reasons for Fiat's initial hostility to make too many improvements to the 500 (the other, of course, was the defense of the top model: the 600).



In November 1957 the "Nuova 500 normal" was added to the "economy" (ie the equivalent of the first series). Variations compared to the previous series: descending crystals, wheel cups, aluminum finishing profiles, chrome headlight frames, steering light switches. Price for the "normal", unchanged: 490,000 lire. The economy version was reduced to 465,000 and Fiat repaid the 25,000 lire to the first customers and also offered to upgrade their 500 for free. The engine, on both versions, thanks to the interventions on the carburetor and camshaft, was enhanced of 2 HP, thus reaching a power of 15 HP.

200781791336_500 sport Abarth 1958.JPG

500 SPORT 1958 '

In the face of a large-scale advertising hype, the 500 was still struggling to take off. In 1958 a sports version (the Sport) was introduced which, in the intentions of the House, should have been a good relaunch of the public image. This small car participated with honor in numerous competitions and actually contributed to the success of the 500, which however could only be considered as such with the arrival of the D version in 1960. In the Sport the most interesting part naturally concerned the mechanics: The engine was brought to 499 , 5 cc; other changes: new steel camshaft with different timing, Weber 26 IMB2 carburetor. At the head: polished ducts, greater compression, increased valves and springs; the power was thus increased to 21 HP. The same engine was equipped, until 1969, on the Autobianchi Bianchina "Special" and Cabriolet. The most noticeable change on the exterior of the "Sport" was the two-tone color (exclusively white with a red central stripe), as well as the red (later silver) color of the wheel rims. In addition to the convertible version, a version, which is still very rare today, was also produced with a completely metal roof furrowed by three ribs. The retail price deviated significantly from the 479 cc versions and this made the Sport already quite rare at the time: 495,000 lire for the convertible version, 560,000 lire for the fully metal roof version. The life of Sport ended with the arrival of the D and with the affirmation on the market of the sports models presented, above all, by Abarth and Giannini.


500 N "SUN ROOF" 1959 '

 1959 was a year full of changes and innovations for the 500; The achievement of the prestigious "Compasso d'Oro" award for design is noteworthy. The 500 was the first car to boast this recognition, reserved until then for the most diverse industrial products. The technical changes of that year concentrated above all on increasing the habitability of the rear seats (in the first series only a lightly padded bench), the real limit to the success of the car. The roof was therefore modified by introducing, along the rear half, a metal cover including the rear window (this time made of glass). There remained, above the front seats, the classic roof that will accompany the whole life of the car. Again to recover habitable centimeters, two wells were obtained from the floor for the benefit of the occupants of the rear bench. Thus was born at the beginning of 1959 the "New 500 sunroof", with power increased to 16.5 HP. Price set at 435,000 lire.


500 N "TRANSFORMABLE" 1959 '

Alongside the new 500 "Sunroof", the "Trasformabile" remained on the market for a short time, which gradually benefited from all the updates to the mechanics of the "normal" versions and many internal and external details taken from the "economic version of 1957" . Its price was further reduced to 395,000 lire (a good 20% less than the first price list of 1957).


500 SPORT "SUN ROOF" 1959 '

Taking a look at the '59 range, you can see a Sport also in the "sunroof" configuration, as well as the closed version. Also in 1959 the "New Highway Code" came into force in Italy: in order to be included in the new traffic regulations, the cars produced starting from that year had to comply with certain homologation parameters. The most noticeable changes the 500 had concerned the lighting / signaling devices. The air intakes under the front headlights were thus abolished to accommodate the position and direction lights. A new circular direction indicator repeater was also introduced on the sides.


500 D 1960 '

For this reason it is very easy to confuse these (few) modified examples of the '59 500 sunroof with the new "Nuova 500 D ta" series, presented in 1960. The most evident modification of the new model D, concerned the engine which, from experience of the Sport, was therefore increased to 499.5 cc; but this time with a decidedly quieter temperament (17.5 HP). Main modifications: fuel tank type "600", folding rear seat, padded edge, under the dashboard, to protect the passengers' knees; ashtray, window cleaner, padded sun visors. In short, the 500 D finally turned out to satisfy all those who in previous versions could find perplexities especially about the supply of accessories for comfort. Introductory price: 450,000 lire.


500 GIARDINIERA 1960 '

Also in 1960 Fiat presented the 500 "Giardiniera" (station wagon); derived directly from the 500 D, with a longer wheelbase. In order to obtain a good and well usable loading surface, the ingenious invention of the engine lying on its side was adopted, which, due to its compactness, was renamed "sole". Great success for this model built, until 1967, under the Fiat brand and then produced and marketed by Autobianchi, until 1977. Curiously, this car was not subject to any aesthetic changes and kept the door opening throughout its long life. "to wind". Among the distinctive features of this model: the elongated rear lights and the different design of the wheel cups. At the wheels, the 500 Giardiniera adopted an attack, again with 4 holes, but with a closer distance. On the same basis as the Giardiniera, Autobianchi produced a naturally more refined version: the "Panoramica", in the price list until 1969. In addition to the line, derived from the Bianchina with increased wheelbase, the substantial differences were found in the door opening system: the doors were already "against the wind", while the rear door was hinged to the roof and not to the side, as was the case for the Giardiniera.


