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50th anniversary of Seat 600

Seat 600, the car that got Spain moving

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SEAT is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the car which put it firmly on the motoring map.

The Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo (Spanish Touring Car Society) launched the 600 back in 1957, and it stayed in production - with various improvements, including a power increase from 21bhp to 32bhp - until 1973.

Most of the cars were Spanish-built versions of the Fiat 600, though there was an 800 version which had no direct Fiat equivalent. About a tenth of the 800,000 units produced were exported, some of them with Fiat badges and discreet "construzione SEAT" branding.

The 600 had many nicknames, one of which was ombligo. That's the Spanish word for belly button, the joke being that "everyone had one". That wasn't quite true, but by 1971 one in every four cars in Spain was a SEAT 600.

Not many UK motoring enthusiasts will ever have heard of the car, but it had a huge effect on Spanish life. In the words of writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, "the day Spaniards got into their 600s, they began to leave their past behind them, embarking on a weekend trip from which they have not yet returned".