Fiat 500

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This article is about the car manufactured from 1957 to 1975. For the car manufactured since 2007, see Fiat 500 (2007). For other uses, see Fiat 500 (disambiguation).
Fiat 500
1970 Fiat 500 L -- 2011 DC 1.jpg
Manufacturer Fiat
Production 1957–1975
3,893,294 units[1]
Assembly Turin, Italy
Desio, Italy[1]
Termini Imerese (PA), Italy[1]
Designer Dante Giacosa
Body and chassis
Class City car
Body style 2-door saloon
3-door estate
3-door Panel van
Layout RR layout
Related Autobianchi Bianchina
Puch 500
Vignale Gamine
Engine 479 cc I2
499 cc I2
594 cc I2
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 1.84 m (72.4 in)
Length 2.97 m (116.9 in)
Width 1.32 m (52.0 in)
Height 1.32 m (52.0 in)
Curb weight 499 kg (1,100 lb)
Predecessor Fiat 500 "Topolino"
Successor Fiat 126

The Fiat 500 (Italian: Cinquecento, Italian pronunciation: [ˌtʃiŋkweˈtʃɛnto]) was a city car produced by the Italian manufacturer Fiat between 1957 and 1975.

Launched as the Nuova (new) 500 in July 1957,[2] it was a cheap and practical town car. Measuring only 2.97 metres (9 feet 9 inches) long, and originally powered by an appropriately sized 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine, the 500 redefined the term "small car" and is considered one of the first city cars.

In 2007, the 50th anniversary of the Nuova 500's launch, Fiat launched another new 500, stylistically inspired by the 1957 Nuova 500 but considerably heavier and larger, featuring a front-mounted engine and front-wheel drive.


To meet the demands of the post-war market which called for economy cars, in 1949 a front engine, Fiat 500 was released, a 2-door coupe body with sun-roof, this was later complemented by an Estate (Station Wagon) version; both continued until 1954 before replaced by the all new, lighter body car with rear engine, on the pattern of the Volkswagen Beetle, just like its bigger brother, the 1955 Fiat 600. Several car makers followed the now uncommon rear engine configuration at the time and were quite successful. The Neckar version manufactured in Heilbronn under a complicated deal involving NSU was introduced in October 1961.[2] Steyr-Puch produced cars based on the Fiat 500 under license in Upper Austria.

Despite its diminutive size, the 500 proved to be an enormously practical and popular vehicle throughout Europe. Besides the two-door coupé, it was also available as the "Giardiniera" station wagon; this variant featured the standard engine laid on its side, the wheelbase lengthened by 10 cm (3.9 in) to provide a more convenient rear seat, a full-length sunroof, and larger brakes from the Fiat 600.

Sports models were famously produced by Abarth, as well as by Giannini. An Austrian variant, produced by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the 1957–1973 Steyr-Puch 500, had a motorcycle-derived Puch boxer twin motor, a sports model of which was the 1965–1969 Steyr-Puch 650 TR2.

Production of the 500 ended in 1975, although its replacement, the Fiat 126, was launched two years earlier. The 126 was never as popular as its predecessor in Italy, but was enormously popular in the former Eastern Bloc countries, where it is famed for its mechanical durability and high fuel economy. The Fiat 500 has a Cx (aerodynamic resistance coefficient) of 0,38, a very good performance for its time.


Nuova (New) (1957–1960)[edit]

The true new 500, the Nuova, has a smaller two-cylinder engine than all newer models, at 479 cc (500cc nominal), hence the name, and producing just 13 bhp. This model also features a fabric roof folding all the way back to the rear of the vehicle, like that of a Citroën 2CV rather than the later roof design, which only folds half way back along the roof. The Nuova is one of three models featuring "suicide doors." There is also a stylish Sport version of the Nuova, which features a distinctive red stripe and a more powerful engine, bored out to 499.5 cc from the original 479 cc engine, giving a very respectable car bhp with the same block.

Rear view of Fiat 500 K Giardiniera

D (1960–1965)[edit]

Replacing the original Nuova in 1960, the D looks very similar to the Nuova, but there are two key differences. One is the engine size (the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard—this engine is used right through until the end of the L in 1973) and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the "Transformable" with the same roof as the Nuova. The D also features "suicide doors".

