Total Production: 3,893,294
The Fiat 500 was introduced in 1957 as a successor to the Topolino model. (Topolino means 'mouse'). The designer was named Dante Giacosa, an individual who would later become an automotive legend for his contributions to the industry. The 500 was a two-seater, rear-engine, utility car that was built as an economical means of transportation void of luxury items or sports-car intentions. It featured a 479cc overhead valve engine mated to a four-speed gearbox. With 13 horsepower the 500 never set any land speed records. It had a top speed of 85 km/h.
To help improve the performance of the 500, Carlo Abarth offered bolt-on aftermarket parts and accessories. These additions helped with increasing the horsepower and performance of the engine as well as improving the handling and making the vehicles more fun to drive and competitive on the streets.
In 1957, the 500 received 2 extra horsepower, bringing the total to 15. Wind-up windows were now standard.
From 1958 through 1960, Fiat offered a Sport version. These Sport versions offered a 21 horsepower engine, and a one-piece roof. The standard 500 version had a fold-back sunroof.
In 1965, the 500F lost its suicide doors in favor of the more popular hinged doors. The horsepower rating was once again improved and now offered 19. The top speed was 95 km/h.
From 1969 through 1975, a Lux version was offered. This featured full carpeting and plastic revised dashboards.
In 1975 production of the Fiat 500 ceased. 3.6 million examples had been produced during its life span. In 2004, Fiat created a concept car that was similar in design and style to the Fiat 500. It was called the Fiat Trepiuno and featured front-wheel drive.
The 500 endured a successful life span due to its economical size, excellent fuel economy, ease to repair, styling, competitive price, and city-friendly driving characteristics. Due to its small size, it was easy to navigate and drive in the small, Italian streets. Thanks to its short wheelbase and length, the vehicle could maneuver easily into cramped parking spaces.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2006