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History of the Fiat 500

The first Fiat 500 – known in Italy as ‘the people’s car’ - was created in 1957 and the original model was manufactured until 1975.

Post-war demand

The post-war era demanded economical cars that were cheap to buy and run and practical for getting around in. Fiat decided to see to this with their Fiat 500. It was considered pretty tiny at the time, but nevertheless it sold well across post-war Europe in the 60s and 70s.

City car

 A city car, it was produced with affordability and practicality in mind. Just shy of 3m long it was the perfect car for driving around towns and cities in. In a way, it redefined the idea of a small car by maximising the interior space whilst keeping the exterior snug. To put this into perspective, the original Fiat 500 weight just 1,100 pounds, todays Toyota Prius weighs in at just over 3,000 pounds! This lightness meant it was very fuel efficient for the time.

Versions of the 500

Nuova (1957 – 1960): The original Fiat 500 had the smallest of all the engines at 479cc producing 13 bhp. This snazzy original also featured a roof which folds all the way back (as opposed to the newer models which only fold half way back). It also feature the rather frighteningly named ‘suicide doors’, doors which are hung from the rear and avoided at all costs these days due to safety concerns.

D (1960 – 1969): The D replaced the original Fiat 500 in 1960. Despite looking incredibly similar, the D had a larger engine and a roof which only folded half way back.

F or Berlina (1965 – 1972): This is one of the most often misidentified models, as rather confusingly, it spans two periods of the 500 production: the D and the L. In the beginning the F had the same badge as the D, the only distinguishing factor is the F does not have suicide doors - at last! Later, the F was sold alongside the L, as a cheaper alternative to the newer model. The only real differences between the F and the L are that the L has an extra chrome nudge bar and also features a more modern looking interior.

L or Lusso (1968 - 1972): This is when style and comfort took the forefront and the 500 was treated to a more modern interior with a renewed dashboard.

R or Rinnovata (1972 – 1975): The last version of the original Fiat 500 features an even larger engine but more pared back inside, for example no gas gauge, just a low fuel indicator. The R was the last version before the launch of the Fiat 126. Predictably, post 126 launch, sales of the ‘old’ Fiat 500 R plummeted. 

New beginnings

In 2006, the Fiat 500 (2006) supermini was announced. The car was created to celebrate Fiat’s official return to America after a 27 year hiatus. The new Fiat 500 was launched at a party with 250,000 people in attendance. But how has it fared? The 1 millionth Fiat 500 was produced in 2012, so we’d say pretty darn well! 

Offbeat  14/07/2015 09:58:08

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