In New Zealand, where it was locally assembled by Torino Motors, the 500D was sold as the "Fiat Bambina" (Italian for "female child"), a name that is still in use there to describe this car.[3]

K or Giardiniera (1960–1975)[edit]

The estate version of the Fiat 500 is the longest running model. The engine is laid under the floor of the boot to create a flat loading surface. The roof on this model also stretches all the way to the rear, not stopping above the driver and front passenger as it does in other models of the same period. The K also features "suicide doors" and was the only model to continue to sport this door type into the 1970s. In 1966 production was transferred to Desio where the Giardiniera was built by Fiat subsidiary Autobianchi.[1] A total of 327,000 Giardinieras were produced, later examples having Autobianchi rather than Fiat badging.[1]

Fiat 500 F

F or Berlina (1965–1973)[edit]

The F spans two periods of 500 production, the D and the L. As such, it is the most frequently misidentified model. Between 1965 and 1969 the F carried the same badging as the D, but the two models are distinguishable by the positioning of their door hinges. The D has "suicide doors": the F, produced from June 1965, at last featured front-hinged doors.[2] Between 1969 and 1972 the F was sold alongside the Lusso model as a cheaper "base model" alternative. While the F and L are mechanically very similar, the key differences are the bumpers (the L has an extra chrome nudge bar) and the interior (the F interior is nearly identical to the original 1957 design while the L sports a much more modern look).

Fiat 500 L

L or Lusso (1968–1972)[edit]

The penultimate model, the main change for the L is a much modernized interior (including a renewed dashboard) which brought the Fiat 500 up to date. Greater comfort and style were provided in this new model for the new generation.

R or Rinnovata (1972–1975)[edit]

The last incarnation of the Fiat 500 was the R model. It had a larger 594 cc engine, designed by Abarth, giving it a more usable power rating of 23 bhp, and came with a full synchromesh gearbox. The floor-pan which was from either the 'L', or later, the new 126. It was also more comfortable, but more simply trimmed and equipped than before — the fuel gauge was omitted and only the low fuel indicator remained. The 500 R was also a stop-gap for Fiat prior to the launch of the Fiat 126, and when the new 126 was launched, sales of the old Fiat 500 R plummeted. It was sold alongside the Fiat 126 for another two years before Fiat retired the 500.


Fiat 500 Jolly by Ghia, with US-market headlights

Fiat 500 Jolly Ghia[edit]

Carrozzeria Ghia made a custom "Jolly" version of the 500 inspired by the limited edition Fiat 600 Jolly.[4][5] As with its bigger sister, this was a chopped-roof doorless version with wicker seats, often seen sporting a canopy roof.

Fiat 500 (2007)[edit]

Main article: Fiat 500 (2007)
New Fiat 500

Fiat previewed the all new 500 in March 2007 – 50 years after the first Fiat 500 was presented. The design of the new 2007 Fiat 500 is based on the 2004 Fiat Trepiuno concept. This car features a distinctive retro-look similar to the Volkswagen New Beetle and BMW MINI.

Fiat shares the underpinnings of the new 500 with Ford for the 2009 Ford Ka. Production takes place in Fiat facilities in Tychy, Poland and Toluca, Mexico, and was scheduled for mid-2007, with commercial debut in September 2007.

Some Fiat 500s have an available BeatsAudio(tm) system.[6]

Long distance travel in 500s[edit]

  • In July 1958, seven Fiat 500s, including at least one 500 Sport and several Abarth-tuned 500s, contested the first and only Liège-Brescia-Liège Rally for cars up to 500cc. Though beaten by the Berkeley SE492s and Messerschmitt TG500 on the opening hillclimb, the Fiat 500s showed exceptional durability, battling through this almost non-stop 3300 km event, over testing dirt-road passes in the Italian Dolomites and Yugoslavia, to win. First place was taken by the 500 Sport of Italian Arturo Brunetto and Argentine Alfredo Frieder, second by the Abarth 500 of Luxembourgers Wagner and Donven, with 500s also taking 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 13th places. While only 13 of the 29 competing cars finished the rally, all seven 500s did, establishing the car's credentials as a capable all-round car.
    Fiat 500 World Expedition from Australia
  • In May 2007, a 1969 Fiat 500 ("Bambino" in Australia) driven by Lang Kidby and his wife Bev started their Fiat 500 World Expedition from Australia. Driving from Vladivostok through Russia they arrived in Garlenda, Italy in time for the car's 50th anniversary celebration. Shipping from Belgium the car set out from New York to travel all the way to Anchorage, Alaska before returning to Australia—32,000 road kilometres in just 99 days. It is believed to be the smallest car to complete a world circumnavigation.
  • On 18 April 2005, a 1973 Fiat 500 linked Bari, Italy, to Beijing, China, in a 16,000 km journey across the whole of Russia and passing through Vladivostok. Driven for 100 days by Danilo Elia and Fabrizio Bonserio, the old and tiny car was followed along its journey by newspapers and television from all over the world. After the long journey Elia wrote a book entitled La bizzarra impresa (ISBN 88-7480-088-6) ("The bizarre exploit"), now available only in Italian and German (Echt Abgefahren, National Geographic Deutschland, 2007, ISBN 978-3-89405-834-0). In April–June 2007, the same car driven by Danilo Elia ran around the Mediterranean sea for more than 10.000 km, being the first Fiat 500 to reach the Sahara dunes.