500 F 1965 '

The 500 D remained virtually unchanged until 1965 when, by now on the strength of a great success, Fiat decided to renew it with the "F" model. While the displacement remained unchanged, the power went up to 18 HP. The most evident changes on the outside, in addition to the abolition of the aluminum profiles on the sides and on the front hood, turned out to be the doors that "turned": the opening was thus "against the wind". Inside, a few changes: the tachymeter scale increased to 120 km / h, the three switches on the dashboard were aligned horizontally and, finally, the upholstery that from 1968 became solid, abolishing the white bezel on the backs of the front seats; In addition, finishing details in sheet metal and / or aluminum were replaced, passing to the cheaper plastic. Meanwhile the 500, from the initial failure, became the first car sold in Italy: ... the 60s were the years of the 500! As a further confirmation of the great success of the 500, it must be remembered that, alongside the well-known sports models proposed by Abarth and Giannini, in the 1960s there was a real flourishing of special versions produced in small series by the most famous Italian coachbuilders. Among them: Vignale, Francis Lombardi, Scioneri, Moretti, Ghia In 1968 Fiat launched a new strategy to strengthen the already great success of the car.


500 L 1968 '

Alongside the F version, the "Luxury" version was introduced: the 500L. This really had a great diffusion: mechanically identical to the F, it was distinguished by some surface finishes, however such as to make it truly "luxurious". On the outside, the tubular chromed bumpers were visible in addition to the usual blade bumpers; furthermore, metal-effect plastic finishes were visible on the rear window and windscreen seals, as well as a "chrome" effect plastic profile along the gutters. On the grille, a new Fiat logo with an elongated shape and no "whiskers". In addition, new colors were presented with particularly original colors such as Positano Yellow (ocher) and black (then, never appeared on a small car). Inside, a new steering wheel was adopted, in black plastic, of greater thickness and with metal spokes in sight; The horn button is also new with the word Fiat on a red background. The dashboard was covered with a thin layer of black vinyl and the upholstery was also changed, again in a solid color, which sported a "cannelloni" texture. At the base of the doors, there were two practical card pockets which also performed the function of handles for closing the door; a small plastic storage compartment was placed at the base of the gearbox. One of the most evident innovations concerned the adoption of a rectangular-shaped speedometer, derived directly from the larger Fiat 850. With this new instrumentation, the L was the only one of the 500 to be equipped as standard with a fuel gauge. The 500 F / Ls were produced for most of 1972;
With the 1970s, years of great social changes and economic crisis in Italy, Fiat thought that the time was now ripe to launch a new small car which, while retaining the mechanics and philosophy of the 500, was however substantially different in its bodywork: decidedly more squared shapes were adopted, which recalled the larger 127, presented the year before. With the choice of the name "126", the entire Fiat range of the 1970s was ideally completed (126,127,128,130,131,132).


500 R 1972 '

At the Turin motor show, in November 1972, the Fiat 126 was presented as an absolute novelty, as well as the last series of the 500: the R ("Rinnovata") or, as it was also initially called, "unified". The engine went from the historic 499.5 cc, to the displacement of 594 cc (this above all on the experience acquired by Abarth, absorbed by Fiat in 1971): for the 126 the power was increased to 23 HP, while the 500 was reduced to the usual 18 CV of the F / L. The gearbox of the 500 also remained without the synchronizers which, on the other hand, appeared on the 126. Noteworthy is the 8/39 bridge ratio, the same as the "Sport" and the Abarths, instead of the usual 8/41. The R, just like the very first 500 compared to the "600", in the intentions of the manufacturer should never have entered into competition with the 126: for this reason, in addition to the weakening of the engine and the unsynchronized gearbox, it had very simplified finishes that they made it look like the previous F. Main differences: speedometer and steering wheel were made of black plastic to replace the white plastic, the seat upholstery was kept in plain vinyl leather, but the folding rear backrest was abolished, in place of a fixed one . The switches in the center of the dashboard were reduced to only two, incorporating the speedometer light function when the exterior lights were switched on. Another novelty concerned the adoption of wheel rims without chrome studs, with visible bolts: identical in design to the rims of the 126. The public then seemed to prefer the 126 which, in any case, never had the same commercial success. affective of the 500. For this reason the production in recent years was transferred from Turin to Desio (Autobianchi), and then definitively moved to Sicily, in Termini Imerese (Palermo). The extraordinary adventure of the 500 ends with the R on 1st August 1975. Last chassis: 5231518. Sicilfiat production.

We are sure that visiting our museum will give you lots of smiles. 

 NB.  The photos you can admire on this page  are for  most taken from the web.

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