Other records[edit]

  • in July 2011 - Angelo and Ivan Iannaccone, with a Fiat 500r from 1975 travelled from Tenerife (Canary Islands) to Russia covering 13.000 km, crossing 13 countries.
  • in July 2012 - Angelo and Giampaolo Iannaccone, with a Fiat 500r from 1975 travelled from Tenerife (Canary Islands) to Nordkapp (Norway) covering 13.000 km, crossing 13 countries.
  • in July 2013 - Angelo and Giampaolo Iannaccone and Francisco Alcaraz, with a Fiat 500r from 1975 travelled from Tenerife (Canary Islands) to Georgia covering 13.000 km, crossing 7 countries.
  • July-August 2014 Angelo and Giampaolo Iannaccone, with a Fiat 500r from 1975 travelled from Tenerife (Canary Islands) to Mongolia covering 25.000 km,

It is believed to be the smallest car to cover so many kilometers (without assistance) and deserving the World Record of long distance in a single trip.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Fifty years since the launch of the Fiat 500 (Part II), Retrieved on 3 July 2012
  2. ^ a b c "Used Car Test: Fiat 500D". Autocar. 130. (nbr3818): pages 49–50. 17 April 1969. 
  3. ^ Webster, Mark (2002), Assembly: New Zealand Car Production 1921-98, Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand: Reed, pp. 78, 80, ISBN 0-7900-0846-7 
  4. ^ Osborne, Donald (September 2005). "1961 Fiat Jolly 500". Sports Car Market. Retrieved 27 August 2009. 
  5. ^ "1962 Fiat Jolly 500". Microcar Museum. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  6. ^


  • (Italian) Abarth 595 695, by Elvio Deganello and Renato Donati, pub. by Giorgio Nada, 2002 ISBN 88-7911-287-2
  • (French) Album Fiat 500, di J.J. by Galkowsky, pub. by EPA Edition ISBN 2-85120-470-X
  • (French) Autopassion Hors Serie, pub. by Auto collection n. 22
  • (English) Fiat & Abarth 500-600, by Malcolm Bobbit, pub. by Veloce Publishing Plc ISBN 1-903706-69-6
  • (Italian) Fiat 500, by Elvio Deganello, pub. by Giorgio Nada, 2002 ISBN 88-7911-069-1
  • (German) Fiat 500, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by Motorbuch, 2007, ISBN 978-3-613-02825-8
  • (Hungarian) Fiat 500 – az apró, mégis óriási legenda, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by Alexandra, 2006, ISBN 963-369-555-4
  • (Dutch) Fiat 500 – de kleine grote mythe, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by Rebo, 2006, ISBN 90-366-1875-4
  • (Italian) Fiat 500 fuoriserie, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by All Media, 2003
  • (Italian) Fiat 500 (genio di un'epoca), by Ugo Castagnotto and Anna Maria Quarona, pub. by Lindau, 1992 ISBN 88-7180-039-7
  • (Italian) Fiat 500 – guida al restauro, by Marcello Lo Vetere and Italo Grossi, pub. by Giorgio Nada, 2003 ISBN 88-7911-209-0
  • (English) Fiat 500 Gold Portfolio 1936–1972, by R.M. Clarke, pub. by Brooklands ISBN 1-85520-246-8
  • (Italian), (English) Fiat 500: la Guida – the Guide, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by All Media, 2003
  • (Italian), (English) Fiat 500 – l'evoluzione del mito, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by Gribaudo, 2007, ISBN 978-88-7906-385-2
  • (Italian), (English) Fiat 500 – piccolo grande mito, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by Gribaudo, 2005, ISBN 88-7906-020-1
  • (Italian) I miei 40 anni alla Fiat, by Dante Giacosa
  • (Italian) Il grande libro delle giardinette Fiat, by Alessandro Sannia, pub. by Giorgio Nada, 2007, ISBN 978-88-7911-401-1
  • (Italian) Io Franco Giannini vi racconto, by Franco Giannini
  • (Italian) La 500, by Romano Strizioli, pub. by Bacchetta
  • (Italian) La Fiat 500 – Storia di un mito, by Stefano Parenti, pub. by Polo Books ISBN 88-87577-26-9
  • (Italian) La Fiat Nuova 500, by Enzo Altorio, pub. by Automitica, 2005 ISBN 88-86304-00-5
  • (French) La Fiat 500 de mon père, by Lauvrey - Le Fay, pub. by E.T.A.I. 1998 ISBN 2-7268-8178-5
  • (Italian) Le Giannini, by Enzo Altorio, pub. by Automitica
  • (Italian) Progetti alla Fiat prima del computer, by Dante Giacosa, pub. by Automobilia ISBN 88-85880-00-2
  • (French) Revue Technique Automobile 500, D, F, L, pub. by ì E.T.A.I.
  • (German) Schrader Motor Chronik Fiat 500 600 1936, pub. by Schrader Verlag, 1969 ISBN 3-922617-26-3